By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Music to our ears: The stats of the year for the Browns in 2013 were these:
* They were tied or ahead going into the fourth quarter in nine games.
* They led the NFL with 681 pass attempts – a Browns franchise record. They had another 49 pass plays result in sacks. So that’s 730 pass plays despite having to play three quarterbacks because of injury or ineffectual play.
* They were 4-5 in those nine games with fourth quarter leads or ties.
The Browns also had one of the more anemic running games in their history. They didn’t even carry a natural fullback on their roster. If they had run the ball more in the fourth quarter rather than throw it willy-nilly, they may have won a few more games.
Thus it was great to hear new coach Mike Pettine’s comments on Thursday on the type of offense he wants.
“I think it’s critical in northeast Ohio late in the year … your offense has to be all-weather, you have to be able to run the ball,” Pettine said. “It is a passing league, but you have to be able to run the ball to close games out, and if the weather turns, you need to find an alternate way to score points.”
Pettine said new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan appealed to him because of his ability to adapt.
He said: “Kyle’s proven in six years that he can have one of the leading rushing attacks, he can have one of the leading passing attacks. He can have a veteran quarterback, he can have a rookie quarterback. He can have a marquee receiver like Andre Johnson, or he can get it done with some other guys that aren’t Pro Bowl types. All different types of offensive linemen. He’s done it with different running backs. That was appealing to me, that his system over all those changes was able to adapt and be successful.”
Mingo talk: Pettine was defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills a year ago, and his newly named coordinator with the Browns, Jim O’Neil, was Bills linebackers coach. As the draft approached, they lobbied for Barkevious Mingo for the Bills’ first choice, which was No. 8 overall.
“On draft day, my wife actually made Barkevious Mingo cupcakes for the guys who had the power to make the eighth overall pick, but obviously it didn’t happen,” O’Neil said.
The Browns took Mingo sixth overall. With Mingo off the board, the Bills traded their pick to St. Louis for the Rams’ first- and second-round picks.
“I’m a big fan of Mingo,” O’Neil said. “I’m looking forward to working with him. He flashes some on tape. He did a lot of good things. He’s obviously a young player. He’s got some things to work on, but we’re excited as a defensive staff to get him back here and start working with him.”
Mingo wound up 14th on the Browns with 42 tackles and second with five sacks.
With the second-round pick acquired from St. Louis, the Bills found a defensive star in middle linebacker Kiko Alonso of Oregon. Alonso played every defensive snap as a rookie and finished third in the NFL with 159 tackles. He had four interceptions and received votes for defensive rookie of the year honors.
Alonso was the defender who chased down scrambling Brian Hoyer and landed on him when Hoyer’s cleat caught the FirstEnergy Stadium grass awkwardly, resulting in his torn ACL in the Thursday night game against the Bills.
Pettine said he’s “confident” his staff can develop Mingo into a player worthy of the No. 6 overall pick.
“Because I feel if a guy shows he can do it, even if it’s just for that one play, if he flashes that brilliance, then it’s our job to get him more consistent,” he said.
One thing everyone agrees on is that Mingo needs to add weight and strength.
“He is a lean, angular guy,” Pettine said. “I think the NFL is a size and speed league and you’re always looking to get guys (bigger) … if he has the frame capable of carrying more weight, which it’s pretty clear that he does, that’s something that we’re going to push for him to do.”
The great survivor: Chris Tabor was named Pat Shurmur’s special teams coordinator in 2011. In 2013, Tabor was retained by Rob Chudzinski. Now Tabor has been retained again by Pettine.
That’s three head coaches in four years for Tabor.
“I think it says that the good Lord is watching over me, to be honest with you,” Tabor said. “I’m fortunate, myself and my assistant Shawn Mennenga, who does an outstanding job with us. It’s nice to be able to stay at a place and continue to coach the guys, and keep your system implemented and going, and continue to grow with it.”
Despite some negative plays that weighed heavily in key losses – a fumbled punt by Davone Bess in Kansas City, two blocked punts in Cincinnati, a failed pick-up of an onside kick against New England – the Browns declined requests from other teams to interview Tabor.
“(Tabor) is one of the most well-respected special teams coaches in the league,” Pettine said. “It was evidenced by the number of requests that came in for him after the season that he was not permitted to leave, and I was glad that happened. He’s a quality coach. He’s the son of a coach. As you guys will see with the staff makeup, I have a soft spot for coaches’ kids.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
Return to: Grossi Stories Blog