I believe that the best thing that has happened to the Cleveland Browns is the new owner Jimmy Haslam. He is an accomplished businessman and I have full confidence in him.
I was asked by Matthew Thompson, a reader, to suggest what I would do were I the new owner. The critical issue is what can be done now to turn the fortunes of the franchise around. The plans have to not only make the team better now but provide the building blocks for the future.
Studies of the last 30 Super Bowl teams indicate that the roster must contain 33 Super Bowl quality players (SBQ). The definition of a SBQ player is one that would start on a winning team. So the goal of this group of articles will be to take the Browns from the current roster to that level.
I believe the Browns have six SBQ players on the roster now, with another seven potential SBQ players. The current SBQ list includes OT Joe Thomas, OC Alex Mack, RB Trent Richardson, CB Joe Haden, DT Ahtyba Rubin and MLB D'Qwell Jackson. While K Phil Dawson is also at that level, it is unlikely he will be with the team when the Browns approach Super Bowl level.
Potential SBQ players include DT Phil Taylor, DE Jabaal Sheard, DT Billy Winn, LB James-Michael Johnson, LB Craig Robertson, SS T.J. Ward and, yes, QB Brandon Weeden. The usual percentage of potential SBQ players that get to that level is 50 percent. So, assuming four of these players get to SBQ level, the team would have 10. That is far short of the 33 that most teams need to get to a Super Bowl.
So what should be done in the 2012 season to build a foundation for the future growth of the franchise?
First, I would fire both head coach Pat Shurmur and club president Mike Holmgren. These two have shown no sense of urgency to win. That laid back attitude has allowed the losing culture in the organization to perpetuate. The firings would also send a message to the team and the fanbase that anything less than winning will not be tolerated.
I would name Brad Childress interim head coach. I would immediately begin a real coaching search that would go well beyond those represented by agent Bob LaMonte.
I would also replace WR coach Mike Wilson and special teams coach Chris Tabor. These two coaches have let their players down by not developing them. That is the worse accusation an analyst can make against a coach.
Second, I would make some critical cuts. Fullback Owen Marecic is not getting the job done. He, along with LB Scott Fujita, would go. By playing Fujita, Shurmur has delayed the development of the younger, faster LBs. I never want to see 99 chasing a TE down the field again.
I would also cut LB Tank Carder, who should go on the practice squad. He is not ready for the NFL but has shown some promise. I would also demote CB Johnson Bademosi to the practice squad.
In the place of the four released players, I would promote TE/H-Back Brad Smelley and WR Josh Cooper to the roster. Cooper would give Weeden a security blanket to throw to, while Smelley blocked for Richardson at Alabama.
No one knows better how to break Richardson open better than Smelley. I would also sign S Oshiomogho Atogwe, who is a former pro bowler with good range. He is 31 years old but is far better than anyone the Browns have.
I would also sign a veteran unrestricted free agent WR. My choice would be Chad Johnson.
He is an outstanding worker and has never caused an issue on the field or in the locker room. His work ethic and crisp patterns would help the teams' WRs develop. He would be a good year or two stop-gap to help Weeden.
I would suggest that defensive coordinator Dick Jauron start the two rookie LBs. They have potential and Robertson has proven he has the speed and instincts to justify the decision.
I would also start his choice of the young CBs and let Sheldon Brown play nickel. The team needs to develop the young CBs, because Brown is too slow to start next year.
None of these changes are going to bring the Browns out of the basement of the AFC North this year. But each would build a base for future improvement. The Browns will still secure a top three draft choice in 2013.
There are three things that Haslam has to do. First, Haslam needs to give the good players and fans proof that he wants to change the culture. The Browns are in danger of losing the best players to free agency if the culture is not changed, soon.
Next, he has to light a fire under the entire team. The firing of Shurmur and Holmgren should help show the team and staff that losing is not acceptable. But the team needs to see that the boss is committed to making the team better.
Third, he has to make the two rookies taste success early in their careers. That is particularly important with Weeden. Weeden needs a lot of help at WR and he needs it before next season. He will profit from throwing to both Cooper and a veteran WR. It will help develop him as a QB and calm the concern of the fans about him.
In the next article, I will discuss the free agent moves I would make in the upcoming off season.
That’s what I think, tell us what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/ and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.
He edits http://fryingpanpolitics.org/. Also listen to the best Sports Talk anywhere on the Internet and hear his sports show Monday-Thursday 6-7:30 PM EST on or http://mooheadradio.com/2.5/?page_id=21. You can catch any interviews you missed on http://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/.