The existence of an NFL head coach is fragile to the point that taking a job — the wrong job — can already end the part of your career that you spend at the highest level. But it’s rare that a vacant head coaching position is avoided with such open distain.
Many things are rare about the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are still slugging through a head coach search they shouldn’t have begun at all, as firing Rob Chudzinski after a single season made no sense whatsoever. Defensively, the 2013 Browns had one of the most underrated units in the league, and offensively they had the always daunting combination of first Brandon Weeden, and then Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell at quarterback. Say what you will about Trent Richardson (mostly, say that he’s horrible) but it was an offense that had a primary playmaker strip away through a trade early in the season, a first-round pick from 2012.
That’s when the strategy under Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner became clear: tank, and do it hard. Fair enough, and it happened when the Browns lost seven straight games to end the season, with little offensive support this side of Josh Gordon.
Logically then, they fired the head coach and his staff which included Norv Turner, two offensive minds fully capable of leading a turnaround with the right pieces. Now ask yourself: why would any prospective head coach want to jump into this steaming toxic dumpster, and have his career derailed?
Someone will, and reports last night indicated that after two impressive interviews Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is the leading candidate. But those were deemed premature, and Pettine walked away without a job offer while the Browns lined up more interviews, one with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and they’ll also likely talk with Seahawks defensive boss Dan Quinn again.
It’s all just more scuffling for a franchise quite familiar with that practice. Former Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has accurately described the team as a “rudderless ship“. Although the top brass ultimately needs to have a strategy, the thing about a vessel with no rudder is that an elite head coach can direct it into much calmer seas. But he needs to have faith that front office meddling will be minimal, and that he won’t be jettisoned at even just the first hint of trouble.
A mess is still appealing for a prospective head coach, because it’s an opportunity to build one’s legacy. But that mess needs to be isolated on the field, because the coach can control the happenings on the football field. If the toxic has spilled beyond that, there’s little reason for faith and trust, which is why the list of coaches who have flat out turned down the Browns and removed their name from consideration is so embarrassingly long. Most recently Adam Gase did that, with the stupidly young (he’s 35) Broncos offensive coordinator understandably unwillingly to be pulled down by the Browns, wasting what could be his only head coaching opportunity. Josh McDaniels said nah for a similar reason, knowing that his next head coaching opportunity will be his last.
They joined Bill O’Brien and Ken Whisenhunt, who saw better opportunities elsewhere. In total, eight coaches have either turned down the Browns, or pursued a chance in another NFL outpost.
Head coaching opportunities and interest in you as a coaching commodity are rare. So when a job is consistently being declined, there’s a deep fracture somewhere.
More notes, reading, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
There’s snow in them there Super Bowl Hills!
I’m already fearing America’s collective orgasm when we all wake up on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday and see fluffy snowflakes falling in New York. Brace yourselves, because the gap between Sunday weather forecasts next week will be about, oh, six minutes.
— Super Bowl XLVIII (@SuperBowl) January 22, 2014
Gaze upon its beauty
The ol’ thumb trick to cover up the last zero. Smooth.
— Andrew Tavani (@andrewtavani) January 21, 2014
Don’t put me in, coach
When kickers are just wee tots, I assume they run around the house kicking everything through everything. Don’t drop that lettuce, mom, because it’s going through the screen door.
As they’re doing that the toddler kicker is also dreaming big dreams about huge kicks in massive games. Turns out Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka had other dreams: about thinking, making a decision, and say “nahhhh I’m good coach, let’s not kick this one”.
Early in the fourth quarter Sunday night the Seahawks had a chance to kick what would have been a 53-yarder to cut the 49ers’ lead to one. As he trotted out onto the field, Hauschka thought kicking and potentially handing over good field position wasn’t the wisest strategy, and he said as much to the monocle man in charge.
“I didn’t really want to kick it, to tell you the truth,” Hauschka told Newsday after the game. “It was into the wind . . . I didn’t think it was the right decision and I let coach Carroll know that.”
Hauschka said he’d never before passed up an opportunity to attempt a field goal.
“You have to be honest with yourself,” he said. “It was the wind at that moment. Sometimes you can make that, but I felt the wind at that moment was into the face enough to not want to try that kick. I grabbed him on the sideline as I ran out because I could see the flags [on top of the uprights] and I told him: ‘We shouldn’t kick this.’ “
We’ll never know how much his words of caution actually weighed in Pete Carroll’s mind, because the less we know about the inner-workings of Pete Carroll’s mind, the better. But Carroll then called a timeout and put his offense back on the field, and Russell Wilson threw what would be the game-winning touchdown.
The Peyton Manning playoff narrative is dead now, right?
It should be. I think we all understand that, yes, he had some less than impressive outings with the Colts. But they were years ago, at least in football terms, and despite those stumbles he still has a ring. Then there was last year, a time when one thing (Rahim Moore failing to play basic defense on a 70-yard heave) allowed another thing (Manning’s overtime interception) to happen. Moore deserves far more scorn, and sometimes that’s been delivered.
However, there are still those who look back on Manning’s playoff history with a wicked eye, and as Shane Clemons over at This Given Sunday reminds us, they’re missing a simple yet core concept: football is a game that’s played by a team.
Manning’s teams have been one and done in the playoffs, that is they’ve lost their first game, eight times, seven of which came with the Colts. In his first three playoff appearances, the Colts were out of their depth, much like the current Colts under Andrew Luck. Manning was winning enough games in the regular season to drag the Colts into the postseason, but against the best of the best, the Colts had little chance.
In his time with Indianapolis, Manning was constantly working with a one-dimensional offense and little defensive support. It’s unfair to blame all of the Colts’ playoff failures during the Manning era on their quarterback. Football is quite simply a team game, and the Colts rarely put a solid team around Manning.
The read-option isn’t dead in Washington yet
When Jay Gruden was hired to be the new head coach in Washington, there was at least a partial eulogy for the read-option. Gruden runs a pro-style offense, one where a quarterback being able to sit in the pocket, read the defense, go through his progressions, and fire accurately are all things that become paramount. Robert Griffin III can do some of them, but maybe not all of them at once.
As part of his excellent piece breaking down Griffin’s fantasy potential under Gruden and if the new coach can save the floundering quarterback, Denny Carter talked to Joe Goodberry, a Bengals draft analyst who refuted the fear that the new boss hates change and won’t adapt. Even with the seemingly slower-footed Andy Dalton, Gruden mixed in some read-option with his west coast leanings.
“I think it’s grown on him, but it still comes from a West Coast background,” Goodberry said. “He has an open mind as we saw a lot of creativity over the last three years, but the passing offense remained very pro style.”
That’s swell, though in the same piece we’re reminded of premier film study guru Greg Cosell outlining the fundamental area where Griffin is severely lacking, but one he can easily improve on.
“You need to have a drop-back passing game that isn’t dependent on deception, but route combinations in which the quarterback uses progression reading. If it’s man coverage, work this side of the field. If it’s zone, work that side of the field. That is basic NFL drop-back passing. Griffin is more than capable of doing this. I’m not suggesting he’s not.”
“You’re going to need to progression read and work the pocket. Griffin is not good at working the pocket to buy time. He either throws it, or the throw’s not there he leaves.”
This man has talent
Speaking of Griffin, here he is in totem pole form…
— Paintin’ Manning (@PierickSmith) January 21, 2014