New coordinator, same issues for Browns offense
MOBILE, Ala. – The Cleveland Browns’ annual search for an offensive coordinator is over.
The hiring of John DeFilippo, however, signals anything but the end of the team’s quest to construct an offense good enough to lead the Browns out of the AFC North basement and to sustained success.
The quarterback question lingers. Over everything.
A day after Browns general manager Ray Farmer called discussions about the game’s most important position and the Browns’ plans for it "ongoing," the hiring of DeFilippo marks another step in the process of getting that quarterback question answered. The departure of 2014 coordinator Kyle Shanahan weeks after the season with years left on his contract left a void that DeFilippo fills, but the situation DeFilippo faces is less about names and systems and more about how the Browns proceed.
Brian Hoyer hit the ceiling late in 2014 and can be a free agent. The Johnny Manziel Experiment was short lived and much more exciting at 2:30 a.m. Saturdays than at 1 p.m. Sundays. Josh Gordon, far and away the Browns top playmaker, ended the season on the suspended list and might not be in the plans.
This isn’t about DeFilippo, no matter how creative, how driven or how good a fit he might be with his old friend, Browns head coach Mike Pettine.
This is about sorting through a big mess and getting that quarterback question answered.
It’s about how the Browns want to go forward. Do they trust Manziel and try to build an offense around him? Do they try to go back to Hoyer or another middle of the road veteran and try to succeed with a run-first, conservative attack? In either case, how do they go about upgrading the talent around the quarterback, whoever it is, and maybe upgrading the quarterback position itself?
Jimmys and Joes over Xs and Os. How guys play for DeFilippo over how he places them.
This is a big job he’s been hired to do. He needs help from every player he’ll start coaching this spring.
Though he’s never called plays, DeFilippo has solid NFL credentials. As a young coach — younger, actually; he’s still just 36 — he worked with Mark Sanchez on Jets teams that got to the AFC Championship Game. After a stint in the college ranks did what appears to be a good job with young quarterbacks the last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Derek Carr, who took over as the Raiders starter last year, is a mature, grounded, football-first quarterback who talks and carries himself beyond his years.
Here’s Johnny, John. P.S., the weather stinks, too.
Maybe the Browns will go in another direction and Manziel will again be watching. The Browns certainly need DeFilippo’s opinion on these things. They need him to be on the same page with Pettine and Farmer on whichever route is chosen. The Browns have about four weeks until the NFL Scouting Combine, almost seven until the veteran player movement period and three months until the draft. They have some nice pieces in place, but not nearly enough.
The right quarterback will make everybody better — offensive coordinator and head coach included.
The Browns announced the hiring of DeFilippo by way of a story on the team’s official website that addressed the team’s "uncertainty at quarterback" and said it was brought up in the interview process with all offensive coordinator candidates. DeFilippo tells the team website he’s "thrilled to be working with all the quarterbacks that are here and going to be here."
Work starts immediately. There’s a lot to be done.
In that story, DeFilippo refers to himself as "a make-it-work type of guy."
History is against him. Given the current quarterback situation, so are the odds.
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