Mike Holmgren very nearly hired himself as Browns Head coach and could have hired Jon Gruden before selecting Pat Shurmur according to comments he made on KJR-AM 950 Seattle.
Holmgren was hired as Browns president in late 2009 after his successful run with the Seahawks. Holmgren inherited Eric Mangini and after 2 years with the coach, Holmgren decided to relieve Mangini of his duties in favor of a better “fit” for his philosophies.
Many saw the move coming as Holmgren has made his affinity for the offensive side of the football and specifically the west coast offense very clear. Mangini, a Belichick disciple, was more defensive minded and the struggling and often inept Browns offense was something Holmgren could not live with.
As we know, Holmgren ultimately hired former offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, Pat Shurmur after conducting only 3 interviews (none of which included the big name free agent coaches). But the interesting part is what occurred prior to the Shurmur hiring.
If you listened to Holmgren’s comments throughout the 2010 season and leading up to the hiring of Shurmur, he dropped several hints indicating that he had the “itch” to coach again. I personally thought that Holmgren wanted strongly to coach and I was a little bit surprised that he honed in Shurmur so quickly. The Shurmur selection makes a lot of sense if you think about it, but I was of the belief that Holmgren’s first choice would be to come down to the sidelines himself.
As it turns out, my thinking and the thoughts of many others, were not all that far off. Prior to conducting the first interview, Holmgren says he sought the opinions of General Manager Tom Heckert and Executive Vice President of Business Operations Bryan Wiedmeier regarding his potential return to the sidelines.
Holmgren gave them one day to think about it and told them the following:
“I told them if you don’t think it’s the right thing to do for our football team, you can say that, no strings attached. I came back the next day and they thought it would be a pretty good idea if I wanted to do that. We could make that work.”
“I went home and talked about it with Kathy (Holmgren’s wife). We prayed about it a little bit. I realized I came here to do a certain job. I want to fulfill that promise to my owner and see if in another role I can get the thing done.”
Holmgren is 62 years old and has accomplished everything imaginable as a Head Coach in the NFL so it’s not all that surprising that he (and especially his wife) wouldn’t want to invest the time and effort it takes to be a Head Coach again. However, despite his current role, at his core, he is a coach. There is no question that it kills him that he’s not able to control the team as a coach would and that he isn’t on the sidelines.
Despite the decision to hire Shurmur, which Holmgren at the time said he hopes this is the last Head Coach he has to hire for the Browns, he did not rule out a return to the sideline in the future. Holmgren has repeatedly referenced his promise to owner Randy Lerner to return the team to greatness in the role of team President. Holmgren has 4 years remaining on his contract as President and oh by the way, Shurmur just signed a 4 year contract.
4 years in the NFL is an eternity so anything could happen between now and then, but Holmgren offered this in response to questions about a future return to the sidelines:
“You never know for sure. Organizations and owners want to go with the younger guy. I get that. It’s OK. If I wanted to get back into coaching, I could have. I had that opportunity. Maybe I’ll get another opportunity, who knows?
“But I’m really not thinking that way. I’m really thinking this is what I should be doing, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. If I think any other way, you really run the risk of not doing the best job you can do.”
The next comments were incredibly surprising to me. Many Browns fans were up in arms that Holmgren didn’t interview Jon Gruden and some of the big name “free agent” Head Coaches out there. I personally believed that Jon Gruden wouldn’t have been at all interested in the Browns job, but I may have been dead wrong.
Holmgren said he could have hired Jon Gruden and that he also spoke with former Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher:
“Bill (Cowher) wasn’t ready to come back. He was very honest about it. Jon said he’d come back for me. I said, ‘I need more than that. You shouldn’t just come back for me. You should want to do this.’ He really enjoys TV, and he’s good at it.”
I suppose the loyalty to Holmgren by Gruden shouldn’t be a surprise as Gruden learned under Holmgren early in his career, but this is the first that anyone has heard about Gruden being open to taking the Browns job.
While Holmgren has declined to take over as Head Coach, he is as involved as ever. Holmgren, as he has always said, has an “open door policy” with players and has taken a specific interest in QB Colt McCoy. Holmgren overruled his “Cabinet” in last year’s draft and made the decision to take Colt McCoy in the 3rd round. Holmgren has indicated that he is advising McCoy, but more on how to deal with life in the NFL than with passing mechanics or offensive strategy.
Browns fans may be unhappy that they missed out on Holmgren and Gruden as the next Head Coach, but by all accounts, Shurmur is an incredibly gifted and sharp coach and he should be a great fit under Holmgren to take the Browns to the next level.
The Cleveland Browns have multiple holes on their roster but two of the most glaring are wide receiver and defensive front seven. The Browns hold the #6 pick in a draft that is front end loaded with impact defensive lineman. The top part of the draft includes only one impact wide receiver, A.J. Green.
Many in Cleveland believe the Browns will target one of the impact defensive linemen such as Von Miller from Texas A&M, Nick Fairley of Auburn, Marcell Dareus of Alabama, or Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson. Also lurking out there is North Carolina standout Robert Quinn and stud defensive back Patrick Peterson from LSU.
Obviously, the Browns’ selection will be dependent upon other teams’ selections ahead of them, but it is certainly logical with the incredible depth on the defensive line that the Browns would fill that need with one of the many players who are worthy of the #6 selection.
Mike Holmgren may have other thoughts, however. Holmgren, who arrived in Indianapolis for the combine yesterday, told the media “I’m also looking for a home-run hitter.”
Now it wouldn’t be an NFL Draft without posturing, smokescreens, and flat out misinformation being spewed by each and every team in the NFL. There is no question though, that Holmgren has a unique affinity towards the offensive side of the ball. He fired a solid coach in my opinion in Eric Mangini largely because of the differing philosophies. Holmgren is intently focused on implementing his version of the West Coast Offense in Cleveland. So much so, that he handpicked surprise Head Coach Pat Shurmur due to his experience in running the offense under Andy Reid.
So even though you can never read too much into pre-draft comments, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Mike Holmgren stepped in and personally selected A.J. Green at #6. While Tom Heckert is charged with running the draft and developing the roster, Holmgren stepped in and personally selected Colt McCoy in last year’s draft.
Holmgren also added “We do have a lot of work to do on defense and it is a good draft for defense. But I think you have to be a little careful of thinking too much about needs so that you reach. I don’t want to do that. So our philosophy is to take the best player on our board once it’s set up. Now, if you have two guys that are really close, then we’d have a discussion on which to take.”
Many draft experts rank A.J. Green among the top overall players in the draft but I wouldn’t consider any of the defenders discussed above as a “reach” at #6. What Holmgren is saying, however, is if Green is their top rated player they will likely take him despite having glaring holes on the defensive front seven.
Again, it’s the draft and you can’t really listen to anything anyone says publicly so I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into these comments. But it does raise an intriguing issue because it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Holmgren fell in love with A.J. Green and made a move to get him should he be available at #6.
The Cleveland Browns quickly ended their 2 week head coaching search last week after interviewing only 3 candidates and closed in on Rams Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. Shurmur fits the Holmgren profile to perfection but is certainly inexperienced as far as NFL Head Coaches go. Many close to the organization believed that the Browns would therefore look to more seasoned and proven coordinators to round out the coaching staff in order to provide confidence and a resource to Shurmur as he enters his first season as a Head Coach.
Shurmur dismissed this idea as it relates to a traditional offensive coordinator after telling the media that he would call the plays himself next season. There are rumors, however, that the Browns are considering Jim Zorn who served as the Ravens QB coach last season and Nolan Cromwell, former Rams WR’s coach as offensive coordinator.
This theory appears to be holding true on the defensive side of the ball, however, as the Browns are reportedly interviewing veteran coaches Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron this week according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jauron has been rumored to be the leading candidate for the DC position since last week and he does have the requisite experience. Jauron served as head coach for the Lions, Bills, and Bears and served as DC for the Lions and Jaguars. His record as a head coach was unimpressive at 60-82, but he does have a good reputation as a coordinator. Jauron served as the secondary coach for the Eagles last season and he is a candidate for the same position in Philadelphia.
Wannstedt is coming off of a college football stint with the University of Pittsburgh and he spent 11 seasons in the NFL as a head coach with the Bears and Dolphins. His record as a head coach in the NFL wasn’t too bad at 82-87 but his best success came as defensive coordinator for Jimmy Johnson with the Cowboys and Dolphins. Wannstedt has also interviewed for the DC position with the Bills.
Many of the negative media members locally will immediately write off both candidates as they haven’t had the best tenures as NFL head coaches, but I like both candidates a lot. They both have tremendous success as coordinators which is all they are being asked to do in Cleveland. I also believe that despite their poor records as head coaches, the experience they have going through multiple seasons as an NFL head coach will be invaluable to Pat Shurmur as he tries to navigate his first season in the NFL.
Despite the delusions of some Browns fans, the big name Head Coaches like Gruden, Fox, or Cowher just were never in the cards. In fact, after interviewing only three candidates (all coordinators), it appears that the Browns’ Head Coaching search has reached its end. From the beginning, Pat Shurmur arose as the lead candidate, and multiple sources have now reported that the Browns would like to work out a contract by as early as today.
For those who wanted the big name, sexy coach… I’m sorry. It was just never going to happen. Gruden didn’t want to be here and from all accounts, he doesn’t want to coach anywhere this season. Cowher announced that he wouldn’t be coaching until at least 2012 and the Browns never even requested an interview with John Fox.
For those who are disgusted with the potential hiring of a coordinator… don’t be. You only need to look to Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Mike Smith, Sean Payton, Raheem Morris, Mike McCarthy, Todd Haley, etc. The trend in the NFL is to find a very good coordinator and allow him to rebuild the team with a great foundation in the front office. Not to mention, Mike Holmgren had a very specific profile he was applying to the coaching search.
The ideal candidate had to be offensive minded with a specific love for the West Coast Offense, have direct ties to him or one of his proteges, have experience in developing young QBs, be young enough that he can mold and take full credit for his success, and impressionable enough so that Holmgren can make him an extension of himself.
When you look at it from that perspective, John Fox, Jon Gruden, etc. just don’t fit the mold. In fact, Perry Fewell didn’t fit the mold even though I think he’s a very good coach. It was a clear effort to deal with the Rooney Rule and nothing more. Shurmur is the perfect fit for Holmgren.
Pat Shurmur spent a number of years working under Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid as a QB coach. During that time he also worked with Browns GM Tom Heckert. Andy Reid is perhaps the most successful Holmgren protege outside of Jon Gruden, so there aren’t too many people Holmgren would respect more so than Andy Reid. Shurmur came very highly regarded from Andy Reid, with multiple year experience in not only the West Coast Offense, but Mike Holmgren’s version of it. Big time mark on the plus side of the ledger.
Shurmur also spent this past season as the Offensive Coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. Many Browns fans, especially the agenda driven local media (who are not only misinformed, but rather ignorant when it comes to the realities of the NFL) will point to the Rams’ statistical benchmarks this past year. The Rams finished 26th in total offense and 21st in passing yards/game in the NFL in 2010. Not great stats. But if anyone actually watched the team play, you would see that they were severely limited on offense and that under Shurmur’s guidance, Sam Bradford had an incredible rookie season. That is a a HUGE mark on the plus side of the ledger for Shurmur.
Pat Shurmur is 45 years old. He’s old enough to have a great deal of NFL experience and yet young enough and inexperienced enough to need a tremendous amount of guidance from Mike Holmgren. I foresee this going a lot like the Parcells years in Miami. Parcells hired an unknown coordinator (Tony Sparano) who had tremendous experience in his system and who could act as an extension of himself. Everything Sparano did for the first few years was directed by Parcells. And who took the credit for the Dolphins turnaround? Not Tony Sparano… but the Big Tuna himself, Bill Parcells.
I honestly believe that Mike Holmgren wants to orchestrate a similar situation in Berea. Shurmur will undoubtedly lean heavily on the expertise, experience and genius of Mike Holmgren. Holmgren has an enormous ego even though it may not come across in the pressers that he has every 6 months or so. That is the primary reason that I never believed Holmgren would go after a Gruden type. Holmgren has tremendous respect and admiration for Jon Gruden, but you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that Holmgren wants this turnaround to be driven by himself. He wants to be the genius to who turned around yet another franchise.
So Pat Shurmur, with that in mind, is a perfect fit. He believes in the same ideals, he has the experience with the system, he’s young, inexperienced, and Holmgren will be able to mold, develop, and CONTROL him. The successes that he hopefully has in Cleveland, will be largely due to Holmgren’s leadership, coaching (of the coaches) and ability to identify and recruit the coach. For Holmgren, this is just another line on his resume and another incredible bonus to his legacy. Shurmur will act out Holmgren’s plan. And if he struggles to start, it isn’t all on Holmgren. He will preach patience, system, process, and foundation. Does that sound familiar?
I honestly believe that Eric Mangini is a very good coach. But Randy Lerner never gave him a chance. First, Lerner placed far too much power and responsibility with Mangini in his first season. Mangini was not only in charge of coaching, hiring his staff, but also responsible for the draft, trades, free agency, etc. Mike Holmgren, one of the best coaches and football minds in the NFL couldn’t handle both coaching and GM responsibilities. Why would Mangini be able to handle it?
Then, Lerner brought in Mike Holmgren. Which by itself was a great move and a much needed move at that. This organization has long needed a strong and credible presence in the front office and it got it with Holmgren. But when Lerner brought Holmgren in at the beginning of Mangini’s first year, he killed any legitimate chance Mangini had at success. Holmgren knew from the onset that he wanted someone who fit the profile I detailed before. And that’s fine, it’s just a shame that Mangini was undercut by Lerner so soon.
Will Pat Shurmur become the next Jon Gruden, Sean Payton, or even Todd Haley? Who knows. But I know that he fits every measurable and even some of the intangibles that Holmgren wants. So much so, that he’s willing to sign him today after only interviewing two viable candidates. I guess we’ll soon find out just how much of a genius Holmgren can be. And Browns fans… get used to the name Pat Shurmur.
Following the Browns’ 5-11 season, most fans got what they wanted. Eric Mangini fired. Gone was the useless coach which freed up the organization to go after Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher and maybe even the walrus himself, Mike Holmgren would come downstairs and coach the team to the promised land.
Well, two weeks into the coaching search, those big name Head Coaches are yet to be found in Berea, OH. So where do we stand as of today with the search for the next Browns coach?
So far, Team President Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert have interviewed Falcons Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey and Rams Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Browns are interviewing Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell today (maybe even as we speak) and although they are rumored to be interested in Eagles Offensive Coordinator Mary Morningweg, the Eagles have stated that they have not yet received a request to interview him.
Where does all that leave us? I’ll give you a quick summary and update on each of the candidates to sort through the crap.
Mularkey was the 2nd candidate interviewed last week during the Falcons’ bye week.Mularkey has had great success as an offensive coordinator, and as you’ll notice, the recurring theme is that he is an offensive minded coach with ties to Holmgren and the West Coast Offense. The Falcons are one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and his abilities as a coordinator are not in question.
Mularkey was head coach in Buffalo from 2004-05 going 9-7 and 5-11 before resigning. Not great, not awful. There was no update on how the interview went or regarding the level of interest on either side.
Shurmur was interviewed last week in Berea and he has direct ties with GM Tom Heckert in Philadelphia. He runs the same version of the West Coast Offense that Holmgren perfected as Shurmur studied under Andy Reid (a Holmgren disciple).
Shurmur came into the interview with a strong recommendation from Reid for whom Holmgren and Heckert have enormous respect. Shurmur spent 9 seasons with the Eagles (7 as QB coach developing Donovan McNabb) and has received great praise for his work with Sam Bradford this season. Due to his strong ties with Holmgren and Heckert and his track record for developing young QB’s, Shurmur has emerged as the front-runner for the position.
I have my doubts about the legitimacy of this interview and not because I don’t think the Browns should seriously consider him. Fewell is a very good coach and he is poised to earn a head coaching job sooner than later. But Holmgren clearly wants an offensively minded coach with a West Coast background. I don’t believe Holmgren is giving serious consideration to Fewell, rather he is giving a good coach an interview (which gets his name out for other jobs) and satisfying the Rooney Rule which requires at least one minority candidate be interviewed for every Head Coaching vacancy.
Morningweg has obvious ties with the West Coast as well as with the Eagles which could make him a strong candidate. He has not been contacted and the Browns haven’t even sent in the paperwork to request an interview with him so I’m not sure how likely of a candidate he is. To me, he and Shurmur are fairly close to each other and if Shurmur blew their socks off like we’re hearing, why bother with Morningweg? Insiders still believe he will be interviewed by the Browns, but nothing has happened as of today.
That is the powerful list of coaching candidates that have been interviewed by the Browns as of today. So where are all the Super Bowl winning head coaches like Cowher and Gruden? Cowher has stated publicly that he won’t return to coaching until 2012 because he wants to spend time with his family. Gruden, at this time, doesn’t appear to be at all interested in coming back to the sidelines. Unless Holmgren can significantly persuade him, I doubt he even comes in for an interview.
So who’s the next best coach? Most believe the next best thing to a “Sexy Pick” is former Carolina Panthers Head Coach, John Fox. Fox is widely regarded as a very good NFL coach and although he has a defensive focus, he is highly regarded by Mike Holmgren. So far, no interview has been lined up, but if any of the big name head coaches are to come to Berea, I believe it will be Fox.
I don’t even mind that the Browns are staying away from the big time coaches that are out there whether it be there choice or the coach’s. I was never very high on Gruden and as we know Cowher is not coming back. And actually, the trend in the NFL is to get a good coordinator and take a chance on him as opposed to the retreads who have had previous Head Coaching experience. Look at Mike Tomlin, Raheem Morris, Mike Smith, Steve Spagnuolo, Todd Haley, Rex Ryan, Sean Payton, etc.
I still believe Eric Mangini is a good coach and he had the team on the right track, but he never stood a chance. Holmgren wanted someone from his tree, with the same philosophical beliefs and with the same focus. You can see exactly what Holmgren wants just from the initial pool of candidates. Mangini does not fit this profile and no matter what he did he was gone. I don’t agree with it, but if Holmgren had his mind made up, it’s better to cut ties now and bring in a guy you’re comfortable with for the next 5-10 years now than to waste any more time.
And hey, Shurmur fits the profile. Successful coordinator with a focus on offense and direct experience with the West Coast Offense. He’s young, appears to be smart, experienced, and Holmgren loves him. I know a lot of Browns fans will be disgusted if some guy they’ve never heard of, from the Rams with one of the worst offenses statistically gets the job when they were expecting Jon Gruden, but I love it. From what I can tell, I think he’d be a great fit. Obviously, I’m not privy to discussions with him to see how he can lead a team and all that, but he certainly fits the Holmgren profile more closely than anyone else.
There is a rumor in Cleveland that Colin Cowherd, who I believe is an elitist, self-important douche, reported earlier this morning that he has “inside information” that Cleveland Browns Head Coach, Eric Mangini will be fired today. His “source” says that Mike Holmgren will announce the firing at 3:00 today in a press conference. I did not hear or see anything from Cowherd, but that’s the rumor that’s circulating.
I don’t think it’s accurate as I would be highly shocked if Mangini is fired during the season, but I will say that there is something going on in Berea today. I heard a rumor earlier that Mangini’s weekly presser was delayed from 10:30 AM to 3 PM and now to 4 PM which would indicate something is up.
There is no question that the Browns looked very bad yesterday in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as they wasted countless opportunities following 6 Jaguars’ turnovers.
The rumor states that Mike Holmgren is extremely displeased with the way the team responded to two marquee wins and he’s disgusted with the coaching. I would find it hard to believe that Holmgren isn’t extremely disappointed in the coaching and overall performance yesterday, but I’ll be shocked if Mangini is fired today.
With Rob Ryan quickly becoming a hot commodity due to his success and creativity as a Defensive Coordinator and due to his brother, Rex’s success as a Head Coach, it’s widely believed that IF the Browns were to cut ties with Mangini that Rob Ryan would take over on an interim basis.
Mike Holmgren has made it clear that he wants to coach again, which is also driving speculation around town. No one is sure if Holmgren desires to roam to the sidelines in Cleveland, wait out his current contract with the team, or coach somewhere else and leave before the expiration of his contract as President of the Browns.
The Browns went from one of the hottest teams in the NFL a couple weeks ago to now one of the more hectic as rumors are circulating about Eric Mangini and Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll who has taken as much heat as anyone for his play calling.
Ever since Colt McCoy busted onto the NFL scene earlier this season, all the talk has been about why Colt McCoy is a great fit and the possible savior for the Cleveland Browns. And after his first 4 starts in the NFL, rightfully so. McCoy has been outstanding and while he hasn’t, and won’t fill out the stat sheet any time soon, he has been incredible. In his first four games against some of the NFL’s top teams at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, and at home against the Patriots and Jets, McCoy has displayed incredible confidence, poise, and control of his team.
Many people expected Colt McCoy to demonstrate great leadership, work ethic and have a great understanding of the game and of the offense cerebrally. What I and most everyone else was concerned with, however, was the physical attributes. McCoy is listed at 6′ 1″, 215 lbs but I’m not sure he’s that big. Obviously there are some QB’s in the NFL who get away without being 6’6″ like Drew Brees and Mike Vick, but they are few and far between and they each have incredible physical tools. McCoy was not only facing height and durability issues, but his arm strength was in question as well.
From what I saw in the spread offense at Texas, McCoy was mostly limited to a short, controlled passing game. This helped him to have an incredible accuracy rating, but it also lead me to believe that the coaching staff was hiding Colt’s arm strength, or lack thereof. But from what I’ve seen so far in the first 4 games, his arm is just fine. He’s obviously not going to be confused with Mike Vick or Peyton Manning, or Jay Cutler in terms of arm strength, but he has made all the requisite throws with great success. He also threw the ball exceptionally well in a tough wind against the Patriots. The same wind that gave the “Golden Boy”, Tom Brady trouble.
But for all the benefit Colt McCoy has already provided to the Browns organization, I believe the Cleveland Browns are the perfect fit for both the short-term and long-term development and success of Colt McCoy.
5. Mike Holmgren:
Mike Holmgren has had great success in his career in identifying and developing QB’s. His career began under Bill Walsh with the historically great San Francisco 49ers and he has continually developed and modified the West Coast Offense to fit his current team. When Colt McCoy slipped out of the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, he was nearly an afterthought. Holmgren himself, thought that McCoy would be taken well before he had an opportunity to get him and was obviously pleasantly surprised to see him available in the 3rd round. When no one else believed in Colt, Holmgren saw something he loved and staked the future of the Browns’ franchise on his evaluation of the young QB.
Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, they have had one fringe NFL QB after another, most of whom went on to prove that they’re not legitimate NFL QB’s. But Mike Holmgren saw the future of the Cleveland Browns in Colt McCoy and so far he looks to be a genius, yet again.
Holmgren’s confidence and support of Colt McCoy not only brought him to Cleveland, but it will go a long way to reinforce Colt’s position and leadership role on the team. Aside from QB, the biggest other area the Browns have been missing is consistent and credible leadership in the front office. Holmgren obviously brings this and he sets the tone for the entire organization.
In addition, while Holmgren isn’t taking an active role in coaching or game planning (as of today), his offensive philosophies are certainly being absorbed by the Browns’ young coaching staff. Holmgren’s offensive system is proven and is a perfect match for McCoy’s skillset. Colt is mobile, accurate, and intelligent and that is a perfect fit for the West Coast Offense. It remains to be seen if Holmgren will leave the Browns for another Head Coaching job, complete his current contract and obligations to the Browns, or come down to the sidelines in Cleveland. But his presence and influence is a huge benefit to the development and success of Colt McCoy.
4. Mark Sanchez Effect:
Ok, WTF is the Mark Sanchez Effect, right? If you look at the way the Jets have developed Mark Sanchez, I believe they have actually stunted his growth. Sanchez was fortunate to land on a very good team that is stacked with talent. Unfortunately though, the Jets are so good that they’ve forced Sanchez to be nothing more than a game manager. They’ve put so much pressure on Sanchez to “not screw it up” that he hasn’t been able to develop. They have handcuffed him so much that he’s only slightly better than in his rookie year.
There are other QB’s who have the unfortunate luck of landing on horrible teams, with no talent, and little chance for success. The first Browns QB, Tim Couch, is one such instance. He was drafted by the Browns to be the face of the new franchise, but they forgot to put pieces around him. It remains unknown at this point, if Couch had the talent to play in the NFL or not. He had literally no offensive line, no weapons, and poor organizational structure.
To me, the best situation for a young QB to learn and develop is on a team somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and the Browns happen to be very close to exactly in the middle. They have a great leadership and knowledge structure in the front office with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert and despite some criticism, they have a very good, young coaching staff. Eric Mangini was oft criticized in New York and in his first year in Cleveland but seems to be getting better each week. We’ve often seen that Head Coaches learn from their first job and come back with great success on their second chance. I believe Mangini was trying to be TOO MUCH like his mentor, Bill Belichick in the past and he’s now, albeit slowly, starting to let his true style and personality take over.
With a good structure in the front office and in the coaching staff, the Browns have been able to slowly acquire a good foundation of talent on the field. The 2010 Draft, while too early to give a final grade, looks like a complete homerun at this point. Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Colt McCoy have been significant contributors and playmakers already in their rookie year and look to fit well with the team’s long-term plans. With just one or two more drafts like this, the Browns will be well positioned to compete in the AFC North.
A significant part to the good, young coaching staff I mentioned, is Defensive Coordinator, Rob Ryan. As we know, he is the son of defensive legend, Buddy Ryan and the brother of current defensive genius, Rex Ryan. Rob certainly has the pedigree and as he obtains better personnel, he is slowly beginning to put the league on notice.
The Browns defense has significant deficiencies, but they have shown great promise int he 2010 season. Rob Ryan has shown his creativity and scheming as he’s acquired personnel to fit his system. The Browns defense is still very weak in the secondary with Eric Wright being beaten, battered and abused on a weekly basis, but they have a great young foundation with Ward and Haden. The linebackers have great experience and leadership, but they’re lacking a young, difference making linebacker. If Rob Ryan ever gets a James Harrison type pass rushing linebacker, look out.
The defensive line is solid and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but they don’t make a lot of plays either. Despite having the once dominant, Shaun Rogers, the line isn’t all that disruptive. Rogers has had continual attitude problems and really hasn’t shown his true ability. The 3-4 defense Ryan employs doesn’t call for a lot of speed or require great production in terms of sacks from the D-Line, but it certainly calls for athleticism and disruptive plays. Something they currently lack.
Despite the deficiencies, the scheme and system that Ryan has implemented has lead to surprising success for the Browns. They forced Drew Brees into 4 INTs and forced Tom Brady to look like an average QB at best. They can be exposed, at times, due to the holes in the personnel and due to the high risk scheme, but this defense will only get better and, as we know, some of the best friends a young QB can have is a strong defense, and a good running game.
2. Peyton Hillis:
And that leads me to the next item, Peyton Hillis. The Browns acquired Peyton Hillis from the Denver Broncos in an off-season trade for Brady Quinn.
**Pause for laughter**
Mike Holmgren should be ashamed of himself for taking advantage of the clearly handicapped, Josh McDaniels. McDaniels has traded off his best players since arriving in Denver, shipping off Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Peyton Hillis. While there can be an arugment made for Marshall and Cutler as they both have some character issues, Peyton Hillis has been nothing but a model player for the Browns.
Hillis has quickly become a fan favorite and has received a lot of national attention for his production and punishing running style. Mangini has made it clear that he wants to utilize his solid offensive line and physical running backs to punish the defense and control the game and he has done just that. Hillis has been incredible all season with 726 yards and 8 TDs and he single handedly destroyed the Patriots with 184 yards rushing.
It’s been said before and it remains true; one of the best friends of a young QB is a good running back and a good running attack. Hillis is a young, and developing star in the NFL and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to perform for the Browns which will obviously help the development of Colt McCoy. The establishment and threat of a dominant running game will only play to the strength of McCoy who brings incredibly mobility and a great ability to pass with accuracy on the run. Hillis will help McCoy and the play-action passing game and McCoy’s ability to beat the best NFL defenses through the air will help Hillis as defenses won’t be able to completely stack the box as they did when Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace were under center.
This should be a great partnership for years to come and the two should help each other out tremendously over the coming years.
1. Offensive Line:
Even though it’s not sexy or popular, success in the NFL begins and ends in the trenches. And for a young QB, and for any offense in the NFL, success begins and ends with the offensive line. Is the Browns’ offensive line the best in the NFL? No. But it is a very good, young O-line that will only get better. The left side of the line is forged for years to come with perennial Pro-Bowl Left Tackle, Joe Thomas, solid LG, Eric Steinbach, and solid, young Center, Alex Mack. The Browns drafted a very good, young RG in Shawn Lauvao who, if not for injury, would be starting as a rookie. The weak link at this point is RT, and while they’ve gotten some solid play by committee, they will surely look to bring in another strong piece via free agency or through the draft.
The left side of the line has been able to play together for 2 years now and, it’s been shown that cohesiveness and experience of an offensive line as a unit is one of the keys to success. The best lines in the NFL are continually those with talent, and who play together on a regular basis. As we know, the offensive line has to work together as a true unit on pass protection schemes and run blocking schemes.
There is no reason to believe that the Browns won’t complete the offensive line with an addition to RT and the line should be able to develop and improve on their already strong play. Despite the holes and youth, the Browns O-Line has been one of its strongest units and it has, and should continue to play well for years to come.
There have been countless young QB’s who have failed in the NFL because of a weak offensive line. Colt McCoy, while missing some playmakers on offense, at least has a great foundation at offensive line. The line, obviously, has done a great job of protecting him and keeping him upright which has allowed him to trust his protection and focus on reading the defense and keeping his eyes down the field instead of on the rush.
McCoy has been able to utilize his very good line and running game to have early success despite lacking a legitimate #1 or maybe even #2 WR. McCoy has been forced to utilize his very good TE’s in Ben Watson and Evan Moore more than his WR’s. While the TE’s are another huge benefit for McCoy both short-term and long-term, there is no doubt that he needs some playmakers and difference makers on the outside if he’s going to take the steps that the Browns need him to take.
So while some QB’s have been placed in unfortunate positions with little to no talent in the most critical areas, and while some QB’s have landed on great teams but have been forced to slow down their development, Colt McCoy is in a great position in Cleveland. The team isn’t so bad that he will get beaten up and has absolutely zero help. The team isn’t so good that he will be forced to just hand the ball off and check it down all the time which doesn’t allow him to develop as a passer, a QB, and a leader. The team is just good enough that he has enough talent around him to develop and isn’t quite good enough that it really matters if he makes mistakes.
Even though the Browns have shaken up the NFL with some marquee wins over the past month, they’re not yet a playoff team. They dug far too deep of a hole in their division with great teams like the Steelers and Ravens and no matter what some local homers will say, they’re not a playoff team yet. So as long as Mangini has the confidence of Mike Holmgren to earn another year, McCoy can really develop with no fear of mistakes and no real consequences.
So far, he’s been able to learn on the job and actually perform and beat some very good teams. But there will undoubtedly be instances where he makes mistakes that hurt his team’s chances at a win. It’s natural for a rookie QB with limited weapons. But the important thing is that it won’t really hurt the Browns and they can continue to let him learn on the job and develop and next year when they (hopefully) acquire some more weapons for the kid, he and they, will be that much better off for the future.
There has been plenty of discussion this season about all the great Head Coaches that are available and rightfully so. With names like Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, and Brian Billick lurking around. Add to that, a list of good young coordinators who teams are dying to get ahold of to turn into the next Mike Tomlin or Raheem Morris like Leslie Frazier, Rob Ryan, and Perry Fewell and there is even more of a coaching frenzy. To top it all off, you have teams like the Cowboys, Vikings, and Bengals who have been incredible failures and you have teams like the Bills and Panthers and all of a sudden many teams are already writing off this season and are now hoping to land a new coach for the upcoming season.
So while all the discussion has been about what coach each team wants, let’s take a look at where the coaches might want to go. Obviously, the caveat is that the labor situation will make teams less likely to make a coaching change due to the uncertain economics of the league. And there are some teams that SHOULD have a head coaching change but likely won’t such as the Redskins, but the list of teams that have a good possibility of having Head Coaching vacancies are as follows:
Chicago Bears: I don’t think the Bears’ problems are necessarily Lovie Smith’s fault, at least not all of it. But the reality is, while he took the team to a SuperBowl in a fluke year, he has been mostly unsuccessful. The team has talent and has made efforts to bring in talent with Cutler, Peppers, and Taylor, but it’s just not resulting in wins. If the Bears continue to struggle, as it appears that they will, this job could easily open up.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have been one of the most disappointing and mismanaged teams in the NFL this year. From what I can see, they were equally mismanaged last year, but the incredible success of the team overshadowed and hid it. The bottom line is that Chilly has screwed this team up beyond repair for this season. He has lost the locker room, he has destroyed relationships, he has made awful roster moves, and he’s mismanaged in game situations.
I wrote weeks ago that they should’ve dumped him to see what they have in Leslie Frazier and to lock him up as he just might be pursued by other teams as a head coach next year. It still may happen, but if Chilly is able to finish the year, I don’t see a scenario where he keeps his job for next year. This job better be available next season.
Carolina Panthers: John Fox has been on the hot seat for what feels like years but he somehow has managed to keep his job. With the Panthers struggling more than ever, chances are that John Fox has run out of chances in Carolina. Barring a miraculous second half (and I’m not sure even that will matter), this is probably a job that will be open.
Dallas Cowboys: Obviously Wade Phillips was just fired and Jason Garrett was named as the interim Head Coach. Garrett has long been considered the “Coach in Waiting” for the Cowboys and Jerry Jones has paid him very well to keep him there. But as the Cowboys offense continued to underperform and Garrett has been called out for questionable play calling and game planning, he has fallen out of favor.
The conventional wisdom is that Garrett has very little chance of keeping the job going into next year. Especially with the big name coaches out there that Jerry Jones may want to sign in order to make a big splash. Look, the issues with the Cowboys isn’t solely coaching, we know that. But Jerry is Jerry and likely won’t change. The end result will most likely be that the Cowboys will be in the coaching hunt this off-season.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have been on the cusp of the playoffs for a couple years as they’ve had some good drafts and play in a weak division. Mike Singletary was a popular choice for the 49ers when they replaced Mike Nolan and there have been high expectations for the team. The 49ers were considered a virtual lock for the NFC West this season and were a sexy SuperBowl pick. As we know, they have struggled mightily and have been one of the bigger disappointments in the NFL as the NFC West is WIDE OPEN. I like Mike Singletary, but I can’t see him staying in Frisco beyond this season.
Cincinnati Bengals: This one is tricky as Mike Brown, the Bengals Owner is VERY frugal and really never pays two coaches at the same time. This has worked in Marvin Lewis’ favor for years as he’s been on the hot seat several times. This is obviously exacerbated by the pending labor issues and it might just be enough to keep Marvin Lewis around for another year. However, the Bengals have been a tremendous failure after sweeping the tough AFC North last season.
I was one of the few people who thought the acquisition of Terrell Owens didn’t make them an immediate SuperBowl contender, and while their failure is not entirely his fault (he’s having an incredible season), the bottom line is they are 2-6. I don’t put that much blame on Marvin Lewis as I believe T.O. was forced on him and his QB is playing awful, but someone will need to be held accountable. There is a good chance he ends up getting fired.
Jacksonville Jaguars: I think Jack Del Rio is a good coach and the Jaguars aren’t having a terrible season. But after storming onto the scene a couple years ago and making the playoffs they have struggled. They’re playing in one of the better divisions in football and making the playoffs is unlikely. They could certainly end up over .500, but Del Rio certainly isn’t totally safe.
Even though I’m listing them, I honestly don’t think he’ll lose his job due to the labor issues and due to the Jaguars’ struggles with attendance and overall performance. It’s my opinion that he’s done just enough to keep his job, but you never know. They do have talent, and sometimes a coach doesn’t have to be doing anything wrong but a change of pace can make a big difference.
Houston Texans: I don’t think Gary Kubiak is in imminent danger, but the Texans have been on the brink of the playoffs for years. Every season they come back with more talent and more experience and everyone keeps waiting for them to have their breakout season. After a strong start and the resurgence of a running game, many thought that this might be that breakout year. Especially with the injuries the Colts have faced, the Texans had a perfect opportunity to steal the AFC South.
For whatever reason, they have stumbled and now are in danger of not making the playoffs yet again after a 4-4 start. I doubt they will struggle enough to cost Kubiak his job, but they continue to underperform and his time will run out soon.
Buffalo Bills: I don’t think the Bills will make a coaching move at this point despite their winless record at the halfway point. The Bills are playing incredibly smart, physical and intense football but they just don’t have the talent to break into the win column yet. Because the team is playing so hard and coming so close, unless they completely fall apart, I doubt a move will be made. Not to mention, Chan Gailey was just hired this season and it’s unlikely he’ll do anything to preclude him from getting at least a 2nd try.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are consistently one of the more unprepared, undisciplined and poorly coached teams in the NFL. They routinely have an incredibly talented roster but they get out to the WORST starts year in and year out. If this happens in any given year due to injury or new acquisitions causing the team to lack cohesiveness or something that’s understandable. But for this to happen every single year points directly at poor coaching. Norv Turner is one of the best Offensive Coordinators in the game but he has failed as a Head Coach at every turn.
The Chargers problems aren’t solely placed on Norv as A.J. Smith is one of the most immature and unprofessional GM’s in the game and he deserves just as much blame, but Norv will likely take the fall. The Chargers have had SuperBowl aspirations for years and their window appears to be closing as they get further and further away. A coaching change may due wonders for this team.
Denver Broncos: Josh McDaniels was hired only last year so he’s going to have money left on his contract, but he has been a tremendous failure in Denver. After a 6-0 start last season, his team has completely collapsed and there doesn’t seem to be any positive signs going forward. McDaniels butchered his relationship with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall and shipped them out the door. He also traded Peyton Hillis who is playing incredibly well for the Browns in exchange for Brady Quinn who has looked like ANYTHING but an NFL QB. He then spent his 1st round pick reaching for Tim Tebow who is a questionable prospect at the QB position. McDaniels seems to be trying to be another Belichick Clone and so far it has backfired. He, like Mangini, would be better served being themselves and putting his stamp on the team instead of trying to be exactly like his mentor.
It remains to be seen how some of his roster moves will end up. In the short term, Kyle Orton has played much better than Jay Cutler and Orton certainly seems to fit McDaniels offensive system better than the big armed and inaccurate Cutler. The reality is, however, that the team has been awful and he may be running out of time in Denver. He may be bailed out by the labor situation, but if they continue to struggle as bad as they have, that may not be enough to save his job. I’d put his chances at 50/50 at this point.
Obviously each coach will have his own list of priorities and things that will factor into the decision as to where he ends up, but just speaking in general, here are the top 5 Coaching jobs that might be available next year:
5. San Francisco 49ers:
This might be a bit of a surprise given that the team has struggled for years and doesn’t have anything even resembling a QB of the future, let alone a legit Franchise QB, but I think there are some very appealing aspects of coaching this team.
The most appealing area for me, is the young talented defense lead by Patrick Willis. The NFL has changed quite a bit and you can no longer expect to win solely based on defense, but I’ll take my chances going into a game if I have Patrick Willis on my side. This young man is an incredible talent and he’s only going to get better. The 49ers have a lot of other very good defensive players, and many are young players that could be there for years to come. They just drafted Taylor Mays and while there are questions about him, he has the physical skills that no other safety in the NFL has. If they get lucky, he could wind up being a complete freak.
The 49ers also have good young talent offensively with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and a solid offensive line. While he’s injury prone, if Frank Gore can stay healthy, he’s one of the best in the business and if they can figure out their QB situation, this could be a dangerous offense and a dangerous team with the right coach in place.
Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden both have ties to the 49ers and they’re both proven coaches with SuperBowl victories. If I were the 49ers I wouldn’t go the coordinator route as they need a strong, proven figure to get them back on track. Holmgren has had great success in identifying and developing young QB’s so he just might be the perfect fit even though he’s currently under contract with the Cleveland Browns and I don’t think he’ll leave.
Jon Gruden is often said to be great at developing young QB’s (ESPN constantly tells us this), but that’s actually a myth. As a Head Coach, he has never developed a young QB. If you recall back in Tampa Bay, he was actually obsessed with various veteran QB’s who were well past their prime and couldn’t play anymore. He was extremely reluctant to play, let alone develop, a young QB.
4. Houston Texans:
This job probably won’t be available, but if it were to come available, I think it represents a great opportunity for a Head Coach. While Matt Shaub isn’t an elite QB, he’s above average and you can definitely work with him. They have Andre Johnson and other good, young WR’s and they have found a legit RB in Arian Foster. The offense has been highly potent for some time and it should only get better.
Defensively they have some very good players with Mario Williams and Brian Cushing and Demeco Ryans when healthy. The secondary obviously needs to be improved, but they have had some great drafts and if they continue to make good roster moves, this team should be very close to competing. The reason I have them listed is because they do have such great talent and they continually come up short. I think Kubiak is a good coach, but at what point to do make a move? They’re always considered one of the teams that will break out but they never do.
I’m honestly not sure about this one. You can make the argument that the Texans need a proven head coach to get them to the next level or you can make the argument that a good young coordinator might be able to get them over the top. If Bill Cowher would be interested in this job, I think his attitude and philosophy would do wonders for the Texans and could maximize their talent. I have no idea where Cowher is likely to end up because the only thing I ever here is where he’s NOT going. The prevailing thought used to be that Cowher would end up in Carolina, but I’m now hearing that Carolina is out. Those close to him have also said that he won’t go to Dallas, but I have no idea where he WILL go or where he’s open to going.
If Cowher isn’t interested or if the Texans wouldn’t pursue him (and who knows, Kubiak may be safe), Leslie Frazier could be a good fit for them. He is a great defensive coach and he might be able to get the most out of the young defense.
3. Minnesota Vikings:
The Vikings don’t have a QB of the future and that’s a big negative, but it’s really one of the only negatives to this position. The team has incredible talent on both sides of the ball and they’ve been very close to the SuperBowl for the last couple years. They have arguably the best RB in the NFL, a good offensive line, and a good WR corps when Sidney Rice returns.
The Vikings have a dominant defense when playing at its best and have very few holes on the roster. Obviously, the QB situation needs to be addressed quickly, but the team is very close to competing for a division title. While the Lions are improving fast, the only true competition in the NFC North at this point is the Packers so there is a great chance for success within the division.
Mike Holmgren, for the same reasons as with the 49ers could be a good fit here. The Vikings have utilized a variation of the West Coast Offense for years and Holmgren learned from Bill Walsh, who took Paul Brown’s offense and created what we now know as the “West Coast Offense”. Systematically, there would obviously be a seamless transition. He is also very capable of identifying and developing young QB’s which the Vikings are in desperate need of.
The other obvious fit for the Vikings is their current defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier. He will be a Head Coach somewhere and soon so why wouldn’t the Vikings want to keep him in place. He is obviously already familiar with the personnel and the players are familiar with his system and philosophy and have largely thrived under his leadership.
2. Dallas Cowboys:
The Cowboys are a high profile team, with high profile players, a high profile new stadium and a very high profile owner. There is a lot of prestige and fanfare associated with this position and the roster is loaded with talent. Tony Romo may not be an elite NFL QB, but he is in the top 10 and with the proper coaching I think he could be pretty special. They have a stable of RB’s and a very talented WR corps. The offensive line needs serious work and some of their key players are aging.
The defense is pretty stout and they have some incredible young talent with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. The defense is aging, however, and the secondary is a huge concern. Terrence Newman is a good corner and Mike Jenkins showed flashes of brilliance but has since struggled. The team has holes, but is not that far off from truly competing.
The issue with the Cowboys is the immense and immediate pressure to win due to the team, the owner, and the talent on the roster. The other issue is that while you’re held accountable for the results, you probably won’t have control or authority to ensure things are done correctly. The players haven’t respected most Cowboys Head Coaches because they know that at the end of the day Jerry makes the decisions. Jerry has been far too involved in roster decisions, game planning, and day to day issues. Look, he’s a great owner and can and will do what he wants. But it’s definitely a concern for head coaches as they know they will likely be undermined and won’t have the authority they require to do things the right way. If not for Jerry’s involvement and unlikeliness to change, the Cowboys would easily be the top job out there.
Not all coaches will want to deal with Jerry Jones getting in their way and honestly most of the higher level coaches will be turned off by this. But Jon Gruden is an extremely strong personality and energetic coach who might be up for the challenge. The team has a lot of talent and a lot of big personalities so a guy like Gruden might be able to reign them in and harness their potential. Gruden also runs a variation of the West Coast offense and I think Tony Romo would thrive in that system due to his mobility and their weak offensive line. Romo is talented but hasn’t met expectations and a system change and an offensive guru like Gruden could really take him to the next level.
John Fox is commonly linked to this job as Jerry Jones is said to think very highly of him and Fox will likely be out of a job. Fox is also a coach that Jerry can control and we all know that is one of Jerry’s priorities. That’s the one thing that may keep a guy like Gruden or Cowher from getting this job and Fox is a good compromise hire for the Cowboys. The fans desperately want the big name coach and Jerry wants a doormat he can control like Wade Phillips. Fox is somewhere in the middle as he’s been a good coach in the past but he isn’t considered to be a top flight coach and might be the odds on favorite to land the job.
I would consider Brian Billick to be one of these compromise type coaches as well as he’s been successful, he’s won a SuperBowl, but he has struggled to find a job since leaving the Ravens. He’s taken heat for being too arrogant and not working well with people, but he might jump through hoops for Jerry to land this job.
San Diego Chargers:
The Chargers have their fair share of issues, but there are some serious positives for this job. They have an incredible QB in Phillip Rivers and while he hasn’t yet gotten the respect and recognition of some of the elite QB’s in the NFL like Manning, Brady & Brees, I think he’s very close to those guys. Honestly, at this point I’d only put Manning and Brady above Rivers as I think he’s not only a great statistical QB but he’s a good leader. The team has a solid offensive line and despite missing some of their offensive weapons, the team continues to thrive under Rivers and it doesn’t really seem to matter who plays WR. It remains to be seen if Ryan Matthews can come close to replacing Ladanian Tomlinson, but it hasn’t slowed them down this year on offense.
There are some huge holes on defense, but the Chargers have somehow managed to play extremely well statistically this season. The secondary is weak and they haven’t gotten the same pass rush that they used to with Merriman and Phillips.
The Chargers have been great statistically on both sides of the ball this season, but the main issue has been coaching and discipline which is why this job SHOULD open up. A.J. Smith is extremely difficult to work with for the Head Coach and he will sabotage your roster out of a personal vendetta with a player (Vincent Jackson). In a perfect world, A.J. would be shown the door at the same time Norv is let go, but I don’t know if that’s likely. A.J. is certainly a negative when considering this job, but the overall talent, the top 5 QB, and the relatively weak division they are in makes for a good situation for the right coach.
This team definitely needs a coach with a strong personality and someone who will command respect and implement a system of discipline and accountability. This team has a vertical offensive philosophy and I think their personnel fits this system extremely well (obviously, just look at the stats). For this reason, I don’t think one of the West Coast Offense guys would be a good fit despite the obvious geographic consistencies. Rivers could run any offense you asked him to, but the big, physical WR’s and TE wouldn’t necessarily fit the short passing game. They’re at their best when they’re stretching the field vertically and going up and making plays down field, not catching a 4 yard pass and turning it into a 30 yard gain.
Again, I have no clue where Cowher is considering or who he’s already ruled out, but I think he’d be a good fit here. Logistically, it’s doubtful though as his family is back on the east coast and he’s always had east coast ties. I also consider Tony Dungy to be a very good fit for this team but I have heard even less about where Dungy would consider coaching and I’m not even sure if he’s ready to coach again.
Leslie Frazier is certainly a possibility, as is Brian Billick as his offensive system would be a great fit for Rivers and the San Diego offense. Honestly, while I consider it as the overall #1 job, I don’t have the first idea who will end up coaching the Chargers. This one is as wide open as any job, but the Chargers better get it right. They have been very close to the SuperBowl for years and their window will begin to close, at least temporarily. With Rivers, the team will always be close to competing, but they’re going to run out of chances with this current roster very soon.
The “Big Show”, Mike Holmgren
Yesterday in Berea, Browns President of Football Operations, Mike Holmgren held a press conference that felt very much like a mid-season State of the Browns address. While Holmgren touched on many areas, there are a handful in particular that noteworthy.
When asked about the team’s decision regarding which QB to start going forward, Holmgren quickly deferred to Mangini saying that it was a coaching decision and he would not be involved. He went on, however, to praise Colt McCoy‘s efforts in his first 2 NFL games, said that he was “proud” of him and was very pleased with his poise and ability to handle the pressure and lead the team. Keep in mind that McCoy was handpicked by Mike Holmgren in the draft and Holmgren has made a living working with and developing young QB’s (Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck). While it is my belief that Mangini will go back to Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme when healthy, listening to Holmgren gave me the impression that he would rather see McCoy get some work for the rest of the season.
Holmgren was asked about the Browns’ interest in acquiring Randy Moss and he quickly, but politely shut down any possibility of the notion. This really shouldn’t be a surprise given the team’s recent actions in parting ways with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow as well as the fact that while Moss would certainly be the team’s best WR, they’re not going to make the playoffs so what is really the point of putting up with the circus and paying the roughly $3M in salary for the rest of the season. Holmgren said specifically that “the team would continue to focus on developing it’s young receivers”. The same young receivers that have been mostly, and in some instances, totally disappointing. In the 2009 draft, Eric Mangini made the decision to select Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie in the second round (both were considered reaches). While Massaquoi has at least been on the field and made SOME plays, Robiskie has been largely absent and irrelevant in Cleveland. Holmgren also defended these WR’s citing the team’s different scheme and philosophy in focusing most of its passing game in the middle of the field to the TE’s and RB’s as opposed to outside the numbers to its WR’s. Now I have tremendous respect for Holmgren, but this is BS. Say what you want…. these two are just not getting it done. It’s also my belief that the reduced targets outside the numbers are more a result of not having playmakers at WR than just solely scheme differences. Yes, Mangini certainly wants to run the ball and utilize his TE’s, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t want to take advantages of mismatches on the outside (if he had any).
Holmgren was also asked about Eric Mangini’s and the team’s performance to date in the 2010 NFL season. While Holmgren provided his typical “coach-speak” answer indicating that he wouldn’t make any evaluations or determinations until after the season, it certainly seemed to me that he is frustrated with the team’s performance. When asked about the most promising and most frustrating parts of the season, he cited the same answer for both which was the team’s ability to be competitive in every game but only coming through with a victory in two games. Holmgren certainly didn’t give any clear indications on his true feelings about Mangini, but it’s my opinion that he’s lukewarm at best on the Coach. We know they have certain philosophical differences in terms of style of offense and defense and it would seem based on the 09 draft as compared to the ’10 draft that they have the same differences in the types of players they want. Obviously the scheme and system will to direct to some extent what type of player is selected, but even in addition to that, there seems to be some variance.
Let me say that I by no means believe Mangini should be fired. I think he’s done a pretty good job in turning around the culture of the team in terms of physicality, toughness, and finding an identity. There are some tactical decisions that I don’t think have been handled correctly, but overall, I think he’s done fairly well with what he has to work with. But I get the impression that Holmgren isn’t all that pleased and it wouldn’t take that much to sway him into making a coaching change in the off-season. I don’t think there is any way Mangini doesn’t finish the year, but if he struggles and ends up with less than 5 wins (which is entirely possible), it will start to get very interesting. If Mangini keeps the team competitive and they squeak out another marquee win or two against teams they shouldn’t beat, the finish to the season as well as the pending lockout might be enough to keep him in place. If he struggles at all, however, Holmgren may look to make a move. I don’t know at this point what move, if any Holmgren would make but one that would make Browns fans extremely happy is Jon Gruden. The two are linked together from previous jobs in Green Bay and they are both “West Coast Offense” gurus. I’m not sure Holmgren would want a big name coach here and I’m not Gruden would be interested in Cleveland, but it’s certainly interesting.
The last item of note from yesterday’s address is Holmgren’s feeling on coaching in the NFL again. When asked, he indicated that he still feels the urge to coach and to teach but that he has an obligation to Randy Lerner and he wants to see that through. Some will say that the two are not mutually exclusive as Holmgren could certainly come down to the sidelines in Cleveland as well as oversee football operations. I wouldn’t mind the idea, but keep in mind that Holmgren failed in Seattle when he was trying to wear too many hats (Coach, GM, President). I actually can’t think of one person who has been able to successfully act as coach and GM/President so it might not be the best long-term solution for the Browns. There is no doubt in my mind that Holmgren wants to coach again, it’s just a question of when and where. For me, as much as I’d like to see him on the sidelines, I honestly value his long-term strategic leadership in the President role more than just as a coach. For a more stable organization my opinion would be different, but the Browns were so terribly mismanaged since their return in 1999 that his knowledge and leadership is absolutely necessary. At least for foreseeable future…..