This is the first installment of Sherwin-Williams Paint Job:A Covering of Cleveland Sports by Chris McLafferty. Typically it covers the Browns, Cavs and Indians in a weekend commentary but there’s too much Browns this week. Feel free to leave all types of comments because Chris has no shame and feels no embarrassment.
We are absolutely slaying flaming bricks of poo at this front office like we’re a few angst teenagers blaring Nirvana (or whatever angsty teens listen to nowadays…Tyler, the Creator??). Why? Thank god this front office doesn’t give a flying spaghetti monster in the sky what anyone thinks. This isn’t a democracy. These guys were brought in to do a job they’re highly qualified for. Everyone wants to bash them and call them the 3 Stooges or whatever terrible pun they’ll come up with next but the fact is, most of these people don’t know how to do this job. Yes, the Chud firing came kinda sudden (count me in the Chud camp) but these guys know what they’re looking for. Look at their resumes
Mike Lombardi is quite impressive. He started with the 49ers as a draft scout. A draft scout that nailed two Pro Bowlers in his first draft in the 3rd and 5th rounds (1984). In his 2nd year he only landed one of the best WRs of all time out of the small school Mississippi Valley State, Mr. Jerry Rice (you may know him from Dancing with the Stars). Then three more Pro-Bowlers in ’86 in the 3rd and 4th round. The following year (his last) he added one more in the first round. SO in 4 years with the 49ers he grabbed a Hall of Famer and a Pro Bowler in the first round, with 5 more Pro-Bowlers in the 3-5th rounds. Impressive! Came to the Browns in 1987 until the end (you know..the years we actually won) that included 4 playoffs wins and our last one to date (we beat the Patriots, Belichick was coaching…for the Browns). When the Browns went to Baltimore, he bounced to the Rams and Eagles before settling in Oakland in 1998 until 2007. He was a big part in the turnaround of the 4-12 Raiders into a playoff winner in 2000 (three seasons later) and eventually getting them to the Super Bowl two years later.
Joe Banner might be even more impressive. It’s hard to say when exactly he started having power but its somewhere around 1996-1998 as he kept getting promoted around the Eagles organization. But it’s about this time the Eagle underwent a drastic turnaround. Banner came in with the Eagles only having two playoff wins since their 1980 Super Bowl trip. The team was never great, getting blown out in their playoff loses. Banner came into either a 6-9 or a 3-13 season and from there the team never looked back, ripping off 7 playoff victories in 5 straight playoffs cultivating with a 2004 Super Bowl trip losing to the dynasty Patriots on a last second field goal. The team never regained that dominance but were still playoff bound 4 of the 6 years, only having a losing season once since then.
This shows great evidence that these guys know how to turn around a team. Banner knows how to oversee the whole operation turning the Eagles in a dominant playoff team and Lombardi with his great drafts, grabbing Pro-Bowlers in every draft including an impressive find in Jerry Rice from a small school and 5 Pro-Bowlers in rounds 3-5.
I’m glad they could care less about fans’ opinions on football personnel. They traded everyones’ favorite player and in the process made everyone realize how terrible he was (has a sweet new nickname though, Trent 3.0). They traded parts of last year’s draft for higher picks this upcoming season, leaving people less than thrilled with the return. But their plan looks really great right about now because of the flexibility they’ll have to move around the draft board in April (plus I feel a lot of people forget that Josh Gordon counted as last year’s 2nd round pick). They also promoted the 3rd string QB to starter 3 games in, which enraged the fan base even more as people talked about leaving as fans and used this as proof that the Browns were tanking. But then Hoyer led them to 2 (possibly 3) straight wins putting them into the playoff picture (that feels so long ago). All of a sudden everyone LOVED Brian Hoyer. Before he was being cast off as Front Office guy who wasn’t of talent but was “a Lombardi guy.” We all know what happened next. Hoyer went down and the losing came fast. The Browns finished 4-12 and Chud was fired. Now all of a sudden everyone thinks the Front Office is stupid again. I guess they forgot the intelligence of the Front Office.
Put me on the side that wanted to give Chud another shot. I liked his excitement of being a Brown. It meant something to him. He understood what Browns’ fans have gone through and wanted to be part of the new Browns. The winning Browns. But unfortunately that winning never came around. You can argue that he never had the talent but the Browns had 5 Pro Bowlers (Thomas, Mack, Gordon, Haden and Cameron) with one alternate (Ward) and won just 1 out of their last 11 games. Those included some really nasty games including both with the Pittsburgh JailBirds (<- Do have to legally tell you he was never charged, just like Jameis Winston) and an unforgivable 2nd quarter meltdown against the Bengals that really set the tone for the rest of the season. So it’s not like Chud did enough to save his job. Also the front office is banking $10.5 million of their own money that they made a mistake. Mistakes happen in the NFL as far as coaching, personnel fit, draft scouting, system fits, etc. Things like this happen. The front office saw something (according to them we weren’t progressing aka 1 win the last 11 games) (according to other reports it’s that Chud wouldn’t play the rookies/young players, which if true I also have to agree with the front office. If the season’s over it’s time to see what you have and what you need in order to stop two disappointing seasons.) and made a change they thought was in the Browns’ best future interests. They don’t care what fans are going to say when they call into 92.3, they don’t care what 92.3 has to say, they don’t care what I have to say. They’re doing what they think is best and that’s why they were brought in here. Not to be our (the fans) puppets but to install a winning tradition into the Browns. The issue with that is they make a lot of unpopular decisions (see the Richardson trade). But from their past moves you have to be willing to take a leap of faith with them, some of us didn’t with the Richardson trade and the Hoyer promotion and look how that turned out.
One thing people are using as “proof” that the front office is incompetent is the coaching search. I don’t understand why people think that? One argument I’ve heard is that you shouldn’t fire someone unless you have a back-up plan. On the surface that makes little sense. If someone isn’t doing their job, you fire them. Especially when that job is high in demand. You can find a replaceable person to do the job. Just like most companies nowadays, you get a trial period to show if this is a good fit for both you and the company. At the end of the day, if the company doesn’t think they can grow with you, you’re fired and another person is brought in to do the job. You don’t need to have someone else waiting. If you know someone can’t do the job and won’t take you where you need to go, then fire them. No reason to continue to let meritocracy sit around longer. I don’t want another season of failure. Get the right people in the right spot and let’s create progress and positive consistency, not just consistency for consistency’s sake.
The other major complaint is it “took too long.” WHAT! It took too long? The Super Bowl hasn’t even happened and it took too long? What does that even mean!? The season isn’t even over. They said it’s embarrassing that the Browns still don’t have a coach two weeks after firing theirs. HAHAHA that’s crazy! How is that embarrassing? Is it embarrassing that the front office is doing due diligence on the coaches around the league? Would you rather they just interview two coaches and say, Yup got it. Is it embarrassing that they waited towards the end of the season so they can interview all the coaches who are on the WINNING Teams, you know the thing we’re trying to do? In the end they ended up with Mike Pettine from the Bills. Someone they could have interviewed and hired the day after they fired Chud. But I’m happy they took the time and vetted almost every potential candidate. They were extremely thorough with every possible idea. Do you have more trust in a company that looks at all possibilities and takes it time to make a calculated decision or rather a company that looks at only two possible ideas and goes from there without investigating others? They wanted to see if Gase or Quinn could be the guy to turn this team around, I really liked the idea of Quinn but I wasn’t investigating him or in the room to understand his views and philosophies. From everything that’s being reported the front office was questioning everything the candidates have been a part of for the last 5 or so years. Seeing who was responsible for what and what they brought to the table. Why would you not want that? Some teams have an idea of a coach they’re looking for, others are in a Black Friday frenzy and are just buying things because they’re supposed to. The Browns lost out on Lovie Smith, Ken Wisenhunt, Mark Zimmer, Jim Caldwell, Jay Gruden (the guy who has done wonders with Andy Dalton) and Bill O’Brien. Smith, Caldwell and Wisenhunt were all recently fired from being a head coach after they didn’t work out with their teams. It would have been nice to interview them but I don’t see that as a huge loss on not getting them, none of them have done anything that impressive. Zimmer and O’Brien would have been interesting as well but again, it’s not like we lost out on Gruden or Cowher coming back. A lot of the time these are crapshoots. You don’t know if a coordinator can make the jump to full head coaching or a college coach can be just as successful as in college (it took Pete Carroll twice). There was no Great Proven Coach out there this year, which is why it’s SOO important that you thoroughly dig into them so you can make the best calculated decision.
People are also saying that the “long” coaching search cost us our run at coordinators. No it didn’t. Jim O’Neil was made D-Coordinator almost immediately. He would have always been Pettite’s choice so we missed out on nothing there. Also a lot more of that Bills D staff will be coming over as well, again no surprise and no loss for time. Offensively it looks like Kyle Shanahan will be the new O-Coordinator (according to ESPN and various other outlets) which is amazing news. Shanahan was the best available in my opinion. A lot of people wanted Gary Kubiak. Why? In 8 years he only made the playoffs twice and only one other season had a winning record while having Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. He did a horrible job with Schaub this year taking a solid starter and turning him into nothing. He also wasn’t coaching for Case Kennum’s two best games this season. (6Tds-0Ints in games not coached by Kubiak and 3TDs-6Ints with him coaching). There’s nothing that impressive here.
Shanahan on the flip-side has but quite amazing. In 2007 he took over as the Texans’ QB coach where he was quickly given the task of making Matt Schaub into a solid QB, which he did. Schaub posted a 87.2 rating. The following year Shanahan became Offensive Coordinator taking the team from 14 ranked all the way to 3rd in the league. Schaub excelled more, this season posting a 92.7 and throwing for 6 more TDs and 800 more yards. The following season, Shanahan’s last, the team finished 4th in total offense and Schaub again grew posting a 98.6 rating, throwing for 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns. Still his best season ever. In 2010 he moved on to coach with the Redskins with his dad. For two seasons, Shanahan was saddled with incompetent quarterbacks including Donovan McNabb (post Eagles days), Rex Grossman and John Beck. In 2012 RG3 showed up and Shanahan had a heyday. He used smarts and creativity to come up with the best offensive system to let RG3 really excel and excel he did. Last season was a lot of riff raff due to RG3 and Shanahan’s dad but the offense was still 9th in the league. He has a proven track record of advancing young unseasoned quarterbacks and does a great job running the offense. Perfect for the situation the Browns find themselves in now. I also think this is more fuel on the Manziel to Cleveland fire. I’m almost 100% sure the Browns will find anyway to get Manziel. Letting him loose in Shanahan’s offense with Josh Gordon (look what he did with Andre Johnson) and an offensive line that right now carries 2 Pro Bowlers!! I feel like Ralphie waiting for my Red Ryder, except I feel confident Pettine won’t end up with a swollen eye. That dude looks like he gives out swollen eyes.
And lastly about Pettine and the search. I feel like it was a great hire. He brings a tenacious and rough style to the Browns that I think will translate very well to our current personnel. Last year we were supposed to be a pull out the stops aggressive D, and we were sorta better (40 sacks, 81 deflections and 14ints to 38, 76 & 17 the previous season) but nothing like we were promised. Pettine brings the nasty style of D over from the Jets and Bills where he improved their stats (I’m sure if you’re reading this you know all about the stats because you’re a hardcore Cleveland fan). I’m also excited about the possibilities he brings to improving the linebacking core who underachieved last year compared to expectations. I love what he did transforming 2nd round pick Kiko Alonso into what should have been a rookie of the year season (SNUB!). We have 2 more months until the draft so I’ll go more into detail about what these new hires mean and what we can expect (or should want) later.
I’ll have a more in-depth Browns focused article coming out this week so watch for that in regards to the draft, future and past. As well as discussion article on the NFL’s future.
Cavs & Indians
I had a lot on the Browns this week so I’ll cover the Cavs and Indians in a mid-week release of Sherwin Williams’ Paint Jobs.
What to Watch for:
Obviously the Super Bowl but there’s something a little more interesting than just the game itself (you can read more Super Bowl coverage from myself and the rest of the FoS team here). Let’s say the game is an intense close battle and Manning is doing everything he can to keep the Broncos in. The Seahawks are bringing the heat not stop and getting hits on Manning. One is a massive hit that looks like it could be a concussion hit. Manning, mandatorily, goes to the sideline and is evaluated by the doctors. One, is the NFL and the commish going to let their most famous, popular and best star go out in the biggest game? And Two if it does how ugly are things going to get? Let’s say the trainer holds him back. Manning is visibly upset and arguing with trainer. Are they going to escort him off the field? Then what if Osweiler, I believe that backup in this case, comes in and blows the game? Making things even uglier, Manning talks to reporters after the game telling them, I definitely could have gone back in. What changes will the NFL make for concussion prevention and treatment? The game could REALLY be on the line in this one.