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Potential offensive minds to bring in to help this lackluster Browns attack

All of the offensive pieces seem to already in place for a bright mind to mold

Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Needless to say, not only was the Browns’ 2022 season a huge disappointment but there were lots of issues in areas that were considered to group considered strong points.

The offensive line was seen as one of the three best units in the league, yet against Pittsburgh, they allowed.....what? Seven sacks? Was that all?

Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders
Amari Cooper
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Weren’t these receivers supposed to have breakout years? Only Amari Cooper had a banner year and was named an alternate to this year’s Pro Bowl.

The tight end group was deep with David Njoku and his new contract, Mackey Award winner Harrison Bryant, and then a revolving door of younger players.

Three running backs, two have been named Pro Bowlers, who could start for a number of clubs to ground and pound every defense into submission.

And the offense drafted a kicker in the fourth round who had a strong leg and got a name for himself for booting kicks from long range.

And a $230 million quarterback to meld all of these ingredients together.

So, why didn’t all this compute into a winning season? Maybe scoring was the problem, except Cleveland scored the second most points in the division.

At the conclusion of this season, the Browns’ offense ranked 18th in the league. Las Vegas was better. So was Atlanta. And Jacksonville.

Under head coach Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland has put up records of 11-5-0, 8-9-0, and 7-10-0. Aren’t coaching success stories the opposite? One team’s coordinator is hired by the Browns who won only three games the previous year, then they win seven games followed by an eight-win campaign, and finally an 11-win season with a playoff berth. Isn’t that usually the story? So why is Cleveland stuck in reverse?

Problems, issues, and disappointments are everywhere on this year’s offense.

Nick Chubb had a great year finishing third in the league. Cooper was 12th in receiving yards. Left guard Joel Bitonio was once again the rock of the offensive line. All three were named to the Pro Bowl.

But there were lots of expectations that were never met.

Njoku was ranked 58th in total yards. Wasn’t he supposed to be our own George Kittle or Travis Kelce? His number was 110 catches for 1,338 with 12 touchdowns. Njoku’s total yards was just 58 receptions for 628 yards with a mere four scores.

Kelce’s cap hit this year is $8.44 million. Njoku’s is $8.39 million. So, they are basically getting paid the same, yet the numbers are way off as far as production for Cleveland. Correct? When will our guy be like their guy?

The idea is that this offense is about ready to explode. It was ready this year. What will it take? Perhaps somebody to call plays and take all the pieces to see where they fit.

NFL: NOV 14 Browns at Patriots
Chad O’Shea
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We don’t know where OC Alex Van Pelt fits in going forward, but if it is just him and Stefanski, expect the same results in 2023 that happened this year. What about Callie Brownson? Is this the year she gets an opportunity to call plays? Has she ever? She was the head coach of the 2022 U.S. Women’s Tackle National Team so maybe she has.

How about making a case for passing game coordinator/WR coach Chad O’Shea? He will be entering his 20th year coaching and was Brian Flores’ OC with the Miami Dolphins if he would become next season’s DC. O’Shea spent 10 years under the Bill Belichick regime under offensive guru Josh McDaniels and is a former college quarterback. In 19 NFL seasons, the teams he has been associated with have won 12 division titles, five conference championships, and three Super Bowls (XLIX, LI, and LIII). Why isn’t he being groomed as a play caller?

O’Shea interviewed for the Jets’ offensive coordinator vacancy last week and Baltimore on Monday. All of this interest means he has talent on that side of the ball. Have the Browns been missing out on something here? Should they be looking at him deeper as an offensive guy or even the future play caller?

If not, why don’t the Browns bring in an offensive guru? Here are three to consider.


Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kliff Kingsbury

Currently, he was spotted in the unemployment line. He won’t languish there for very long. Will Kingsbury return to college football and become a head coach once again? Will he remain in the NFL? If the latter is true, he is at the top of our list.

Kingsbury is an air raid specialist and understands the passing game. He could be given the keys to this offense and told to run with it.

His first coaching gig was with the University of Houston whose quarterback was Case Keenum. With Kingsbury calling all the plays, that program’s offense exploded with multiple D-1 passing records averaging 50 points a game and nearly 600 yards of offense generated each game. Keenum threw for over 5,000 yards in three separate seasons.

Houston led the nation in total yards per game (599.1), points scored per game (49.3), passing first downs per game (18.4), passing touchdowns per game (3.9), and completions per game (34.2), In 2011, Kingsbury was named Offensive Coordinator of the Year, a season in which Keenum passed for 5,631 yards and 48 passing touchdowns.

In 2012 Kingsbury was hired as the OC at Texas A&M led the SEC in most offensive categories and was the only offense ranked in the Top 15 of all NCAA categories for the offense. Kingsbury was named the 2012 Footballscoop.com Offensive Coordinator of the Year.

He was hired as the head coach at Texas Tech beginning in 2013 in which he was college football’s third youngest head coach. In just his third season he had the Red Raiders ranked second in the nation in total offense. Here is the list: 2013 – #24; 2014 – #55; 2015 - #2; 2016 – #5; 2017 - #23; 2018 - #17.

Kingsbury took the Cardinals job after already signing a contract with USC to be their OC in 2019.

What was odd about Kingsbury and the Cardinals, is after last year and that 7-0-0 and 10-2-0 start, Arizona owner Michael Bidwell threw a ton of money at this head coach in the form of a six-year extension worth $30 million that would keep both franchise leader in Arizona through the 2027 season.

RELATED: THE GREAT IRONY ABOUT KLIFF KINGSBURY

The ownership felt that Kingsbury had been one of the key factors in the team’s turnaround over the last three seasons. And to an extent, he certainly was. Arizona went 11-6-0 last year which played them in the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season. The Cardinals then lost in the first round to eventual Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams.

And all the while the Cards improved each year from five wins in 2019, eight in 2020, and then 11. So the patience paid off until this season when the wheels fell off with a four-win season. Kingsbury was fired in early January as the ink hadn’t even dried on his extension. His record in Arizona was 28-37-1.

In 2019 the Cardinals’ offense was ranked 21st. 2020 saw an improvement to a #6 ranking. The next season they were ranked #8 while this year Arizona fell to 22.

Kingsbury’s offensive scheme requires one important component to succeed: a quality quarterback. That box is already checked with the Browns. Perhaps a little Kingsbury Air Raid will do this offense some good.


Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Frank Reich

Okay, okay. This is yet another former NFL head coach who found himself fired. We get that. But many a great coordinator has found out that the head guy’s job is a lot more difficult and complex than being tied to just one group. Norv Turner and Wade Phillips are great examples of this fact.

Reich, age 61, is an accomplished offensive mind and the fact that he has head coaching pedigree is a plus with Browns’ management.

The former quarterback had stints at OC with San Diego and Philadelphia before being named head coach with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. He was the OC when the Eagles won their Super Bowl. Reich turned a four-win club into a 10-6-0 record in his first year in which they won one playoff game before getting beat by Kansas City. After a 7-9-0 season, the Colts rebounded with an 11-5-0 record but lost 27-24 to Buffalo on their only playoff game.

In that 2018 season, Indy was the league’s #7 offense and gained an average of 386.2 yards per game. They slipped in 2019 when their QB Andrew Luck abruptly retired and Jacoby Brissett was inserted, but the offense rebounded nicely in 2020 as the NFL’s 10th-ranked ranked offensive unit averaging the ninth most points per contest and 10th most total points scored.

Triangle reads are an integral facet of how Reich designs his passing attack which is a West Coast offense staple. Triangle reads are a fairly simplistic ingredient of a passing game that a lot of football fans aren’t aware of. The goal is to isolate two defenders in a challenging three on two scenarios.

In the passing game, this places three receivers who then attack three different zones. This usually becomes a deep read plus two short reads. As long as the quarterback has adequate vision and is able to trust their reads, this play design should cause just enough hesitation on defense to lead to completion.

This will cause one defender to defend two offensive teammates by playing in between them. A defender cannot be between three teammates, thus the term “triangle.”

Reich’s experience as a head coach coupled with his offensive scheme could make Cleveland’s offensive unit glow next year.


Ohio State v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Brian Hartline – Ohio State offensive coordinator/WR coach

The NFL is not college football. We all know this. The main difference is that in college you are dealing with young men and teenagers whereas in the pros these are grown-ass men who now own houses with mortgages and insurance, and get paid handsomely. However, there aren’t any finals to be concerned with or GPAs.

Hartline, age 36, is the former passing game coordinator for Ohio State which has had a bevy of successes at the highest level in college in a very tough conference. He has achieved quite a bit in a short time and has a knack for figuring things out while making adjustments.

He played for Cleveland in 2015 after being drafted in 2009 by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round. By 2011 he was the starting wide receiver. The next season he was in and out as the league’s top receiver and eclipsed the 1,000-mark with 1,083 yards. The following year he had 1,016 yards. He then signed a five-year deal worth $31 million, but a PCL injury in the last game sidelined him for the conclusion of the 2013 season.

The next year he inked a two-year deal with Cleveland which gave their offense a proven possession receiver. So by bringing in Hartline it is not perceived as strictly a college hire.

After leaving the Browns after only one season, he began his coaching career at his alma mater with Ohio State as the offensive quality control assistant and worked his way up the ladder.

The AFCA “35 Under 35” list included Hartline in 2020 and in the same year he was named “National Recruiter of the Year” by 24/7 Sports.

The website @on3sports named Hartline the national “Wide Receivers Coach of the Year” in both 2021 as well as 2022.

Hartline is so effective and good at his job. His position as wide receiver coach annually puts out some of the best in the country who instantly become household names in the NFL. His football acronym goes well beyond actively getting in recruits.

Hartline is an intelligent man and a rising star in college circles who is well-versed in the landscape of the NFL and could really help the Browns.

Poll

How do you feel about the Browns bringing in an offensive guru who would work this offense call plays?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Am for it: Like Kingsbury
    (170 votes)
  • 21%
    Am for it: Like Reich
    (118 votes)
  • 21%
    Am for it: Like Hartline
    (118 votes)
  • 10%
    Am for it: Like one of the assistants in-house
    (56 votes)
  • 6%
    Am for it: Like another name not mentioned
    (35 votes)
  • 9%
    Don’t like the idea at all
    (54 votes)
551 votes total Vote Now