It’s a new year and the Browns are looking for a new coach.
It’s kind of like a New Year’s resolution for the Browns, although Jimmy Haslam made it a point to mention his disdain for those that bring those types of things up.
"There’s nothing that, and you all have every right to write it, that galls me more to read on Monday mornings, ‘Same old Browns,’ " Haslam said on Monday. "That’s not what we’re all about and that’s not what we came here for. You have a right to be skeptical and until we turn it around and start winning games, start winning important games, playing meaningful games late in the year and be sitting here this time of year talking about who we’re going to play in the first round of the playoffs, you have every right to be skeptical."
Looking for a new coach has been a regular occurrence with the Browns, particularly since Romeo Crennel was fired after the final game of the 2008 season.
The next coach hired will be the fifth full-time coach counting the 2008 season and the seventh full time coach for the Browns since 1999. Eric Mangini coached 2009-10 and then Pat Shurmur had the next two years before Rob Chudzinski was brought in for his one-year trial.
"But that’s Joe (Banner) and my job, is to go out and find the person to lead the organization, to coach the team, to give us those kind of results," Haslam said. "It’s something we take extremely seriously. We understand there will be skepticism until we get it right, and candidly, we deserve it. I know there’ll be questions about what you’re going to be looking for as a coach and I think you have to be careful.
"Coaches come in all shapes, form and fashions, but I think real simply, and we spent a lot of time talking about this, we want an individual who is a strong winner who knows how to win football games," he said. "We’ll begin our search immediately. I don’t know if it will take a week or a month, the importance is to get it right. There will be all kinds of rumors out there. We understand that. We’re not going to respond to any of them and it’s our intent to bring back the kind of coach I just mentioned to this room sometime over whatever time period. But the important thing is to get it right."
Unfortunately, the odds are against getting it right–in terms of history for the Browns.
Since 1950, when the Browns joined the NFL, only four coaches in the Browns franchise history have had winning records. The last one to have a career record over .500 for the Browns was Marty Schottenheimer who was 46-31 (.597) from 1984-88. That means the Browns haven’t had a coach with a winning record since 1989 and that includes Bill Belichick.
Further sobering numbers show that Schottenheimer is the only coach with a winning record for the Browns since 1974.
But that’s Joe (Banner) and my job, is to go out and find the person to lead the organization, to coach the team, to give us those kind of results
Believe it or not, the only other three former coaches with winning records were the first three Browns coaches: Paul Brown 115-49-5 (.695) from 1950-62; Blanton Collier 79-38-2 (.672) from 1963-70 and Nick Skorich 30-26-2 (.534) from 1971-74. Collier led the Browns to their last NFL Championship in 1964.
The early favorite to be the next coach is current Patriots’ offensive coordinator and John Carroll University alumni Josh McDaniels . He was a head coach in the NFL for two years with the Broncos, although not a successful one with a 11-17 record. He started his first season 6-0, but limped to an 8-8 record and was fired after starting the following season 3-9. Not hardly the strong finish Haslam and Banner said they were looking for.
However, the hiring of Chudzinski last year came out of nowhere, after several of the coaches they were seeking turned them down. It would seem logical that the Browns would’ve had a coach already in mind or even had mutual interest before firing Chudzinski.
Another feather in McDaniels’ cap is he has a relationship with GM Mike Lombardi and coached Brian Hoyer while Hoyer was with the Patriots.
My feeling is there is a good chance that McDaniels will be the coach unless he turns it down. As a former Browns’ coach always said, ‘I can only go by what I see’ and in the last two years what I’ve seen or heard is usually the first rumors that come out are usually the ones that turn out to be true.
Remember when Banner first left the Eagles it was reported that he was going to be in the new ownership group forming to buy the Browns. That was before it was even announced that Randy Lerner would sell the team. A few months later, Banner was introduced as the CEO of the Browns.
Also remember when Banner was officially announced as the CEO, that rumors abounded from the beginning that Lombardi was going to join the Browns as the Player Personnel/General Manager. That also came to fruition after the early rumors were shot down.
This past weekend, it was leaked to the same national type reporters that Chudzinski was in trouble and within hours it became reality.
Thus, the conclusion that McDaniels will be the coach comes from connecting the dots–that is if he wants to leave Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Other potential coaches are Broncos’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, former Lions coach Jim Schwartz and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Last year, it was no secret that Chip Kelly was the Browns top target as the fresh coach from the college ranks. He has led the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn or Vanderbilt’s James Franklin could be this year’s version of Kelly in Haslam and Banner’s eyes.
The best thing McDaniels, Gase or even Quinn could do for the Browns is bring their quarterback with them. More than anything the Browns need a franchise quarterback along the lines of Brady, Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson.
Sure, coaching makes a big difference. One only needs to look at the difference the Saints were this year with Sean Payton back running the team after a year of him missing due to a league suspension.
Since a franchise quarterback won’t be part of the deal of hiring a new coach, the Browns need to more than anything make crucial personnel decisions that will impact the team maybe even more than a coaching change will. Both Haslam and Banner admitted this off-season is critical in upgrading the talent on the field.
"Do I think we’re where we need to be talent-wise now?" Haslam said. "No, I don’t. Do I think we can get there over the next couple three years? Yes, I do. You all have heard this way more times than I have because most of you have been around here a lot longer, but this is the crucial offseason for the Cleveland Browns.
"Joe and I accept that," he said. "We accept the responsibility, we have lots of room on the cap, we have 10 draft picks as we mentioned, and we have to hire a new coach. If we get that right then we’ll have a lot of really positive press conferences.
"If we get that wrong, the responsibility is on us," he said. "We all understand, and we just met with a core group of our players. We understand. We feel a lot of pressure to get this right for the franchise, for the City of Cleveland, for our fans. We understand how important it is."
It starts with hiring the right coach, but maybe even more important is acquiring the franchise quarterback. Will it be through the draft with Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Brett Hundley or another?
Haslam and Banner have said all the right things. Now they need to deliver with the answer to those questions.