I Thought I’ve Seen Everything
(Dec. 2013)

At least I thought that when the game was over with so would be the suffering. No more Browns games until next August, and hopefully with a new quarterback, a rebuilt running game, and another threat or two at the receiver position. Some time away from the Browns would be good for all of us, from the fans to the press. But no, like a bad case of poison ivy that won’t go away, the Browns just couldn’t give us that well deserved break, could they?

The fans will once again go through another season of change. A new head coach, new coordinators, new philosophies on offense and defense, new position coaches, etc., etc., etc. The way it went down common sense told you they must have someone waiting in the wings that is a proven winner on the head coaching level either in the NFL or a major college. A coaching retread, someone who has already failed as a head coach, an unproven offensive genius, just won’t do. But who is going to come here? An owner in serious legal problems; a front office that just left the last head coach out to dry; a general manager and team president who have less than stellar reputations. A first time head coach or a retread rebounding from disaster will be what we settle for. Here we go again.

The Browns disappointing 2013 season was the fault of many, not just the head coach. They traded their leading rusher from last year; they added very little in the draft, especially a part time player with the sixth pick in the draft; when they were 4-5 and still in the thick of things no major personnel moves were made to strengthen the team. None of that was the coaching staff’s fault. The Browns have five Pro Bowl picks, but had nothing but journeymen playing at quarterback, running back, and most of the receiver positions. That lack of talent was not the fault of the coaching staff.

Who ever is the next Browns coach will immediately look better than the last several because of the additional talent on the team. He will have the benefit of the team’s ten draft picks, several high priced free agents, plus the core of the team that will be returning. So wins and losses will not be the fairest way to compare next year’s Browns Head Coach to Rob Chudzinski or Pat Shurmer.

The bigger job this off-season is upgrading the talent, not selecting the head coach. Too many fans think the solution is hiring the right coach or drafting the right quarterback. They are both important parts of the picture, don’t get me wrong, but this off-season is about upgrading the talent. Between the extra draft picks and room under the salary cap this is a once in a long time moment.

The team does not have to be turned over. The core is solid, the problem was this year the talent added over the course of the off-season and in season was very limited. I would keep most of the offensive and defensive line, that means signing Alex Mack immediately. I’d keep Haden, Gipson, and Ward in the defensive backfield. I’d keep Jackson and Richardson, Krueger, and Sheer at linebacker. The only outside receivers whose jobs would be safe are Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin. Keep the punter and the kicker.

The priorities in the draft and free agency are many. First, get the running game in order. It was too easy to game plan against the Browns without a rushing threat. Next, draft whomever they consider the quarterback of the future. As I have said before, the best of the bunch Jameis Winston is still a year away, there are no for sure quarterbacks this year. Yes, a lot of good college quarterbacks, but being a good college quarterback and being a good pro quarterback are two different things. Then find at least two offensive threats to go with Josh Gordon, as well as another quality tight end. After that add depth to both sides of the ball.

There are other offseason priorities, especially for the owner to settle all of his legal problems. This is huge; there is a lack of respect from fans, the media, and people in the football world that won’t go away until this is resolved. There are top tier coaches who won’t come to Cleveland until this is resolved. Turf the field so the stadium can be used more often, like hosting high school state playoff games. The fact the building is only used ten times a year is sad. The last thing I would do this offseason is get rid of all the game day gimmicks, like the cheerleading announcer and the open flames during introductions. I would think the Browns and their fans are above all these things they do at every other stadium.

The Browns front office needs to get its house in order. The firing of Rob Chudzinski was not the defining moment of the season. Brian Hoyer getting hurt was not the defining moment. The moment that defined the season happened the day Trent Richardson was traded. Not the trade itself, but the fact that Richardson heard about it from a friend who had heard it on the radio. That is not how top tier programs do things.

Where was the front office and owner the last seven weeks of this miserable season? Nowhere to be found. And each week they threw Chud out there in front of the press. To talk about a team that Ray Charles could have game planned against, with no running game, a carousel of players at quarterback, and a defense that spent way too much time in the field.

When Jimmy Haslem was introduced to the fans of Cleveland he told us he ran his business like he hoped to run his football team, by hiring the best people possible and let them do their jobs. Since he told us that wonderful news, he has spent the last year dodging lawsuits, and pleading that he didn’t know what was going on as his company ripped off their best customers. He either has been lying or he didn’t hire the best people possible to run his business. Let us hope that is not the case with the Browns.

Who should be the next coach of the Browns? I would go with the guy who I think should have gotten the job the last time around, San Francisco Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. But I doubt anyone is listening.