Cleveland Browns: Under new management since 1999
By Chris Newton
Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns may be making more changes after the season. But if firing everyone hasn’t worked in the past, why will it work this time?
There has been a ton of talk over the last few weeks about how to fix the Cleveland Browns – most it comes from a negative place. Much of that negativity is based on the history of the team since its re-emergence in 1999. The reality is that all of those hard feelings and harbored animosity are irrelevant to today’s problems.
It is so easy to sit around and blame Mike Holmgren, Joe Banner and the rest of the guys of those regimes, but again, that exercise is all irrelevant to today’s problems. So here is the question that I pose to my fellow Browns fans: if firing all of the previous guys didn’t solve the problems, then what makes us think that firing the current crew is going to solve the same problems?
Related: Who should be the next coach of the Cleveland Browns?
The reality is that making a change just to make a change has not worked and won’t work this time either. This is a business and it needs to be handled smart and with a plan – not with emotion. We shouldn’t fire someone because we are mad at the outcome of a season.
So say that the Browns finish 4-12 (or better 2-14). The emotional response would be to clean house and fire every member of the front office and coaching staff.
It is time to queue up the list of top coaching candidates. Now cross off all of the top people and anyone who has a chance with a “better” team. What you will be left with is a list that looks something like this:
- Retaining head coach Mike Pettine and his two years of head coaching experience.
- Hiring the next “Mike Pettine” type, someone with limited pro experience and no head coaching experience.
- Hiring the flavor of the month offensive or defensive coordinator. Typically, these guys will be coaching for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, etc. (Note that I didn’t say Denver Broncos, New England Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals.) AND! The person would not be running a prolific squad for his current team (… the Pat Shurmur type).
- A college coach who understands the Browns situation and will have way too much leverage to use against the team (… see Butch Davis).
This is not a good situation at all, but completely illustrates the problem. My choice would be to keep Pettine going into year three of his learning curve.
Not to get lost here is that team owner Jimmy Haslam has a reputation to dispel. The quick trigger finger does not help in hiring quality front office or coaching talent, so retaining Pettine also moves toward resolving that reputation. It’s not the best reason to keep someone employed, but if the Browns want to hire a better coach, it’s certainly not going to happen this offseason anyway. The team may as well retain Pettine and, if it does not work, then three years is sufficient enough of a sample size to justify releasing him and not losing face.
The Browns should, however, inform Pettine that both offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil need to be replaced. They are simply not good enough and the Browns need to surround a young head coach with experienced coaches to support him.
If Haslam were to hire a man from the mold of Mike Singletary to run the defense, Pettine would look very smart. Same thing with the offense. while DeFilippo isn’t bad, but he simply does not have the experience that is needed to run an NFL offense.
Cleveland needs to win immediately, starting Week 1 of 2016. There needs to be a sense of urgency that does not exist with waiting for a young coach getting his reps in. If you want to bring in a college coordinator with no NFL experience, look to the SEC, Big Ten, PAC-10, etc., for offensive minds. However, before hiring anyone, the club must establish the Browns way of playing championship football.
If you know what your philosophy is, then you simply hire people who will run that system and teach that system. No more changing organizational decisions and schemes based on an inexperienced coach and their way of thinking. This has been a huge problem that the Browns have struggled with since 1999.
If I asked you what the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens or even the Patriots do offensively, you’d answer almost immediately. Now I ask you what the Browns do offensively? The answer is, whatever the defense will give them. The fact that the team has a new offensive coordinator shouldn’t impact a quarterback at all. That man should come in here and learn how to play like a Brown.
The next item is the white elephant in the room. The is no logical reason to retain Ray Farmer as general manager. His philosophy on quarterbacks and wide receivers is an absolute detriment to the Browns. Memo to Browns front office: This is a passing league … offensive linemen don’t throw or catch passes. Running backs in this league are successful because the defense must respect the pass.
Farmer has basically squandered offensive opportunities. The only good selection was Joel Bitonio. But he had the opportunity to select Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater – that’s all off of the top of my head. I remember that 2014 NFL Draft so vividly. When the fourth pick rolled around, I was so happy … it was all there for the taking! Watkins was sitting there and if Farmer didn’t want him, he had Khalil Mack, Mike Evans and even Jake Matthews, if he wanted to stack the line.
But Farmer walked away with Justin Gilbert and another draft pick. I then thought … OK, so maybe Farmer will now grab a safety or defensive lineman since the club was bolstering the defense. Instead, the Browns came away with Johnny Football. I was mortified.
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Don’t get me wrong, it is so easy for to say these things with hindsight. However, as the general, your damn job is to look at the draft with hindsight and select the correct players that fit your system and needs. Farmer doesn’t do any of that.
Since his philosophy is garbage in this league, by default his draft selections will ultimately be garbage if it is not a run blocking guard or a pass blocking tackle. But the team in general doesn’t know what it wants to do, so how can you possibly select the right people?
Compound that with the fact that the Browns are $30 million under the salary cap and don’t even bother to look at free agency. Farmer overpaid for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has three catches, but won’t overpay bring in quality free agents. He let quality defensive linemen and a safety walk due to money, then watched them all sign with playoff contending teams! T.J Ward even said that he wanted to resign with the Browns, but was never contacted by the team.
The Browns need a new general manager, it’s time Mr. Haslam.
Jimmy, the Browns have been building and rebuilding since 1999. They have perpetually been under a five-year plan for the past 16 years. You need to decide what the philosophy of the team will be, then hire a general manager that will continually strive to get the team to that point. Do not hire someone who wants to do his own thing; remember, the general manager works for you.
But when you sit down with each of your candidates, your first question needs to be, “Who is going to be our quarterback and how do we get him?” The answer that follows will tell you all you need to know about the man and how he will fair in this league.
It’s time to go to work Mr. Haslam.
Thank you for reading my first article on Dawg Pound Daily. I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave comments below or connect with me on Twitter. If you’d like to hear my thoughts on any other Browns related topic, please let me know.