By Tony Grossi
Our columns on keeping Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator and “If I were commissioner” brought a high volume of response. Contributors to Hey Tony also continue to show strong support for General Manager Tom Heckert and little for coach Pat Shurmur.
Hey Tony: The strength of our defense and maybe even the whole team is our defensive line. It runs fairly deep with at least seven players rotating through four spots. Do you think the Browns are likely to hire a coach who prefers a 3-4 defense like the previous two coaches (Mangini and Crennel), and if so do you think that would be a big blow to the defense or would it be easily manageable?
-- Ammar, Frankfort, IL
Hey Ammar: For two years, GM Tom Heckert has been using high draft picks and free agency to build a defensive line for a 4-3 base. Switching to a 3-4 now would be a huge mistake. For that matter, changing defensive coordinators would be a big mistake, also.
Hey Tony: The Steelers and Ravens have dominated the AFC North for a decade. Which team do you see closest to a "rebuilding process" opening a window for Browns and others in Division?
-- Brian, Cincinnati, OH
Hey Brian: I don’t think either the Steelers or Ravens have a lot of rebuilding to do. Each organization has been trying to sprinkle in young players at various spots. The Steelers’ biggest weakness is the offensive line. They drafted two linemen high this year; one has missed the whole season with an injury and the other has struggled. Both should be expected to be stalwarts in the starting lineup next year. That will enable the Steelers to address other needy areas this year, such as running back and linebacker. The Ravens have to find young replacements for linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, and also must fortify their offensive line. Otherwise, both teams are in good enough shape to continue to compete at a high level.
Hey Tony: Out of these 5 head coach candidates, does any have a realistic chance of getting hired by the Browns -- Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Chip Kelly, Jim Tressel, Nick Saban?
-- Alex, Orlando, FL
Hey Alex: I’d rank them this way, from most realistic to most unrealistic: 1. Saban (it’s his if he wants it), 2. Gruden (doesn’t mesh well with a young team), 3. Kelly (needs two mobile QBs), 4. Tressel (out of touch with NFL), 5. Cowher (doesn’t want to come back).
Hey Tony: Given the luxury of hindsight and a chance to redraft 2012 today, would you rather take Ryan Tannehill and Doug Martin or stick with Weeden and Richardson? Both were well within our grasp back in April and while I love Richardson's character and talent I would take the first option in a heartbeat. Just wondering since I'm surprised by all of the cries to keep Heckert. I agree that he's an improvement from the prior regime, but I feel that he over-reaches, fails to capitalize on value and he has more misses than hits since he started. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but after three years of high draft picks we really don't have much to show for it. Thanks as always for your great coverage on this miserable team of mine!
-- Hòa, Los Angeles, CA
Hey Hoa: I won’t make that second guess. I’ll stick with Richardson and Weeden.
Hey Tony: Two-part question … are the Browns ever going to open up the offense, and really attack? Will we ever see Richardson and Montario Hardesty in the backfield together?
-- Walt, Pensacola, FL
Hey Walt: I think it’s hard to “open up” the offense and “really attack” when almost all the key players are first- or second-year players. It’s unrealistic to think an offensive unit made up 4/11ths of rookies could operate in the NFL at a sophisticated level. We’ve seen Richardson and Hardesty together a handful of times. I would like to see more of that and for more than one play a game.
Hey Tony: (Re: Keeping Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator.) Good points all Tony, and hopefully Banner already came to the same conclusion. Seems to me, the ownership has to know this is no time to take backward steps and hope for a "great leap forward." Of course, as a former head coach and apparently successful coordinator, Jauron may be a target for the many head coaching jobs opening up this January. He may be proud of the development of the defense here, but would he turn down such an opportunity (and the accompanying remuneration)? How will the Browns hold on to him?
-- Seren, Athens, NY
Hey Seren: Jauron has had two head coaching jobs and also took over another team as interim. While there are many reasons why he wasn’t a consistent winner in any of the situations, the fact is he wasn’t, and that may curb potential opportunities for him. Being great at the coordinator level is nothing to be ashamed of. Some coaches simply are not cut out for the head coach job.
Hey Tony: I agree with many of your improvements for the NFL. One thing I would like to see is for the quarterbacks to start calling their own plays. No more radio helmets. No messenger guards. Players would become active participants in game strategy and tactics rather than a bunch of robot technicians.
-- Edward, Cleveland, OH
Hey Edward: Blame Paul Brown for pioneering this “robot-ization” of quarterbacks. I believe it’s a large reason why the majority of offenses look alike. The personality of the quarterback has been taken away by coaches. The problem is quarterbacks now grow up never making their own decisions on the field. They are trained to do as they’re told at the grass-roots level. Only a few independent-thinkers are left. The proverbial “field general” is a thing of the past.
Hey Tony: Just wondering if Andy Reid might join the flock of Eagles in Berea if he gets fired this year. I hope not, but strange things happen when you least expect it. If a change is made, would you prefer one of these: Gruden, Saban, Reid, a young offensive minded assistant, or keep Shurmur? Love your stuff and am happy we fans still have you as our voice.
-- Jim, Coral Springs, FL
Hey Jim: I don’t think there is any chance of Reid rejoining Banner in Cleveland. As for my preference, I honestly don’t have one at this point. It’s like ruminating about the draft. I’d love to see the “black book” on all the candidates and also have the chance to interview them before expressing my choice. You can’t make an educated head coach choice based on resume alone.
Hey Tony: I can't help but think about Andy Reid as a potential head coach for the Browns. With the reality that he will be out as Eagles coach, I can't think of a better fit. I know there were "power struggles" between Banner and Reid but think about it... the last time the Eagles were a true title contender, the people in charge included Banner, Heckert, Reid and Jauron! Tell me why the Browns should not look at Reid (and don't tell me about their egos)?
-- Nick, Orlando, FL
Hey Nick: In Philadelphia, Reid’s only boss was owner Jeff Lurie. Banner and Reid were on the same plane in the organization. Here, Banner has structured the organization so that the coach and GM report directly to him, not owner Jimmy Haslam. Reid would never go for that. Also, Reid may elect to take a year off if he is fired, or he may be a candidate in San Diego, where he resides in the offseason. I believe Banner will lean towards a “young and hungry” coach – if a change is made.
Hey Tony: Wouldn't it be ironic if Heckert leaves just as the team starts getting some talent because of him? That's a Browns scenario if I've ever heard of one.
Do you think he'll get another GM job? I say yes.
-- Tom, Santa Monica, CA
Hey Tom: Yes, I agree.
Hey Tony: I really agreed with your article on keeping Dick Jauron. The defense is starting to look solid with young players all over the field. They play hard for their coach and should continue to improve. The Steelers and Ravens have followed this recipe for success for years. Even with injuries, the defense can pull the offense along. They can add a veteran wide receiver or guard in free agency but draft defense for Jauron and watch this team improve. Tony, do you have a feeling how Banner is leaning or is he hard to read on what direction he plans to take?
-- Rick , Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: I believe if Banner had the power in Philadelphia, he would have made Jauron defensive coordinator of the Eagles rather than see him leave to Cleveland. My hunch is the Browns will try to keep Jauron.
Hey Tony: Have things been so bad for us for so long that fans will grasp at anything remotely positive? Miami, Indy and Tampa are all in year one of rebuilds with new coaches in all 3 cities and new QB’s in 2 of those cities. All 3 of those teams are in the playoff hunt year one of their regimes. The Browns are in year 3 of their rebuild sitting at 3-8 and barely beat a decimated Pittsburgh at home with 8 turnovers to help. As a long time season ticket holder I hope like crazy we have some core players now. However, there is no reason for fans to be clamoring to keep Shurmur because we are not the worst team in the NFL, but rather the 3rd from worst. You said when Holmgren came Mangini had to win at least 9 to keep his job and this is a coach who had a winning record 2 out of 3 years in NY and actually beat some big named teams while here. However, with Shurmur many including you have lowered what you think it would take to keep Shurmur. I have to ask why drop standards? I could easily argue we have the same talent as those other 3 teams and a good coach here would have us at 5 to 6 wins at the least.
-- Michael, Galena, OH
Hey Michael: Mangini’s team peaked at the halfway point of his second year, and then slipped to another 5-11 season. If Shurmur goes on a late winning streak and betters last season’s record by three wins while bringing along a roster full of rookies and second-year players, that shows big improvement. The point is to get better every year.
Hey Tony: In a podcast earlier this week you commented that the Browns were 3-3 with Haden in the lineup and 0-5 without him. It also is evident that the return of Phil Taylor has improved the defense. Two questions. What do you think the Browns record would be now if both Taylor and Haden had played all 11 games? Second question is if the Browns record in Haden's absence indicates that cornerback depth is the weakest area of the team?
-- Rich, Columbus, OH
Hey Rich: The first question is impossible to answer. On the second, I think Haden’s absence simply indicates how much he means to the defense. He’s a very good player at a position that is weak without him.
Hey Tony: Here is a thought/observation I think I have made the last few weeks. It seems as if a large percentage of the handoffs to Richardson are some kind of "delayed" handoffs where he doesn’t get to the hole as quickly as he could. Is it just me or do you see this as well?
-- Phil, Germany
Hey Phil: Yes, I agree. I don’t understand it, either.
Hey Tony: The only televised games I get are vs. the Steelers so Sunday’s was the first one I got to watch as opposed to listening to Donovan and Dieken on the radio. Is Brandon Weeden so afraid of throwing interceptions that he misses deliberately when there is close coverage, or is there a mechanical problem with his delivery under pressure?
-- Michael, Sugarloaf, PA
Hey Michael: I don’t think he misses on purpose. Throwing under pressure was a big question about him because he didn’t do it much in Oklahoma State’s quick-throw, shotgun spread offense. I would suggest he will improve on it in his second year. In retrospect, the Browns could have eased his transition to the NFL by incorporating more of what he did in college, at least his rookie season, and then training him as a pocket passer over time.
Hey Tony: Weeden seems so tentative and overly cautious during games. He almost seems to be trying to slow down the plays. During another Sunday game (St. Louis vs. Arizona), one of the TV announcers said regarding Sam Bradford, "Drew Brees is a nice guy too, but during games, he wants to eat your heart out." While not advocating recklessness, wouldn't you like to see more passion and aggressiveness from Weeden?
-- John, Louisville, KY
Hey John: I understand the point about Brees, but that passion and aggressiveness contributed to five interceptions by Atlanta on Thursday. Do you think Brees got reamed out by his coach after that game? No. What made Brees great is the same thing that causes him to suffer such games (he was picked 3 times in a loss to Browns in 2010). I wish the coaches would let Weeden be himself and not turn him into Captain Checkdown.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
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