Hiring a Head Coach: Rebuilding the Browns, Part II

(This article and more from Danny Massaro can be found on The CalfMuscle)

Yesterday, I wrote about my hiring as Browns GM, effective immediately. I elaborated on the importance of four facets in order to turn the Browns into a winner: Coaching, talent, philosophy/vision, and state of the culture.

I was rambling so much and accomplishing so little that I decided to make this a series. Today, I’ll hire a coach. Wednesday I’ll discuss free agency and Friday we’ll walk through the NFL Draft.

My first order of business as General Manager will be to fire Pat Shurmur with a smile on my face. Along with the head coach, I’ll call in Brad Childress (Offensive Coordinator) and Mark Whipple (Quarterbacks Coach) and inform them that their services will no longer be needed either.

Chris Tabor (Special Teams Coordinator) is doing a pretty poor job this season, but Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs save his job. George Warhop (Offensive Line Coach) not only maintains his job, but I sign him to an extension and promise him that I’ll sooner rather than later get him NFL-caliber offensive guards for once.

I’m giving the defensive staff another year at least. They’ve had to put up with injuries (Phil Tayor, Chris Gocong, etc.) and four games without the team’s best player (Joe Haden) because he decided to sniff some ADD medicine in Vegas. Plus, when the unit is all together, they play well. Dick Jauron (Defensive Coordinator) has his defensive unit ready each week, his only downfall is really the lack of talent and depth – outside of the defensive line.

With that said, let’s interview.

QUARTERBACK COACH: With an inexperienced (notice I didn’t say young) quarterback, his coach has to become his best friend. In contact 24-7. On the field, off the field, film study, chalk talk, in the headset, everywhere.

I believe in Brandon Weeden. I don’t agree with former GM Tom Heckert’s decision to take him with the 22nd pick of the draft, but I see Weeden winning a lot of games here. Under Shurmur, Weeden was set up for failure. He was stuck under center and running three step drops to double slants and double tight ends in the flat. That stuff doesn’t work against the computer in Madden with the difficulty on rookie (Ouch – Burn!).

Also, Weeden hasn’t received the tutoring that a rookie QB deserved. No, I haven’t spent time at Browns practice or in meetings, but you can tell by Weeden’s interviews, performance, and body language that he is sort of swinging at the air. It sounds/looks like he is out their almost on his own on Sundays. He might as well turn his headset off.

I credit Weeden’s inability to “break out” on the Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians principle. Whipple, Childress, and Shurmur all feel too entitled. They all want the offense to be theirs instead of Weeden’s. Childress is a former head coach and an awful one at that. Shurmur should have been fired before he got the job. And Whipple can’t do anything with Weeden because of the other two idiots. Oh, and Nolan Cromwell (Assistant Offensive Coordinator) is out because 1.) His offense is awful and 2.) There are already too many Offensive Coordinators (Shurmur, Childress, Whipple, and Cromwell are all considered OC’s in some way).

Now for the hiring process.

A new QB Coach for Weeden is essential to the team’s success. Next fall, he will already be 30 years old. His window is obviously smaller than most. I’m hoping for five more good seasons.

I’m looking to pair Weeden up with a coach known as a teacher and a communicator. I don’t care if he is an offensive super genius, I just want him teach my quarterback so that every time he steps up to the line he is confident in his steps, his checks, his decisions, and his throws.

My hire: Jason Garrett, current Dallas Cowboys Head Coach

Bear with me. Garrett is three losses away from getting the boot from Jerry Jones. Garrett is a former NFL QB, he turned an undrafted kid from Eastern Illinois into a division winning, 30 TD quarterback. I know Garrett will probably get a bunch of interviews for offensive coordinator positions around the league, but he’ll still be getting paid by the Cowboys and perhaps he’ll want to take a step back from the high pressure of being a Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator. Also, if when Garrett steps into his new role as QB Coach, he’ll still have a large amount of input in gameplanning. I’m confident that he won’t clash with the new OC or HC like Shurmur and Childress did because it doesn’t seem to be his personality.

Plus, Jason Garrett is a native of Cleveland Heights and University, Ohio. There is no place like home, right?

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: I’ve been a Browns fan for a long time and excluding the 2007 season and a few Kelly Holcomb games, Cleveland’s offense has been consistently bland and stagnant. I have Garrett at QB coach, he is a man with a lot of NFL playing, coaching, and coordinating experience. With that, I just want an OC who consistently scores points where he is.

Realistically, I doubt any NFL Offensive Coordinators or NCAA Head Coaches leave where they are now to coach an offense that lacks any real playmakers. Trent Richardson may lead a few to consider, but Greg Little and Josh Gordon aren’t exactly a huge selling point.

That’s fine. I don’t think I need an NFL Coordinator, but I’d like to have my new OC to have some NFL experience. With an offensive line in place (and their coach still their), a talented running back, and a quarterback that can make all of the throws, I just want a guy who knows how to score.

My hire: Todd Monken, current Oklahoma State Offensive Coordinator

I know what you’re thinking and yes, the fact that Monken spent a year with Weeden has a lot to do with the hire. But on top of that, Monken has found success everywhere. He won a National Championship as LSU’s Passing Game Coordinator and as the Wide Receivers Coach in Jacksonville for three years, he made Mike Sims-Walker, Mercedes Lewis, and Mike Thomas a 170+ catch trio

And then there was (is) his two year stint as Mike Gundy’s right hand man at Oklahoma State. His offenses have been potent to say the least.

I love this hire because it encompasses everything I’m looking for. NFL experience, but not too much that he’ll consider himself above his other coaches, a history of scoring a lot of points, and a smooth transition for Brandon Weeden – the most important player on the roster.

HEAD COACH: As new GM, I’m trying my hardest to be professional and not name drop, but how in the world did Mike Holmgren not hire John Fox? I’m still sick about it. The worst part is Fox was rumored to want to come to Cleveland. Ugh.

Anyway, in order to keep this post under 3,000 words, I’m going to go throw each process (calls, interviews, second interviews, final interviews) and sum up each step in the process.

(Also note: I’m assuming that these jobs are also open – San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs)


Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts Offensive Coordinator

Todd Haley, Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator

Jon Gruden, Former Tampa Bay Bucs Head Coach and Current Cracked Out ESPN Analyst

Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach

Jim Tressell, former Ohio State Head Coach

David Shaw, Stanford Cardinal Head Coach

Chip Kelly, Oregon Ducks Head Coach

Perry Fewell, New York Giants Defensive Coordinator

Ray Horton, Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator

Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator

Step 1: Phone interview with all of the candidates. Despite Nick Saban’s history with the Cleveland Browns, he claims he is going to remain the Head Coach of the Crimson Tide (I’ll believe that until that Dallas vacancy is filled). Jon Gruden, despite being a native son of Northeastern Ohio also claims that he wants to stay where he is, in the booth. Again, I’ll believe that until I see rumors of Chucky in contract negotiations with the Philadelphia Eagles or until I hear of Gruden and Bud Adams (Tennessee Titans owner) salivating over Jake Locker film.

After speaking on the phone with Todd Haley and Jim Tressell, I’m a little bit turned off and won’t be inviting them in for a face-to-face interview. I have the utmost respect for Haley as a coordinator and his success speaks for itself, but I’m still turned off by the way he handled his stint in Kansas City as the head man, and in all honestly, he is just a douche. Tressell was enthralled by the idea and I know that the state of Ohio would eat it up if he were the hire, but he came off a little too much like a Grandfatherly figure than a no-nonsense follow-me coach. That’s fine for college ball, but I don’t see it correlating well in coaching grown men.

So, I invite Arians, Horton, McDaniels, Fewell, Kelly, and Shaw in for an interview.

Step 2: I like what David Shaw has to offer, and I believe that he’ll make a great NFL coach very soon, but upon speaking with him, I’d like to see more to his body of work. He worked under Joe Banner in Philadelphia as the Quality Control Coach in the late ‘90s, and Mr. Banner likes him a lot, but I have to go with my gut. Shaw isn’t the guy.

Bruce Arians calls me before his interview to inform me that he has decided to elect between the head coaching job in Carolina or Kansas City as his next position. I don’t really blame him. I respect his decision of choosing between Cam Newton or the first pick of the draft in KC.

I’m impressed with Ray Horton as well, but he is adamant in bringing Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense here. I like the idea, but this organization has invested the last three offseasons in 4-3 personnel. My explanation isn’t enough. He says if he’s the guy, the 3-4 is coming. I have too much faith in my young defensive line.

That leaves Josh McDaniels, Perry Fewell, and Chip Kelly as the three finalists.

FINAL INTERVIEW: I don’t know why I like McDaniels so much. He openly ticked off every good player in Denver and was run out of town. But there is an aura about him. Mr. Haslam sees it, Mr. Banner sees it, and I do too. And we all know that a Josh McDaniels offense is known for scoring points.

Perry Fewell is another gem. He’s been sitting in on Head Coaching interviews for years now and has never been hired. Sitting in a room with him one-on-one, I don’t understand how he’s never gotten the nod as a head coach. He is a defensive mind, and a 4-3 guy at that. Plus, his reputation around the league is immaculate – a hard-worker, a brilliant mind, and his players adore him. He’s not the diva that Gruden or McDaniels would be and he doesn’t have the swagger that Horton or Saban have, but you can just tell that Perry Fewell was put on the earth to be a football coach.

I’m amazed that Chip Kelly has lasted this long. Not because we don’t want him, but I didn’t know how appealing Cleveland, Ohio would be to probably the most appealing coaching candidate (outside of Nick Saban) in the country – college or pro experience. A lot of people recognize Kelly for his high-tempo explosive offense, but he reputation to run the best practices at any level has me intrigued. Chip Kelly thinks that he can make a lot of noise with Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, regardless of who is at receiver.

THE FINAL CHOICE (I refuse to call this The Decision – you can imagine why): Mr. Haslam, Mr. Banner and I have narrowed it down to two offensive coaches and a defensive coach. One former pro head coach, one college head coach, and a lifetime coordinator.

When making our final decision we weigh four things: Each candidate’s success in their coaching career, eye for talent and the kind of player that they said they liked and want on their team (meaning fit in their scheme, character, smarts, ability, priorities, etc.), their vision (offensively, defensively, immediate expectations, four-plus-year plan), and the state of the culture at their former jobs.

The state of the culture killed McDaniels. His episode in Denver and Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall wanting out was too much for us to look past.

Our final two are Chip Kelly and Perry Fewell. Both successful coaches throughout their entire career, both found a perfect marriage between scheme and personnel (Kelly to his skill guys and Fewell to his NASCAR formation d-line), both are hard workers and expect immediate success, and both owned their locker room (or in Fewell’s case, his defense).

Kelly would be the home run pick for the fans and the media but Fewell has learned from Tom Coughlin and spent offseasons learning how to put a team together from Jerry Reese. But then again, with the immediate success of Greg Schiano and Jim Harbaugh, Kelly seems hungry to be the best coach to go from college to the pros.

This is harder than I thought. In my 24 years of life, who would have thought hiring an NFL Head Coach would be my toughest decision yet?

The Hire: Perry Fewell

Fewell fit the mold too perfectly that we were looking for. His only downside is he’s not the media friendly fireball coach that a lot of people want. A lot of people think that this organization needs a headliner at the helm, but we felt once Saban and Gruden told us no that we couldn’t get caught up in the “Who is Popular” argument. I’m not even saying that Gruden or Saban would have gotten the job over Fewell, but what I’m saying is that we realized as the interviewing process went along, that being a front-pager is only worth so much.

Fewell is a defensive mind who believes in the defense that we are putting in place. We feel that with Garret and Monken (who we are very high on) that having a coach that is defensive-minded would be to our advantage. He has won a Super Bowl and learned from a Super Bowl winning coach.

And ultimately, he shines the brightest regarding our four criteria.

Regarding coaching, he’s a winner and his former players scream his praises. Nobody in the NFL has utilized talent as well as Fewell; he found a way to get his four best defensive players on the field at the same time despite them all playing the same position. And not only did it not hurt them, it burned the opposition. His defensive philosophy is to get to the quarterback and that is what wins in this league. Plus, it has lacked in Cleveland for years. Also, he’s a guy who is going to let his other coaches coach – and trust them – just like Tom Coughlin does. And the culture everywhere he has been (huddles, meeting rooms, and locker room) has been a winning culture. Perry Fewell units have carried themselves as champions and as a result they’ve become champions.

Cleveland, say hello to Perry Fewell.

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