Well, it's the bye week and the Cleveland Browns sit at 2-7. This lands us in the basement of the AFC North and near the bottom of every power poll known to man. We also happen to have Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner in town as the new owner and CEO respectively of the Browns.
It can definitely be debated what a new owner and CEO will mean for basically everyone in the Cleveland Browns organization, but I think that the most intriguing position to focus on is the Head Coaching position. Personally, I think Pat Shurmur is gone at the end of the year, which will put us back in the coaching search that every Browns fan since 1999 has grown accustomed to. Assuming Shumur does get fired, who might we be looking at to take over the team? Here are a few candidates I think might be good candidates to take over the team. Of course, we would all like to have Gruden or Cowher, but since we've talked about those guys so much I will talk about other guys. Feel free to discuss your own guesses as to who might be the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Head Coach, Oregon Ducks
Kelly will likely be a pretty hot commodity in the NFL during the offseason. He has been a great success at the University of Oregon as their head coach and has led them to bowl games in all three seasons as the coach of the Ducks, and the team seems well on its way to making yet another bowl game at the end of this season. During his head coaching tenure, he boasts an impressive 43-6 record and one appearance in the BCS National Championship Game (where his team lost by 3 points to the Auburn Tigers on a last second field goal). Last year, he was reportedly very close to signing as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; however, he decided to stay with the Ducks to take care of some "unfinished business."
My guess is that Chip Kelly will likely get interviewed by most (if not all) of the teams that will be looking to fill a head coaching vacancy in the offseason. It is going to be interesting to see how his transition to the NFL goes. I'm a little hesitant to crown any college coach as the next big thing in the NFL because often times their game doesn't translate too well at the next level. But the buzz surrounding Chip Kelly is that he will be at the front of a new era of offense in the NFL. I think it would be really nice to see the Cleveland Browns leading the charge with Chip Kelly's high tempo offense.
Offensive Coordinator/ Interim Head Coach, Indianapolis Colts
Bruce Arians would seem to be another name that will be pretty heavily considered for multiple head coaching positions. He is in the middle of his first year with the Indianapolis Colts, where he was hired to be the Offensive Coordinator by first year head coach Chuck Pagano. He was unexpectedly thrust into the Interim Head Coaching position with the Colts when Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia. Before working with the Colts, Arians was the Offensive Coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2007 through the end of the 2011 season. It seems like there was some sort of a shady character that made a name for himself as a quarterback in Arians' offense in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers' offense was pretty productive during his time as OC.
Bruce Arians would make sense for the Browns for a few reasons. First, the Browns play in the AFC North. Therefore, in order to make the playoffs we will need to beat teams in the AFC North. Arians has coached for and against the other teams in the AFC North. For the most part, he has dominated. During his five seasons with the Steelers, his offense ranked at best first in the league in yards gained (twice) and at worse sixth in the league in yards gained (once). He has crafted great offenses, and he has done it in a division that has been known for great defenses.
It is also worth mentioning that he spent those five years working with Ben Roethlisberger. I would imagine he knows all Roethlisberger's strengths and weaknesses. That could come in handy considering our defense routinely gets beaten by him twice a year. There's also the fact that he spent two years as Peyton Manning's QB coach. Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger went on to be pretty good QB's, and I'd imagine Arians had something to do with that.
Head Coach, Carolina Panthers
Ron Rivera started making a name for himself with the Chicago Bears where he served as the Defensive Coordinator from the beginning of the 2004-2005 season to the end of the 2006-2007 season. During his three seasons with the Bears, Rivera's defense ranked 1st in points allowed in 2005, 3rd in 2006, and 16th in 2007. He had opportunities to interview for head coaching positions after each season. However, he stayed with the Bears until his contract was not renewed following the 2007 season. He became the Defensive Coordinator for the San Diego Chargers midway through the 2008 season, where he stayed until he accepted the Head Coach position for the Carolina Panthers before the 2011 season.
Rivera remains the head coach in Carolina today. Last year, Rivera gave the Panthers a reason for optimism despite the team's final record of 6-10. This year, however, the fans in Carolina are calling for him to be fired after a 2-7 start to this season (sound familiar?). He would obviously have to be fired by the Panthers to become a viable option for the Browns, but that seems like it is becoming more and more of an option.
Rivera would certainly come with head coaching experience in Carolina as well as defensive success in Chicago, which may make him a decent candidate for the coaching position here in Cleveland. However, I am not sure what I think about the job he has done as the head coach. On the one hand, the Panthers seem to have regressed this year compared to last year. On the other hand, if you take a look up and down the Panthers' roster, you'd be hard pressed to find more than a handful of names that you recognize. I think for me, the jury is still out on Ron Rivera. I've read that the team looks like it is playing uninspired and listless football- and their record certainly doesn't suggest otherwise. However, I could see that just as easily being a product of attitudes from players like Cam Newton. I wonder what he would be able to do with some new faces and a fresh start? We may get the chance to find out.
Defensive Coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars
How would THIS be for a plot twist?
Mel Tucker, as you might know, served as the Defensive Backs coach for the Browns for 3 years (2005-2007) and one year as the Defensive Coordinator (2008). From '05-'07 under Todd Grantham and Mel Tucker, the Browns' passing defense had the following ranks in yards allowed: 4th ('05), 15th ('06), and 24th ('07). When Tucker took over as the Defensive Coordinator in 2008, the defense ranked 14th in passing yards allowed and 28th in rushing yards allowed. The defense had an overall ranking of 28th in the league in total yards allowed, but ranked 16th in the league in points allowed.
Mel Tucker then moved on to become the Defensive Coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009 and remains in that position today. The defense in Jacksonville has not looked stellar, ranking 24th in points allowed in 2009, 27th in 2010, and 11th in 2011. During the 2011 season when Tucker's defense looked the most impressive in Jacksonville, he took over as the Interim Head Coach when Jack Del Rio was fired midway through the season. He had a record of 2-3 as Head Coach- which, by the way, is a higher winning percentage than Pat Shurmur. He was considered for the Head Coach position after the 2011 season, but the Jags decided to hire Mike Mularkey instead. Mel Tucker decided to return to the Jaguars as the Defensive Coordinator and was also named the Assistant Head Coach by Mularkey.
In the end, Tucker may not end up being the man for the job in Cleveland according to Haslam and Banner's criteria. However, I think he will get his chance to be a Head Coach sooner rather than later. I think it would be pretty cool to see him back in Cleveland as the head coach. He would definitely bring some unknowns with him, but he would also bring some head coaching experience. He is probably not going to be at the top of the list, but he might be worth some consideration.
This is by no means a conclusive list- there are plenty of other coordinators that may be solid choices. I just wanted to put together a short list to get the conversation going.