Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey made what was likely the easiest call in NFL history when he fired head coach Hue Jackson in October.
Now comes the hard part.
The Browns will be one of the group of teams in the mix for a head coach this off-season, and just like the quarterback situation last spring, there is no room for error on Dorsey’s part.
Gregg Williams has made a case to stay on as the head coach with the way the Browns have played since he took over. A win on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens will give Williams a 6-2 mark, which is hard to ignore.
Just as hard to ignore is that Williams did not exactly cover himself in glory with the Buffalo Bills, where he was head coach from 2001 to 2003, going 17-31. Williams has cycled through five teams since then as defensive coordinator, and never had serious consideration as a head coach.
So if it is not Williams, then who will Dorsey turn to?
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer has a few thoughts, which he shared on Thursday at si.com. And while every name that Breer floats out is clearly better than Jackson, the options from a group that a “prominent agent” considers the “weakest he’s seen in decades” are not very enticing.
The first name that Breer links to the Browns is Adam Gase, who has been orchestrating a three-year downfall of the Miami Dolphins:
I’m told other clubs are monitoring this one. It’s not crazy to think a team like Cleveland, which tried to interview Gase on the recommendation of Jimmy Haslam’s buddy Peyton Manning in 2014, then did interview him in ‘16, could lay in the weeds, with Baker Mayfield as bait.
It’s true that the Browns showed some interest in Gase, primarily because Manning considers Gase the best offensive coach he worked with during his career. Of course the Browns now have three years of evidence to evaluate those claims, and three years of the Dolphins being at the bottom of the league’s rankings on offense should be enough to not revisit Gase as a head coaching candidate.
Breer then goes to another familiar name:
As for the Browns and what I believe, again, is a wide-open search, remember that Jimmy and Dee Haslam have kicked the tires on a lot of coaches over the last few years. Gase was one they liked. Another: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The big question on McDaniels would be more about how he’d mesh with GM John Dorsey.
Being able to work effectively with Dorsey should certainly be a pre-requisite for any coaching candidate. But the bigger question should be: why does anyone in the NFL still believe it is a smart play to pick from the Bill Belichick coaching tree? Just ask the Detroit Lions how well that is working out for them.
There are also a couple of college coaches who Dorsey could at least reach out to. Most notably is Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who clearly knows quarterback Baker Mayfield as well as anyone.
But there is another name that Breer points to, and it is one that has a twist that would certainly appeal to Browns fans:
I’d expect Iowa State’s Matt Campbell’s name to surface in more than one place—a couple people on the scouting trail brought his name to me in September, and I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback on him since. He’s a Northeast Ohio native (he’s actually from the same town as Paul Brown), so Cleveland would certainly be interesting, and he’s the type of hire that may allow the Browns to make a run at holding on to Freddie Kitchens.
Keeping Kitchens, who has quickly meshed with Mayfield and has been running the type of exciting offense last seen in these parts from Lindy Infante, would keep the fan base revved up. But is that enough for Dorsey to take a gamble on Campbell, who has only been a head coach at the college level? And who, despite all the publicity, has only gone 19-18 in his three years at Iowa State?
There is little doubt that Dorsey already has a plan in place for finding the next head coach.
The hard part is executing the plan.