All signs are pointing to Josh McDaniels being the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. He has ties to the area and the organization. McDaniels, now 37, is from Barberton, played quarterback at Canton McKinley High School and played his college football at John Carroll University. He and general manager Mike Lombardi know each other through Bill Belichick. McDaniels also was offensive coordinator in a period where Brian Hoyer was a member of the New England Patriots for a period of an 8-month overlap. None of that means he will be a good head coach for the Browns, but it might explain partly why he would want to be the head coach of the Browns.
McDaniels would certainly be a tough sell for the Browns front office, but they have practice. Between the less than cordial press conference in light of the decision to fire Rob Chudzinski as well as the personal relations nightmare that came with hiring Lombardi as the general manger in spite of his terrible track record (of which he admitted), Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam will at least know what is coming.
Lombardi has mentioned in the past when he was still in the media that given the opportunity, one of the people he would consider as a head coach was McDaniels. He has had high praise for McDaniels and much of the job he did in Denver. That element and that link had been established before Lombardi was brought into the fold with the Browns, but now that the job is open, he has an opportunity to push for McDaniels and it appears to be working.
Skepticism will be a popular word. Haslam used it on a number of occasions, accepts it will be there and almost wears it proudly as a challenge to find the right head coach for this football team. When fans think of McDaniels, they think of the issues that caused him to lose his job in Denver after two seasons, which included trading up to bring in Tim Tebow as a first round pick.
McDaniels bookended stints as a Patriots assistant around his time with the Broncos and a short stay as the offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams. He became a hot prospect with the New England Patriots, guiding the offense around Tom Brady and has rebuilt his stock in some respects because of Brady and the Patriots offense.
A huge reason that McDaniels failed in Denver was because he had too much on his plate; he was in total control. The idea of giving a first year head coach total control of everything was never sound thinking. McDaniels had control of the draft, coaching the players, and everything else. He was terrible for himself as a general manager, making a number of huge missteps that hurt the team.
The other issue that hurt McDaniels and ultimately sunk him was that he had a difficult time leading the team and maintaining the respect and loyalty of the players. This, more than anything else, will be the big question with McDaniels should he be hired as the Browns head coach. Some suggest he has learned the hard way about leadership and going about earning it, but many will be skeptical with good reason until he proves it.
As a coach, McDaniels has shown acumen for the job. He started his career with the Broncos 6-0. They were not loaded with stars, he was getting huge production out of players like Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd, both of which had career years under McDaniels. It ultimately fell apart on him, but when it comes to understanding the game, how to run an offense and how to create opportunities, he has shown he can do it.
Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, but in a year where he is finding ways to make plays with a mediocre supporting cast, McDaniels is calling the plays. Even with injuries, a murder investigation, and everything else, this Patriots team has won 12 games. McDaniels is at least partly responsible for it.
The idea of taking a third swing at establishing another iteration of the Patriots in Cleveland is going to be met with groans and frustration. If the Browns go this route, they have to make sure the third time is a charm. If not, McDaniels will not be the only guy who will be on his way out of town.
One of the biggest issues with Chud and the front office was not being on the same page and presumably, that potential stumbling block is already addressed as the parties are familiar enough with each other where that should be avoided. Having everyone in Berea on the same page, especially when it comes to this year’s draft, which along with the head coaching hire, will be pivotal for the Browns to succeed. They have to find the answer at quarterback.
The end result for the Browns and McDaniels is that there are positives and negatives with a potential McDaniels hire, but the negatives are fresher in the minds of fans and the media. The negatives are issues that warrant the skepticism they will bring and McDaniels, along with this front office, will have to prove it will work. This route, maybe more than any other, would really put the Browns in the role of needing wins to inspire an increasingly apathetic fan base to buy in and believe in what they are doing.