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Talking Cleveland Browns With Football Outsiders, Part 2 - Pass Rush in 2013, and Coaching Changes

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the day Monday, we posted Part 1 of our interview with Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders. Now, it is time for Part 2, which focuses on the Browns' front seven and the difference that coaching changes can make. Don't forget to check out the 2013 Football Outsiders Almanac too.


DBN: "The Browns were awful at getting to the quarterback when sending a big blitz; 11% qb hurries vs 31% league average, on those plays. Is that putrid number indicative of poor angles, scheme, or an inability of defensive backs to pick up coverage?"

Mike: "I did not watch much of the 2012 Browns defense because they have a new coordinator, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and so many other new faces this year that it did not seem that relevant. Looking at their blitz personnel from a year ago, I am not sure what they could expect from guys like Craig Robertson and Kaluka Maiava. The sheer amount of investment they made in pass rushers this offseason suggests that the team considered it a personnel problem."

DBN: "Do you think Paul Kruger was a flash in the pan or is he the real deal? He had a phenomenal playoff run, but can he be someone who generates that kind of pressure over the course of a 16-game season?"

Mike: "I loved Kruger coming out of college as a high intensity/high motor player, but he had so many freak injuries during his college career that it was hard to gauge how great his upside was. The Ravens are very patient when developing defensive talent, and there are few better environments for learning the technical aspects of playing defense.

I think the Browns overpaid for Kruger, thinking that he is a J.J. Watt clone, when he is really a 8-10 sack-per-season defender who is also a good disruptor against the run and is useful as a chase player. Horton is exceptional at scheming for a player like Kruger, which may improve his production."

DBN: "Regarding the Defensive Front Seven section in your Almanac: it's listed that Cleveland only brought pass pressure on 16.7% of pass plays (31st in NFL) in 2012. With the additions to the front-seven (Kruger, Mingo, Bryant, etc), obviously it's assumed that number will go up, but what is a likely increase in percentage that you see for next year?"

Mike: "Horton's Cardinals rushed five or more defenders on just under 43% of pass plays, and I think you will see a number like that. You are going to see a lot of five man rushes, a lot of zone blitzes, and stuff we sometimes associate with the Steelers, like seven defenders just walking around the line (with no clear gap responsibilities) before the snap."

DBN: "We all know it varies based on circumstances, but exactly how much "stock" in terms of win % should we expect / assign on account of the new head coach and coordinators? - Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner, and Ray Horton. Is there any way to predict the impact these specific coaches (or any historical NFL data) will have on this upcoming season's success? Even further, when looking at complete organizational "reboots" (owners, staff and coaches, etc) what percentage of these teams were able to 1) have winning seasons the next year and/or 2) make playoffs, and how?"

Mike: "I am afraid I don't have anything on ownership-down reboots, which are pretty rare and usually come under the kind of circumstances when a team almost has to improve in the ensuing years. When you research coaching changes, you get stuck with a similar kind of selection bias: Coach A almost always gets fired at the end of an awful year in which many factors contributed to the failure, so Coach B gets the benefit of factors from the schedule and the high draft pick to plain-old central tendency.

What we saw last season was a lame-duck administration at work, and that showed. The new coaching staff has much more potential and it brings much fresher ideas. My concern remains the front office, which already appears to be in some kind of power struggle. Joe Banner works best when he is handling cap control and has a strong football mind flanking him. I am not sure Michael Lombardi or any of the other new execs are that mind, and I am not 100% sure Banner is aware of how much of his success in Philly really belongs with Andy Reid or some of the other personnel people were there during that team's success cycle."


Thanks again to Mike and Football Outsiders for their time. We'll try to cite a few more nuggets from Football Outsiders as the preseason rolls on.