From a Coaches Point of View: What’s Next for the Browns
Who would have ever believed back in August that the Browns and their fans would go through yet another emotional roller coaster season. Well, at least it is over with. Now that the next coach is in place, what do the Browns do next?
Sign your free agents, especially Alex Mack and T.J. Ward. Losing them would be steps backwards, nor forward.
Draft the best quarterback available with your highest pick; don’t trade up to chase someone. The next quarterback who might be an Andrew Luck type talent is still a year away down at Florida State. I like the kid from Central Florida Blake Bortles. After talking to coaches who played against him and coached him at one time or another, I’ve heard nothing but great things. I enjoyed Johnny Menziel as a college player, even traveled to College Station, Texas, to see him play a game. But I haven’t seen him throw enough from the pocket to feel greatly confident in his chances in the NFL.
After watching the playoffs you can see why the Browns lack of a running game really hurt them. That must be addressed in the upcoming draft and/or free agency period. For the immediate future that might be more important than quarterback, at least for the 2014 season. I’d take any of the three kids from Florida State, but I especially like the size and speed of James Wilder, Jr. Other big, fast backs that would look good in brown and orange include LSU’s Jeremy Hill, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, and Carlos Hyde of the Buckeyes. One of these guys will be there in the beginning of the second round.
The 2014 draft is loaded with quality receivers, and the Browns need a compliment to Josh Gordon. If the Browns don’t pick up at least one good one there is something wrong. The big strong ones include 6’5’’ Mike Evans of Texas AM; 6’5” Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State; 6’3” Allen Robinson of Penn State; and 6’3” Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt. I really like Evans, but he won’t be there by the time the Browns second first round pick comes around. I would definitely trade up for a chance at him. I also like Matthews, who I saw play live eight times in his career at Vandy. He had one solid game after another, and made numerous big plays. Again, some of these guys should drop to the second round.
Some thoughts about the new coach…If the Mike Pettine is anywhere near being competent, he is going to look good immediately. Six Pro Bowlers, two first round picks, eight more picks in the next six rounds, plus money to spend on free agents. Plus a young returning team that knows it blew too many second half leads, that should know they lost too many games they should have won. But will he be the guy to return a once proud team to glory? The Browns window is open; will they take advantage of it? Both the Steelers and the Ravens did not make the playoffs. The Steelers are not doing themselves any favors by keeping Rothlingsberger and Palumalo. They both aren’t what they once were, will cost too much money, and take playing time away from their replacements. And the Bengals showed in the playoffs that they are still the Bengals.
I like the fact that Mike Pettine started out as a high school coach and teacher. Those pro and college coaches I have met over the years who have that background seem to be better in growing relationships with players. The fact that your first coaching job came everyday after teaching a full load helps you keep things in perspective. I also like the fact that he supports signing Ward and Mack, and finds nothing wrong with Brian Hoyer at quarterback until someone better comes along. The front office is committed to find the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, and Brian Hoyer is still not proven to make the long pass consistent. All our eyes will be on this scenario and seeing how it plays out, especially after we see whom they draft. I find it odd Pettine talked highly of Hoyer at his opening press conference, but not Brandon Weeden who shredded his Bills defense last year in one of the few Browns’ highlights of the season.
Some last thoughts about Coach Chud…He and his staff were not treated fairly and given enough time to get things done. The Trent Richardson trade took away any running game the team had, and from then on things snowballed. That being said, Chud walked away with ten million dollars to lick his wounds, so for him it could be a good thing. His assistances seem to be landing good jobs. All of his predecessors that were also fired before their contracts were up all landed on there feet, and so will he. He is a good coach that will have someone giving him another chance in the future. Meanwhile, the ten million bones can keep him happy.
There was a bit of a media story for a day or two about what Chud was, or wasn’t, saying to others about his experiences with the Browns. The great American novelist John D. MacDonald created a character named Travis McGee, who he featured in twenty-two novels between 1963 and 1986. McGee was part con artist, part romantic, part private eye, and part philosopher. One of McGee’s best philosophical quotes was about friendship and the fact that most relationships, including marriages, are between acquaintances and not friends. He felt you can say whatever you damn well felt like saying to a friend, and that you have to pause and think first about what you say to someone then that person is not a friend, he or she is an acquaintance.
Coaching develops a lot of friendships and acquaintances. For a good portion of the year you spend more time with your fellow coaches than you do with your family. You have down time traveling on planes and busses to away games and conventions and recruiting fairs, and often eat three meals a day with each other. It is often a fellow coach you share life’s moments with, from the birth of a child to the death a parent. We live in a world different from most, where we all have the same first name, where our livelihoods revolve around a game played by young men, and most people judge us by what they read on Saturday or Sunday morning in the paper or hear on the radio.
You don’t become friends with everyone you coach with, just like in the real world you don’t become friends with everyone you work with. However, in coaching you do make friendships with strong bonds. Chud did not go out and blast the Browns management after he was fired, not in public and probably to most who contacted him about the situation. But to his real coaching friends, how many or how few we don’t know, there was honest discussions about the situation. There had to be. He needed to talk about what happened with people with trusting ears, he needed to vent, and he needed to let those on his coaching trees know what working for the Browns and their front office was really like. It’s just the way it is.
One last note, I am glad the Browns did not hire Josh McDaniels to be head coach. Some coaches are meant to be coordinators or position coaches, and McDaniels has shown he is a good coordinator, but probably isn’t meant to be a head coach. That’s just the way it is. Call it the Romeo Crenell theorem of coaching. My friends I coached with at John Carroll are probably cringing after reading that, but remember before Chud got the job last year I said my pick is Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator of San Francisco, and I said that again in our last issue. Like McDaniels, he too is a John Carroll grad. Sooner or later someone is going to give him a shot and he is going to be a good head coach.
(Greg Cielec is a long time football coach, including sixteen years on the college level, and a Cleveland based freelance writer and novelist. Check out his work at www.gregcielec.com, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).