Dec 302013
 

Mike ShanahanIt’s that time of year… the day following the end of the regular season when NFL head coaches get shown the front door. We’ll keep a running commentary of any coaches fired over the course of the week leading up to the Wildcard Round.

Here are our coaching casualties to date:

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

OK, so the Texans got the jump of Black Monday a few weeks back by ousting Kubiak, which was a long time coming. Kubiak’s job was hanging on precarious threads a few times in the past, and even when the team was successful they managed to find ways to underachieve. But this year’s total collapse was the final straw in Houston. Bill O’Brien is the early front-runner, but the Texans will be looking at several candidates, including former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith.

Rob Chudzkinski, Cleveland Browns

I’m not sure I get this one. Sure, the Browns were 4-12 this season and can be accused of under-performing, but I’m not entirely sure that Chud was the problem. The team has been laden with personnel issues from the previous regime, and is still lacking consistent quarterback play. Given that the Browns fleeced the Colts for a first-round pick, I would have loved to see what Chud could have done with the addition of two first round picks and an improving defense next season. But the Cleveland brass seems to have needed a scapegoat, and Chud gets the honors.

Mike Shanahan, Washington Football Club

Like there was any doubt about this one. Sure, Daniel Snyder hates to part with money, but it was pretty obvious he would pay just about anything to be rid of Shanahan and his staff. Let me be honest, I think Shanahan is one of the most overrated coaches in NFL history, two Super Bowl wins not withstanding. His 55% winning percentage includes two Super Bowl wins, which he never would have gotten without John Elway, and he has had seven losing campaigns (along with three 8-8 seasons) in his twenty year career as a head coach. He finishes 24-40 after four years in Washington, along win one playoff appearance in last year’s loss to Seattle.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings

It’s hard to argue with this one after the Vikings fell off a good 2013 campaign, and the year was undermined by Frazier’s inability to settle on a quarterback that he could get consistent play from. The team went from 10-6 last year to 5-10-1 this season. Coupled with the Vikings’ refusal to extend his contract after last season’s success, Frazier looked like a prime candidate to lose his job as the Vikes plummeted in the standings. Early reports link Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase (both of the Broncos) as possible replacements.

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay

Public discussion was back and forth on whether or not the Bucs had done enough at the end of the season to save Greg Schiano’s job. They didn’t. The Bucs cleared house on Monday, sending Schiano and his staff packing along with GM Mark Dominik. This may clear the way for Schiano and his sunny disposition to wind up at Penn State if an when Bill O’Brien leaves. The Bucs went 4-12 this season, and Schiano’s two-year tenure with the team netted an 11-21 record.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

Speaking of sunny dispositions and overrated coaches, Jim Schwartz is out in Detroit, and for good reason. The demise of the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season left the Lions an inside track to a division crown and playoff spot. The team’s response? To close the season with a 1-5 record over the last six games to finish at 7-9. While Schwartz deserves some credit for dispelling the culture of losing from the Lions, he failed to instill discipline in his team on or off the field, and was sometimes a coaching catastrophe on the sidelines. Schwartz had only one winning season in his five years in Detroit (10-6 in 2011), finishing with a 29-51 mark.

Along with the casualties, the New York Jets have given a vote of confidence to Head Coach Rex Ryan, in that they are allowing him to return in 2014 after a very good run by the Jets this season. There is still no word on a contract extension, but either way it is fair to assume that Ryan will once again be coaching for his job in 2014.

We are still waiting word on the fates of Leslie Frazier (Minnesota), Mike Munchak (Tennessee), Jim Schwartz (Detroit), Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay), and Jason Garrett (Dallas). My money is on Garrett and Munchak keeping their jobs, and Frazier, Schiano and Schwartz losing theirs. (Update: Right on Frazier. Right on Schwartz. Right on Schiano.)

(Update: Right on Garrett as well. Jerruh has committed to another year of him as GM, Garrett as coach, and a recovering Romo at QB. What could possibly go wrong?? Here’s to another 8-8 season, at best.)

Jun 112013
 

Rob Chudzinski6. Cleveland Browns
Head Coach: Rob Chudzinski
2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Offense: 302 points scored, 24th in points, 25th in yards (19th passing, 24th rushing)
2012 Defense: 368 points allowed, 19th in points, 23rd in yards (25th passing, 19th rushing)

 

Key Additions
Head Coach Rob Chudzinski , LB Paul Kruger, CB Kevin Barnes, DE Desmond Bryant, QB Jason Campbell, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Davone Bess, WR David Nelson, TE Kellen Davis, K Shayne Graham, LB Quentin Groves, CB Chris Owens, RB Dion Lewis, DE Barkevious Mingo, CB Leon McFadden

Key Losses
WR Josh Cribbs, K Phil Dawson, LB Scott Fujita, RB Brandon Jackson, WR Mohammed Massaquoi, LB Kaluka Maiava, DB Usuma Young, DB Sheldon Brown, TE Alex Smith, S Ray Ventrone, TE Ben Watson, DE Frostee Rucker

Why 2013 will be better
The Browns placed an off-season emphasis on defense, signing free agent linebacker Paul Kruger away from Baltimore. Kruger and D’Qwell Jackson now form the backbone of a solid linebacking corps, providing no rush for the Browns to work rookie Mingo into the rotation. The switch to a 3-4 front will see Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, and Ahtyba Rubin playing with their hands on the ground. On offense the Browns have improved their receiving corps, where the Browns are counting on castoffs Bess and Nelson to complement Josh Gordon, who will miss the first two games of the season for a drug policy violation (and seems to be one mistake away from losing a year), and Greg Little. Both Bess and Nelson are capable receivers, with Bess catching 61 passes in 2012 and Nelson accomplishing the same in 2011 before an injury made his miss all but one game last season.

Why 2013 will be worse
The Browns have not resolved the quarterback position, with a second year starter on a short leash in Weeden, a journeyman veteran who has started seven games over the past two seasons in Campbell, and a former Tom Brady backup who has started one NFL game in Hoyer. Suddenly the decision not to trade up for RGIII begs another glance. Trent Richardson had a mixed rookie season with 950 yards all 11 touchdowns, but a net of only 3.6 yards per carry. He is a durable back, but the offense on the whole simply lacks a lot of pop, and averaging more than last year’s 18.9 points per game is going to be a challenge. On the defensive side, the secondary has seen significant change, and Joe Haden anchors a unit that probably won’t scare too many teams. Rookie corner Leon McFadden appears set to start opposite Haden, while the safeties will be second year man Tashaun Gipson and TJ Ward.

Outlook
There is something to be said for bringing in Norv Turner to be the offensive coordinator. Turner seems better suited to this role than that of head coach, and if anyone is going to get Weeden playing well enough to make the Browns compete it will be Turner. Adding weapons at receiver doesn’t hurt, and having a solid offensive line gives the Browns the potential to surprise some teams. On the other side of the ball, switching to a 3-4 with an improved linebacking corps gives defensive coordinator Ray Horton the weapons he needs to try and disrupt opposing offenses. If the Browns can apply consistent quarterback pressure, they may be able to offset any concerns that exist in the secondary. The Browns appear capable of winning anywhere from 4 to 9 games this season, but I’ll place the over/under at 7. Consider it a good first step in banishing the “Factory of Sadness” moniker that is now the team’s unofficial slogan.

Mar 202013
 

FileCleveland_Browns_logo,_2006_to_presentAt this time of year we read about the winners and losers in free agency and analysts like to project how these additions or subtractions make teams better or worse. I am not one to say this team won and that team lost. Rather, I look at signing free agents as an opportunity to give the appearance of improvement. For instance, on paper the Baltimore Ravens look to be headed for a significant nose dive while the Miami Dolphins should be markedly better. Will this happen, I don’t know. This all leads me to provide some in depth “analysis” of my beloved Cleveland Browns.

They made some free agency noise, especially with the signings of Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. To be honest, I do not know if these moves are going to help the Browns at all. Rather, in examining their signings, it is clear that the new regime was not impressed with the previous administration and their approach to defense. The signings of Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves, and Desmond Bryant show that the new coaching staff believes there were a significant amount of holes to fill on defense.  As a fan, I thought that the offense needed a lot more of an overhaul. Clearly, Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, and Rob Chudzinski clearly disagree as they have only signed a backup tight end, Gary Barnidge for the offense.

I thought the Browns were going to sign a corner, a linebacker, wide receiver, and a quarterback to start free agency. Surprisingly, they did not go offense which is the biggest area for concern. Overall, I believe the Browns were able to fill holes and better their team. Now, will that translate to wins? I have no idea because there are too many what ifs at this point in the off-season. I believe a better assessment will take place post draft and pre-training camp. I have a feeling the Browns are going to make some dramatic moves prior to training camp. This is more of a hunch or reading tea leaves than any direct knowledge that I have gleaned.

All in all, free agency is a crap shoot. Some teams have benefited greatly over the years.  In the end, I applaud the Browns for addressing weaknesses they believe they need filled immediately, but I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon and say the Paul Kruger signing makes them a playoff contender. Hell, at this point the Browns do not have a kicker or viable punter on their roster. In the end, free agency is fun to talk about and imagine what if. It is not until they play the games that we find out if the risk was equal to the reward.