Challenge accepted: Shanahan begins searching for answers with Browns

Sep 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan watches from the sidelines against the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke/Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

BEREA, Ohio – New Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has had the title before — twice, actually — but he’s never had the challenge he has here.

The Browns need a quarterback, a running back, an identity — and not the kind that necessarily comes from any scheme — and to create an environment in which a bunch of new faces, coaches and players, can mix with the talent that’s already in place and create an offense that can exist amongst those of NFL contenders and help push the Browns out of the AFC North basement.

Welcome to Cleveland, Kyle.

Most would argue it has been since 2007 that the Browns had an offense that combined efficient balance with sufficient pop. There have been flashes, like Josh Gordon winning the receiving title in 14 games last season, but there have been few real strengths or periods of sustained success.

The Browns hold picks No. 4 and 26 in the first round of May’s NFL Draft, and it’s no secret that they’ll explore every avenue in regards to adding a young quarterback. Brian Hoyer is under contract and undergoing rehab from a torn ACL that ended his improbable 3-0 run early in 2013, and by the time the full team gathers in May for on-field work there will be new terminology and plenty of new names, and they’ll all be looking to Shanahan.

"Because of the people and the talent that (the Browns) have…I think that it is a good situation and I’m very excited to be here," Shanahan said when he was formally introduced Thursday.

Shanahan pointed out that this marks the first time he’s worked under a defensive coach. Given that and that this marks the first time he’s been a coordinator under someone besides his father or Gary Kubiak, a longtime friend and disciple of his father, it’s fair to assume that this new, different challenge for Shanahan includes also includes more responsibility.

He knows the drafting of a quarterback or any other big-ticket offensive addition will be decisions made over his head, but he’d better make his two cents count.

"I’m going to evaluate everybody," Shanahan said. "That’s my job to do that. I’m going to do that as best as I can, and give an honest opinion. You work hard, you look at a lot of tape, and you give them your true honest opinion, and then the people that make those decisions decide off of that. I think that anytime you get a quarterback, there are lots of ways that you can win in this game. There are lots of ways to move the ball, there are lots of ways to score touchdowns. Everybody does it differently."

The Browns interviewed multiple candidates for the offensive coordinator job — in the end, new coach Mike Pettine saw Shanahan’s experience and credentials as best. He said he knows Shanahan will build "an all-weather offense," one that can succeed in a "passing league" but still be good enough with the run to win late in the season in conditions the Browns will encounter late in the season. Shanahan has had prior success both with run-first and pass-first offenses.

"Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in football," Pettine said. "When I’ve been on the defensive side and have had conversations with people about how I wanted to build an offense, it (was) usually one we went against, Houston or Washington."

"It’s going to be a style similar to that. It’s aggressive, very creative but at the same time very fundamentally sound. It challenges a defense."

Shanahan said he has had seven quarterbacks in six years as a coordinator — the Browns have had seven quarterbacks in the last four years. The goal of all involved is for that revolving door to be stopped.

"You have to put in a scheme that is flexible, and you have to do what your quarterback is best at," Shanahan said. "If your quarterback is good at what you’re doing, then you’ve got a chance to succeed. You’ve got to figure out the best way to do that. You don’t need a certain type of quarterback; you just want a good quarterback. You’ve got to figure out who the best guy is and go with the best one possible and figure out how to let him play the way he plays."

Later Thursday, Shanahan made the local radio tour and was asked what he has seen of this draft’s top quarterbacks and specifically Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

"I haven’t sat and studied him, but who wouldn’t like him?" Shanahan said. "He’s fun to watch, he makes plays, and he’s as much of a playmaker as I’ve seen on (TV) as anybody. I’m excited to get the coaches copy.

"I’m going to get started here pretty fast here and actually maybe even this afternoon starting to watch these college guys."

Shanahan said he studied Hoyer both when he was coming out of college and again in 2012 after Hoyer was released by New England. Two quarterbacks from Shanahan’s past, Kirk Cousins and Matt Schaub, are expected to become available by trade or free agency when the NFL league year begins in March. He coached a rookie quarterback in 2012 in Washington in Robert Griffin III and knows the challenges involed with that situation, too.

Those different ways to score touchdowns he referenced in his introductory press conference? Shanahan knows finding the right way with the Browns starts with the right players.

"We’re going to look at every single option," Shanahan said. "We’re going to take everything into account. We’re going to study the heck out of every single option possible and you don’t just take a guy early in the draft because you need a quarterback. It can really set you back if you miss on one. You have to make sure the decision you make is the right decision. You want to make sure that guy is a franchise quarterback, and if he’s not, you might have to go in a different direction."