The announcement that Norv Turner would be the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns was huge. For all of the questions about his tenures as a head coach, Turner has been a terrific coordinator. He was at his best running the Dallas Cowboys offense under Jimmy Johnson, but he has also had success as a coordinator in other spots. He also brought an extremely credible presence to pair with Rob Chudzinski, the team’s head coach. They were familiar with each other from their time in San Diego and had similar philosophies on offense but Chud’s aggressive style can help keep Turner’s offense fresh and effective. Turner has been presented with an incredibly limited offense and at times, has been able to make the team look credible in games it probably should not have.
One of the reasons that Turner was such a great hire is that his days as a head coach are likely behind him. He has had enough bites at the apple and has reached an age where that is probably behind him, but the Browns could conceivably have a fantastic offensive play caller and coordinator for years, which is an incredible advantage. One of the reasons this is big for the Browns is that he and Chud will be tasked really with building an offense.
The Browns have a lot of pieces to put together an effective offense but are obviously missing some key players to make it work. They had holes coming in they were aware of, but that list got longer when Dion Lewis went down for the year and then Trent Richardson was traded.
Without a franchise quarterback, without a threat at running back, with questions at wide receiver and some additional attention that is due for the offensive line, Turner and Chud had their hands full with producing a competitive offense.
That challenge was even greater when both Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston went down with injuries to start the season. The Browns opted to move Oneil Cousins from tackle to guard, a position he had never played. It showed as he was a disaster in that spot.
They were also shorthanded for the first two games without Josh Gordon due to a drug suspension. It was clear just how much they missed him when he came in and had a big game against Minnesota.
After initially going with Brandon Weeden, the Browns appeared to have some hope with Brian Hoyer before he went down with an ACL tear. After further confirming that Weeden is a train wreck behind center, they have gotten solid play out of Jason Campbell.
The offense was helped by the fact that the Browns did have the makings of a strong defense and they did not need to win shootouts. They needed to protect the football, avoid mistakes, and find a way to score around 24 points to win football games.
Somehow, despite all of the issues that the Browns are facing, Turner and Chud have managed to get the Browns to put up the 16th rated passing attack in the NFL. They have been able to put up enough points to win 4 games, though in the case of the Bengals game, that was mostly a product of the defense holding the Bengal offense to just six points.
Purely from a play calling standpoint, the combination of Turner’s poise and football knowledge combined with Chud’s aggressiveness and willingness to take chances has been effective. Chud has an impact on the offensive gameplan but it definitely feels as though Chud says he wants to go for a big play or try to pick up a fourth down play and then he just lets Turner dial up the right play to accomplish it. They have not all worked but they have been able to come up with some great play calls at times, make up for a complete lack of a running game and come up with big plays in big moments. With more talent, that should only continue to improve.
Turner’s impact has been felt this season, but much of what he and Chud are going to be evaluated on is what they are able to do from here. They have to find a franchise quarterback to lead this team along with at least one running back, likely a wide receiver, a tight end that can be an effective inline blocking threat and receiver to complement Jordan Cameron and some additional offensive line help, likely at the guard position.
The good news is the Browns have a ton of resources to attack these needs but even if they are able to hit all of the other areas of the team, the lack of a quarterback will only allow the team to progress to a certain point. In order for them to secure a championship, they need the right player to lead this offense and they may have trouble making that happen given where they are currently projected to land in terms of the NFL Draft. That will put more pressure on them from a evaluation standpoint on trying to find the right guy without having the best pick to secure the necessary talent.
As much as Turner has been good for this season and really made a team without a legitimate quarterback or running game into an offense that has been enough to win four games. If they can get that out of this type of team, the question is how far they can go with a legitimate running game, a real quarterback and more weapons on the outside. With the defense they have in place, they have the potential to put together a similarly talented offense and really take this team to another level. Rob Chudzinski has done a nice job, but having Norv Turner in the fold really makes this offensive coaching group look extremely promising going forward.