How Cleveland can turn things around
The Cleveland Browns have ended yet another disappointing season with the only strategy they seem to know: Blow it all up and start over.
GM Ray Farmer has been given his marching orders, as has head coach Mike Pettine, leaving the Browns searching for the franchise’s 19th head coach and the fifth since the 2008 season.
Since Romeo Crennel’s ignominious four-year run, the Browns haven’t given any coach longer than two seasons before wielding the axe, and the same holds true for Pettine, who ended his reign with a 10-22 record (.313) — which actually ties for the best win percentage of the team’s past four coaches.
That in itself should speak volumes about how committed this franchise is to losing on an institutional level right now.
But how can they turn the organization around and head in the right direction? Here’s our take on the two most important steps:
1. Steal from the best
Installing a new GM and head coach are the first two priorities in Cleveland, and while it’s obvious to say that they need to be the right hires, the best way to tilt those odds in your favor is to try and emulate the best organizations in the NFL. From a GM standpoint that means trying to prize a Trent Kirchner (Seahawks), Nick Caserio (Patriots) or Eric DeCosta (Ravens) from the positions they currently occupy.
Certainly two of those three (Caserio and DeCosta) would be hard to secure, but this is the single most important move for the franchise to try and create the kind of long-term stability the team needs, and there can be no better use of the owner’s checkbook.
Once that GM is in place, then a new head coach is in order, and instead of a list I think the most promising candidate is Josh McDaniels.
Anybody who remembers his disastrous stint in Denver will be tearing their hair out at that suggestion, but look at some of the league’s best coaches today and remember the stints in which they did not succeed. Bill Belichick was run out of Cleveland, while Pete Carroll was for a long time thought of as a guy who couldn’t succeed in the NFL the way he did in college.
McDaniels was given personnel control in Denver, and that was arguably his biggest failing, as he endeavored to dismantle a talented roster in as short a time as humanly possible, but all indications are he has grown immensely from that experience, and wouldn’t be burdened with the same personnel control this time around. Instead, he would get to run the offense that has been successful in multiple different ways in New England, and mold a new quarterback. Which brings us to …
2. Find a QB
This is another from the “easier-said-than-done” pile of jobs that need attention. Johnny Manziel has shown he has ability, but he has also blown multiple chances to stay on the straight and narrow, and the Browns wouldn’t be blamed for cutting bait and trading him for whatever they could get at this point, which would leave them with no real answer at the position.
With the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Browns will be selecting only after the Titans, who already have their quarterback in Marcus Mariota, and therefore should have their choice of any rookie quarterback.
This may not be a great year to be in need of a QB, but Cal’s Jared Goff looks like he has some promise, and the room to develop given the right tutelage. This move makes enough sense that our own Steve Palazzolo mocked it in PFF’s first mock draft of the year.
Goff may not be nearly as ready to play Day 1 as Mariota or the player who went No. 1 overall in the 2015 draft, Jameis Winston, but McDaniels has the ability to turn him into a legit NFL quarterback — something the Browns have been searching for for too long.
The Browns right now lack the three most important people in an NFL organization, and while those are far from the only holes or problems that need addressing, they are the three most critical around which everything else can fall. This is a team that needs a lot of attention, but most of all it needs some long-term stability.
Blowing things up every two seasons doesn’t achieve anything beyond starting the search again. If Cleveland ever hopes to turn this rut around, it needs to find the right people to be in charge. Now is the time to go hard after somebody who can be the leader of that move, and convince the league that Cleveland is serious about removing itself from the NFL’s basement.