Who will be Cleveland Browns’ New Coach?

adam-gase-brownsSo goes another Cleveland Browns head coaching stint, as Mike Pettine was fired from the gig after just two years. Rumors had been swirling about whether or not Pettine would be back even before Cleveland’s 28-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the move was confirmed after the Steelers game, which dropped the Browns’ record to a dismal 3-13. So now that Pettine is out, who will be the new coach of the Cleveland Browns?

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the team’s first choice is Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Cleveland targeted Gase before they hired Pettine in 2013; however, Gase removed himself from consideration to focus on the Denver Broncos’ playoff run. And sources confirm that the 37-year-old offensive coordinator is scheduled for an interview with Cleveland.

An interesting twist to this story is that Peyton Manning recommended Gase to his friend and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. Manning is interested in playing another season somewhere after a foot injury derailed his current season in Denver. And it’s possible that this somewhere could be Cleveland if Gase lands the job.

However, it should be noted that all this information is merely based on reports and speculation. Gase will likely have plenty of other offers in 2016, with ProFootballTalk.com reporting that the Dolphins, Eagles and Lions (if Jim Caldwell is fired) will be in the hunt as well.

Gase has helped various quarterbacks experience great seasons. The Bears’ Jay Cutler is a prime example since he’s completed 63.9 percent of his passes while tossing 19 TD’s against only 8 INT’s. So far Gase has dealt with big pocket passers, meaning he might be skeptical of this job if Johnny Manziel is the best quarterback option in 2016.

In 2013 and ’14, Gase led the Broncos offense to league highs in points (34.0 PPG), passing (315.2 YPG) and total yards (430.1 YPG). Two years ago, Denver broke the NFL record for points scored (606) and touchdowns in a season (76). The same year saw Manning break records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) in a season.

Of course, it’s easier coaching perhaps the greatest quarterback in history to record highs. But what Gase did with lesser talents might be a true testament of his abilities. In 2011, he coached the duo of Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow to a combined 20:13 TD-to-INT ratio. That same year the Broncos won the AFC West title and a postseason spot, despite mediocre play at the game’s most important position.

Mike PettineGiven all that Gase has done, he might be wise to consider another coaching opportunity when thinking about what’s happened in Cleveland over the last decade. Pettine lasted two seasons, Rob Chudzinski lasted one year, Pat Shurmur lasted two years and Eric Mangini also lasted just two seasons. The last coach to leave the franchise with a winning record was Marty Schottenheimer in 1988, and the last coach to tally 65 wins was Bill Belichick who was fired in 1995.

Besides the coaching carousel, the team has suffered a number of embarrassing draft mistakes over the past decade and a half. Tim Couch (1999), Courtney Brown (2000), Gerard Warren (2001), William Green (2002), Brady Quinn (2007) and Justin Gilbert (2014) are among the team’s most-memorable draft bust since re-starting their franchise in 1999.

It’s looking like Manziel (2014) could be yet another player added to Cleveland’s growing list of first-round draft busts. The former Heisman Trophy winner has suffered a number of alcohol-related, off-field incidents that have cast shadows on his character. So it remains to be seen if he’ll be on the roster when a new coach is brought in to the Browns organization this offseason.

2013 Black Monday: 5 NFL Coaches fired

jim-schwartz-lionsEvery year, the Monday following Week 17 of the NFL regular season is a testy time for losing coaches. This year’s Black Monday was especially brutal as five coaches got the ax. Here’s a look at the unlucky coaches who were fired, along with a few that are still awaiting word on their futures.

Firings

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns – The Browns didn’t give Chudzinski much time to turn things around in Cleveland. They fired their rookie head coach immediately after his first season ended with a 4-12 record. What was particularly disheartening is that the Browns lost 10 out of their last 11 games. Cleveland ownership voiced disappointment over a “lack of accountability and effort” from Chud’s players. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ name has come up in the rumors involving the coaching search.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings – The writing has been on the wall for Frazier for quite some time after the team’s slow start and a disastrous quarterback carousel. Minnesota ownership was hoping that the Vikings would take another step forward after making the playoffs last year; instead, they finished just 5-10-1. Team officials have been working on potential replacements for weeks, and they’ve asked about Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

greg-schiano-hot-seatGreg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tampa Bay is a team that was built to win this season. Instead, they suffered through a 4-12 season under second-year coach Greg Schiano. Management was concerned that players were no longer responding to Schiano’s hard-driving style, and the Josh Freeman quarterback controversy didn’t help matters. General manager Mark Dominik was also a casualty on Black Monday.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions – No team collapsed as badly as the Lions did down the stretch. After climbing to the top of the NFC North with a 6-3 record, they lost 6 out of their last 7 contests and missed the postseason. Management had already made the decision on Schwartz’s job when the team was eliminated from postseason contention last week.

mike-shanahan-hot-seatMike Shanahan, Washington Redskins – The drama regarding Mike Shanahan has finally come to an end with his Monday morning firing. He was fired after a 3-13 record, which was the second worst in the league. It was no secret that Shanahan clashed with management over what he perceived as their babying of quarterback Robert Griffin III. The matter came to a conclusion when RG III was benched for the final three games to “prevent any injuries.”

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans – Kubiak wasn’t a Black Monday firing, but rather axed on December 12th after the team had lost 11 straight games. Team management also didn’t like the way that Kubiak handled the quarterback situation between Matt Schaub and Case Keenum. Add in the fact that many expected Houston to contend for a Super Bowl and it’s pretty clear why Kubiak was fired. Several candidates have already been interviewed, including former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and Texans interim coach Wade Phillips.

Still Uncertain

dennis-allen-oaklandDennis Allen, Oakland Raiders – Before Oakland played the Denver Broncos, it was generally thought that both coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie would be safe. However, there are no guarantees following a 4-12 season, which ended with an embarrassing 34-14 loss to Denver, where the Broncos were leading 31-0 at halftime.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys – For the second year in a row, Garrett’s team lost the NFC East on the final game of the season. Owner Jerry Jones appears likely to keep Garrett, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s job could be in serious jeopardy.

Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins – Miami was in the driver’s seat of their playoff destiny, but finished with losses to two subpar teams (Buffalo, NY Jets) to close out the season. Owner Stephen Ross didn’t exactly give any vote of confidence after saying that he has “a lot to think about” with regard to Philbin and GM Jeff Ireland’s jobs.

mike-munchak-tennesseeMike Munchak, Tennessee Titans – It was another up-and-down season for the Titans, with them finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs. And the hard-running, clock-management style that Tennessee is trying to push faltered in the middle of the season. Star running back Chris Johnson won’t be back. Is the same true of Munchack?

Job Security

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – Two years removed from a Super Bowl, nobody expected Tom Coughlin to be coaching for his job. However, a dismal 0-6 start got the press talking about Coughlin’s future with the organization. But early word is that, following a 7-3 finish to the season, it’s up to Coughlin to decide if he wants to stay with the team.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Many believe that Ryan did a commendable job with the Jets since this season was projected to be a rebuilding effort. However, Ryan coached them to a .500 record and ended the year on a positive note with two straight wins.

Why did the Cleveland Browns fire Rob Chudzinski?

rod-chudzinskiMost new NFL head coaches are given 2-3 years before an organization makes a decision on their job status. This being said, it was extremely puzzling when the Cleveland Browns decided to fire Rob Chudzinkski after just one season.

Chudzinski had just completed the first year of a four-year contract when he received news of the firing. So why was the former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator dumped after his lone season in Cleveland? Well there’s the organization’s stated reason, and also the reasons why many insiders thought Chud was axed. Let’s look at the team’s media statement first:

We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year. Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there’s an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.

After hearing this statement and looking at the Browns’ record over the past 11 games, there are some glaringly obvious reasons why Chud was fired. They began the year with some promise after starting off 3-2. However, they won just one out of their last 11 contests, including a seven-game losing streak to close out the season.

rob-chudzinskiThere were two weeks in a row that were particularly telling of this season, where the Browns lost to Jacksonville at home, then blew a 12-point lead against New England with three minutes left. Couple this with losses to the Bears, Jets and Steelers to close out the year, and you can definitely see how this year ended on a sour note.

Beyond the losing, the front office felt that Chudzinski’s players showed a lack of accountability and effort as the season wore on. They especially felt that Brandon Weeden and Greg Little weren’t held accountable for their poor play. One prevalent thought was that as the coaching staff spent more time with the players, the worse they were getting.

Another point worth making here is how the Browns organization sees a couple of talented coaches that they like. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are rumored to be at the top of Cleveland’s list. Given Chud’s perceived shortcomings as the Browns coach, it seems like a perfect time for this team to chase another top-notch coaching prospect.

Of course, Chud didn’t leave this job without some public outcry – most notable from many of his players. D’Qwell Jackson was really critical of the move as he said, “After the Trent Richardson trade and our quarterback injuries, I thought for sure he’d get a pass. Not one year. Come on. One year? There’s no way. Chud was good for us, good for the team. He came in and did everything right, I thought.”

As Jackson referred to, the team lost Weeden to injury for an extended time period while Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury. Plus the team traded Richardson just two games into the season and never truly replaced him with a decent starting running back. But despite all of this, management apparently felt that their team was talented enough to win more than four games.

Why the 2013 Cleveland Browns won’t be as Bad as you think

brandon-weeden-cleveland-brownsFew NFL teams have even come close to the vomit-inducing results that the Cleveland Browns have produced in recent years. Since finishing with a 10-6 record in 2007, the Browns have gone just 23-57 over the past five years. So what reason do we have to believe that Cleveland will transcend their 5-11 record from last season? Especially when they play in the more-than-challenging AFC North!?

First off, this Browns team is under totally new leadership after cleaning house last year. Pat Shurmur and his staff were dumped thanks to questionable play calling and dismal results. Enter Rob Chudzinski, who should bring a strong level of preparedness and execution to the floundering Browns offense. As offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, Chudzinski helped his team average a respectable 22 PPG – much better than Cleveland’s 18 PPG last season. Plus he served as the Browns’ coordinator during their 10-win season in ’07.

rod-chudzinskiThis team’s leadership should get a further boost from new OC Norv Turner and D coordinator Ray Horton. There’s always been questions about Turner’s ability to put everything together as a head coach; but his offensive brilliance should shine in a coordinator’s role. As for Horton, he’ll bring a new mentality to the Browns that involves attacking offenses and forcing mistakes. With Cleveland’s talented front seven, Horton is the perfect man for the job.

Moving to the players, much of the season hinges on Brandon Weeden’s development. With Turner as the OC, Weeden should get a lot more opportunities to throw downfield and rack up some big passing games. Through two preseason contests, he’s been lighting it up after throwing for a combined 229 yards and three touchdowns. Sure this is just the preseason, but it’s reason to believe that the 29-year-old could surpass 4,000 yards and 20 TD’s this year.

trent-richardsonOf course, Trent Richardson will play a huge role in the Browns’ fortunes. He had a standout rookie season after rushing for 950 yards, tallying 367 receiving yards, and scoring 12 total touchdowns. If Weeden can improve, the box should be more open and allow Richardson to have an even stronger second-year campaign. And don’t forget that his first year was hampered by preseason knee surgery and broken ribs during the regular season.

Both WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron should have strong years. Many believe the latter could be Cleveland’s most improved player since fellow tight end Ben Watson left via free agency. Now Cameron figures to shine after showing plenty of athleticism during his limited time on the field.

Gordon saw the field plenty last year, and took advantage of his opportunities. He’ll be the Browns top receiving option and should improve on last year’s 800 receiving yards and 5 TD’s. Free agent acquisition Davone Bess will also prove valuable in the passing game. The slot receiver caught 61 passes for 778 yards and one TD in 2012.

joe-hadenAs mentioned before, the defensive front seven will be one of Cleveland’s biggest strengths. Cornerback Joe Haden anchors this defense and has proved invaluable to stopping opposing top wideouts. He missed four games last year after a suspension, but hopefully he avoids any PED troubles in 2013.

The Browns snagged Super Bowl champion linebacker Paul Kruger through free agency this offseason. The 6’4″, 270-pound linebacker racked up 42 tackles and 9 sacks last year, and added another 4.5 sacks during Baltimore’s championship run.

Rookie LB Barkevious Mingo is another defender whom the Browns are expecting big things from. The sixth overall pick runs a 4.53 forty and should thrive in Horton’s aggressive defensive scheme. Jabaal Sheard will once again be a critical part of the Cleveland defense. The linebacker has notched 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons, and there’s little reason to doubt that he could have his best year yet this time around.

With some outstanding new coaches and plenty of talented players, 2013 will see a far more competitive Cleveland Browns team. It’ll be difficult for them to make the playoffs in a tough AFC North division, but we wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it happens. However, we’ll stick with more mild expectations and offer the following projection:

2013 Cleveland Browns Predicted Record: 8-8