Let me be clear, Jabaal Sheard is not a Hall of Fame football player. I want to make that clear because he is going to be the focus here as his signing with the New England Patriots yesterday finally snapped something together for me. The Cleveland Browns are a waste of time.
Don't worry, I will explain why the case of Jabaal Sheard pisses me off. Because he was going to be a good player for us. He WAS a good player for us when he was in the system that he was scouted to play for us. When he was a 4-3 defensive end he was listed. Don't take it from me, here is Sports Illustrated Dog Farrar:
Sheard will play outside linebacker on a high number of snaps in Ray Horton’s defense, but it’s his 2011-12 work as an end with which we’re concerned. He’s put up 15.5 sacks in that time in a front seven that gets too little recognition as it is, and we believe that he’s about to become one of the pre-eminent pass rushers in the game. He has the speed off the edge to affect quarterbacks in space, and he’s also an outstanding run defender.
Now maybe he doesn't reach those heights, but he was well on his way to being a damn good quality starter for this team. A guy that we could keep around and not have to worry about filling a need. Developing a young guy behind him. Actually starting to "draft and develop" that every other successful team seems to do.
But what happens instead? We have a new owner that wants his guys. Since the promising start for Sheard, the Browns have had two different defensive coordinators. Sheard played four years as a Cleveland Brown. In that time he had:
3 Head Coaches
3 Defensive Coordinators
3 Different defensive schemes
In those four years guess how many Head Coaches the rest of the AFC North COMBINED has had in those 12 seasons?
3 Head Coaches
6 Defensive Coordinators (two of those leaving took Head Coaching jobs and none were fired)
3 Defensive Schemes
Sometimes it isn't hard to understand why the Browns suck every year. How am I supposed to gauge whether or not Sheard is any good with that?
Einstein had a saying that fits the Browns perfect. "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid". How many fish are we asking to climb a tree?
The number is much higher than you, or I, would like to believe. The reason is simple; every Coach comes in here with their "scheme" and has to use players ill-fitted for what they do. We have gone from 4-3 to a 3-4 and back again how many times? We overhaul the offensive run scheme to a zone scheme and the coach leaves less than 12 months later because he can't get along with the front office? It is a rotating door in a business that demands stability.
Rich McKay and his family know more about football than I ever will. One time during an interview he was asked about "busts" in the NFL and why some teams seem to have so many while others do not. His answer was so mind-blowingly simple, yet perfect, I almost pooped my pants. Every player drafted into the NFL is talented. But every team that drafts in the NFL doesn't put their players in the best positions. How freaking true is this?
Look at what the Baltimore Ravens have done. They continuously have pass rushers that other teams pay top dollar for that they simply let leave. They don't mind because after every Paul Kruger there is a Pernell McPhee. Sure part of it is scouting, but McPhee learned the same defense, the same position from the same coaching staff for three years before nut punching the rest of the AFC North. The Ravens took a talented player and place him in the best position for him to succeed. The Browns have never done this because no one has ever been around long enough. Imagine how sweet it would be for a vet to pull a rookie aside and explain what is going on after a play instead of wondering what is going on himself as he learns yet another system? Including next year, over the past 6 years the Browns have a combined 10 offensive and defensive coordinators. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had 5 defensive coordinators since 1992, including 3 guys who went to be Head Coaches. The Browns will have had 6 offensive coordinators in the past 6 years come September.
Jabaal Sheard could have been really good here. Instead he was a fish asked to climb a tree after already showing that he could swim.
Now you may say that Jabaal Sheard is not enough of a reason to keep an entire defense. This we agree on. But you know what, why haven't we had a coaching staff think outside of the box and put players in their best positions? Although New England is a "3-4" defense, they run a four man front over 70% of the time. Why? Because they don't have the premier OLB pass rusher, so they find other ways to be successful. The Browns have been too busy learning the bones of a new system to ever have the time to expand. Maybe you think this is to simplistic and maybe it is. But the thing is we have never given it a real shot to see if it is even true. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Maybe you will say that a good Quarterback will solve all of our woes, but will that Quarterback be put in a position to succeed? We put Brandon Weeden, he of the mammoth arm and down passing attack in college, in a West Coast offense that ran more crossing patterns then I could ever count. We put Colt McCoy into the same offense despite the fact that he was a Hail Mary at best. We jerked around Brady Quinn so many times I don't know if he ever stood a chance.
Right now no one has a chance here in Cleveland. The fact that Joe Thomas, Joe Haden and Alex Mack have been standouts during this turbulence tells me two things;
- They are absurdly talented. If they were in stable organizations with consistent leadership they would probably be better than they are here, which is scary.
- Maybe they just play the two of the three positions (Running Back being the other) that are affected the least during coaching changes.
At the end of the day, because of our current* defense, I wouldn't have resigned Jabaal Sheard and I wish him the best. He is heading to a place that will use him in the best way possible and he should flourish. One day maybe we can be that place.
*(Note current defense subject to sudden and drastic changes)
See you next Sunday.