Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine introduced his three coordinators at a press conference Thursday morning, and then Jim O'Neil (defense), Kyle Shanahan (offense), and Chris Tabor (special teams) took to the stage to field questions from the media. In total, the conference only lasted about 26 minutes (watch it here), which was only enough time to get a taste from each coordinator. Here are some notes I came away with on each coach:
- Pettine didn't shy away from the fact that this was a "comfort" hire -- O'Neil played for his father in high school, and has followed Pettine around as one of his assistant coaches. They will be on the same page.
- Out of the three coaches, O'Neil looked the least comfortable in front of the media, but not overly bad or anything -- he'll get better with more of these. The information we got from him was relatively generic. He indicated that Barkevious Mingo might have been the Buffalo Bills' draft pick at No. 8 overall last year if he had a say (his wife baked "Mingo cupcakes" for the front office). The Browns ended up taking Mingo at No. 6 overall, and then the Bills traded back with the Rams and ended up going with QB E.J. Manuel at No. 16 overall.
- From a linebacker aspect, O'Neil talked about winning one-on-one battles. Unfortunately, that wasn't something our linebackers did very well last year.
"Our philosophy has always been to be multiple and create confusion for the offensive side of the ball, and that really allows the guys up front to get a lot of one-on-one blocks, and that’s where you want guys like (Barkevious) Mingo, (Paul) Kruger, (Jabaal) Sheard, all those pass-rusher-type guys, that’s what they want. It takes the chips off of them. It takes the line-slides off of them and it gives them a chance to win the one-on-one."
- O'Neil has been on board longer than Shanahan. He and his assistants have already reviewed film of about 8-10 games for the Browns last season, but he can't wait to meet with the players in person and see what they can do.
- Pettine called Shanahan one of the best offensive minds in football. He said that when he was a defensive coach, his mindset was that if a head coaching opportunity came up, the style of offense he would want implemented would be similar to what Houston and Washington have run (of course, that is where Shanahan installed the offenses).
- One of the qualities Pettine praised in particular was how firm and demanding he was during his interview; Pettine believed he'd be the type of guy to uphold the standard for having accountability among the players.
- I was aware of Shanahan from his days in Houston and Washington, but this was the first time I heard him speak. He certainly brings more of a youthful demeanor. This is the first time he's going to be working with a defensive coach, and the fact that he pointed that out tells me that he's going to have free reign to install whatever he wants offensively, including the pistol/zone-read, zone run blocking, etc.
- As expected, Shanahan was hammered about the quarterback situation right away. Here's what he said about how he views molding a quarterback who is just entering the NFL:
"Anytime you bring a rookie in and you start him right away, you’ve got to find out what they do good. You have to make sure that you put them in a situation to be successful. Don’t ask too much of them. Usually if you spend a high pick on a guy there’s some stuff that they do pretty good. And you’ve got to figure out what it is by studying college tape."
- Regarding Cleveland's quarterback situation, Shanahan said he still has to evaluate the roster, but that he's had experience adjusting his schemes to accommodate seven different quarterbacks in his six years as a coordinator. When asked about Brian Hoyer and Brandon Weeden specifically, here was Shanahan's quick assessment of them:
"I know Brian from college. I was a big fan of him coming out of Michigan State. I looked at him after he was available after New England and I think he has a chance to succeed in this league. Weeden, I was able to coach at the Senior Bowl (in January 2012), so I spent some time with him down there. We knew pretty early we were going with Robert (Griffin III) that year so we didn’t go through with it and finish all the stuff with (Weeden), but I enjoyed him at the Senior Bowl. I thought he was a great person. Has some really good qualities, and a very good thrower, but I really can’t totally answer that question until I get into what he’s done in the NFL. I’m going to really be doing this over the next month or so, and I’ll do it pretty hard until the players get here."There's nothing groundbreaking there, but it's interesting to hear about Shanahan's connections (albeit limited) to both quarterbacks.
- In terms of offensive philosophy, this part pretty much explained it, sparked by a question about implementing the zone run blocking:
"You want a (back) who can press holes, who can get downhill, and always get good yards per carry. Not always looking for the home run, not a guy that has to get a 60-yarder to average 4 yards a carry. It’d be nice to keep feeding a guy, keep feeding a guy and his longest run in the game might be 10 yards, but still at the end of the game, he’s averaging 4.2 a carry. I just a consistent, consistent running game where you’re not getting in third-and-longs, always trying to be in a manageable down-and-distance where the defense can really never tee off on run or pass. It’s really tough to block those guys when they know what you’re doing. If they’ve always got to think about the run or think about the pass and play both, it gives you a huge advantage on offense."
- Pettine said that a lot of teams put in requests to interview Tabor, which was a red flag for him to know that he must be a pretty good coordinator. Therefore, the Browns denied teams permission to interview him.
- Special teams coordinators never get much of the glory, but Tabor said he was perfectly fine to stay in Cleveland, especially since it meant he wouldn't have to move his family. He noted that your special teams players come from the fluid part of the roster, so he's looking forward to working with a new crop of players this coming season.
What were your thoughts on the coaches? Good first impressions? From a presentational and delivery standpoint, there are sharp contrasts to what we saw from Norv Turner and Ray Horton.