Perhaps the wild card among the Browns’ new coaching staff is offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
At 34 years young, the Ontario native is a rookie in that position. He comes to the job without the pro experience and family genes of defensive coordinator Ryan and without the reputation and longevity of special teams coordinator Seely. Daboll also takes over from Rod Chudzinski, whom Bleacher Report named recently as one of the very worst offensive coordinators in the NFL in 2008:
Daboll played high school football in New York State. He attended the University of Rochester and was a letterman as a two-year starter with its football program. His academic background is in economics.
Brian’s pro coaching experience has been with the New England Patriots as a defensive assistant; then several seasons as the wide receivers coach with the Pats; then as the quarterbacks coach under Mangini with the New York Jets.
Some media reports (including a recent piece from The Plain Dealer) highlight Daboll’s rookie status. In his few press conferences/interviews since taking the position in Cleveland, Brian has appeared far less comfortable than Ryan, for example. Whether that is due to nerves or his lack of experience or just his personality cannot be determined for certain, but we disagree with those who say that he is unsuccessfully dealing with the heat of the job’s demands. We are prepared to judge Daboll in terms of the offensive play on the gridiron without regard for the way that he handles the press (just as we put absolutely no weight on the mainstream media’s endless criticisms of Mangini’s “cloak of secrecy” and his perceived aloofness at press conferences; or Randy Lerner’s eccentricity and extreme camera shyness).
On that issue – performance on the field – the NFL has seen several recent examples of rookies exceeding expectations, even at the head coaching position. Mike Smith in Atlanta and John Harbaugh in Baltimore are examples from last season. It helps to have a connection to another member of the coaching staff or with the GM. Daboll’s close relationship with Mangini should assist.
If we could give our humble advice to Daboll from the cheap seats, we would leave the details to those who know much better but advocate for just three things. First, keep it simple, stupid. A common mistake with a new coordinator is to flood the players with a complex playbook in an effort to exude knowledge. Second, be creative. For example, do not be a slave to running Edwards on deep patterns or using Lewis more than his age will allow. And third, be decisive on the QB position. When it comes time to declare the starter, although Mangini will undoubtedly be the public face behind that decision, support it without reservation or qualification. Do not fall into this trap of having it both ways where it is announced that Brady will start for some probationary period. You cannot be wishy washy with the QB position. If performance is bad and a change is required, then you make it. But until then, all of the media questions and uncertainty can be handled by stating unequivocally that X (Brady) is our starting QB, period.
We would be remiss if we did not mention the tragic death by murder of former Titans and Ravens QB, Steve “Air” McNair. He of course had many accomplishments on the field including leading the Titans to the team’s first and only Super Bowl appearance and finishing just a yard and some overtime luck short of a championship. But he should be remembered equally for his charitable efforts off the field including the Foundation that he started for youth. That legacy is far less fleeting.