Assessing Job Security for Key Members of the Cleveland Browns Coaching Staff
Two games remain in the Cleveland Browns season and the team's mathematical playoff chances were officially wiped out last Sunday.
Following that disappointing loss to Washington, now seems like the perfect time to assess job security for the key members of Cleveland's coaching staff.
Having a new CEO in Joe Banner that will be calling the shots alongside new owner Jimmy Haslam leaves everyone's job up in the air.
This article will assess the job security of the Cleveland Browns' coaching staff based solely off of the 2012 campaign and whether or not each individual member has done enough to keep their job for next season.
Let the judgement begin!
Quarterbacks Coach: Mark Whipple
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His claim to fame in the pros came in Pittsburgh from 2004-06 when, under Whipple's tutelage, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger set rookie records in passer rating (98.1 percent) and completion percentage (66.4 percent).
During Roethlisberg's second season in 2005, he became the youngest starting NFL quarterback ever to win a Superbowl.
Whipple's resume also includes a head coaching gig at the University of Massachusetts, where his club was victorious in the 1998 NCAA Division 1-AA National Championship.
A coach can only control so much, and this Cleveland team is certainly not the 2004 Steelers.
That being said, first-year quarterback Brandon Weeden has not shown the steady progression expected of a potential franchise starter.
Rookies naturally go through ups and downs, however, Weeden seems unable to make adjustments on reoccurring errors.
A league high 21 batted balls, the highest interception total (17) in the league and a 32nd overall ranking in passer rating (72.4) will rightly or wrongly raise some questions about the quarterbacks coach.
Whipple didn't win any job security points this past weekend versus the Redskins, when Weeden tossed a pair of drive killing picks to the NFL's 30th ranked pass defense.
Sunday in Denver will be a huge game for both the first-round draft choice and his QB coach.
The Broncos are ranked eighth in passing yards allowed and possess the sack machine known as Von Miller.
If improvements are not seen in decision making and overall quarterback play then many a finger will be pointed at Whipple asking why Weeden continues to struggle.
Someone has got to take the fall for below-average quarterback play.
It may not be fair, but if Shurmur stays on, then the Browns need some fresh blood and new ideas at the QB coach position.
Special Teams Coordinator: Chris Tabor
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Coming in with the Pat Shurmur regime in January of 2011, Chris Tabor brings a blend of coaching experience from high school, college, and the NFL.
Prior to joining the Browns as special teams coordinator, Tabor was an assistant special teams coach in Chicago from 2008-2010.
His success with the Bears was tremendous.
During Tabor's tenure, Chicago led the league in kickoff and total return yards, were second in kickoff return average and third in punt return defense.
Scoring six kick returns for touchdowns during those three seasons also tied the team for second overall in the NFL. All statistics can be found on the Cleveland Browns website
The special teams unit has been hot and cold through the first 14 games, which is to be expected from a Browns squad with 17 rookies.
The biggest treat for this unit has been Phil "The Foot" Dawson connecting on 26-of-27 field goal attempts. Coincidence or not, the veteran kicker is having a career season under Tabor.
They currently sit fourth in total yards returned on kickoffs (1,138), which is up from ninth in 2011.
Especially prior to the bye week, several big run backs by Josh Cribbs were being negated because of penalty trouble.
But the Benedictine College graduate has reigned in the majority of that sloppy play since the bye, and he has done a solid job developing this inexperienced group.
The statistics speak for themselves.
Special teams is an asset to the club and is getting continuously better with Tabor in charge.
Travis Benjamin's 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in the victory over Kansas City provides a glimpse into the future success of this unit.
Chris Tabor deserves to keep his job.
Defensive Coordinator: Dick Jauron
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He was named Cleveland's defensive coordinator in January of 2011.
Generally considered one of the top defensive minds in the game today, Jauron also won the Associated Press Coach of the Year Award in 2001 while heading up the Chicago Bears.
That season the Bears were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in passing defense and rushing defense.
Strictly as a defensive coordinator, Jauron had previous stops in Detroit and Jacksonville.
Coming off a top-10 defensive ranking last season, on the surface, this current unit may look like a step back.
Ranking 25th against the pass and 19th versus the run are not numbers that are going to impress the masses.
However, the defensive line has four more sacks then all of 2011 combined with 36. That is without having the monster Phil Taylor for the first eight games and also with Ahtyba Rubin battling nagging injuries.
Rookie linemen Billy Winn and John Hughes have stepped in and are now impact players on that formidable D-Line.
The linebacking corps was in a similar next-man-up situation when Chris Gocong was injured in training camp and veteran Scott Fujita was knocked out for the year.
Undrafted Craig Robertson burst onto the scene and has been a consistent contributor. A tip of the cap also goes to Kaluka Maiava, who needed to take on a much bigger role then originally expected.
Interceptions are up significantly from Jauron's inaugural season—16 in 2012 compared to nine in 2011—and though there are only two games remaining, this group has shown that it is getting much more comfortable with his scheme.
Keeping the 4-3 defense simple allows for an easier plug-and-play if starters go down. The Yale University alum receives solid execution overall and his troops play hard for him.
Thanks to an inconsistent offense, Jauron's crew has been forced to be the difference makers far too often.
Being on the field longer will eventually wear any defense down, which partly explains the dip in their rating.
He deserves to stay on and continue to grow this talented young group, whether a change at head coach occurs or not.
Offensive Coordinator: Brad Childress
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The newest member of this Cleveland Browns coaching staff, Brad Childress, joined the club as offensive coordinator prior to the 2012 season.
Bringing an astounding 33 years of combined coaching experience from the NCAA and the NFL, he helped lead the Minnesota Vikings to consecutive division titles in 2008 and 2009 as the team's head coach.
Childress was a key member of the Philadelphia Eagles organization from 1999-2005 as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
One of his greatest accomplishments was grooming Eagles QB Donovan McNabb into arguably the NFC's top gun-slinger.
As an offensive coordinator from 2001-2005, he lead a dominant offense that ranked in the league's top-10 twice and averaged 333.8-yards per game.
Childress' true function in this offense was a bit of a mystery until it was made clear a few weeks into the schedule.
Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote, "Shurmur said he and offensive coordinator Brad Childress, who works from a press-box booth, collaborate on the plays before the coach relays them to Weeden. They also must decide on the proper personnel groupings."
The delayed play calling troubles were addressed during the bye week, and there have been no blatant timeouts based on confusion taken since this time.
Awkward third- or fourth-and-short decisions to throw the ball instead of running their feature back appear to be a thing of the past as well.
Cleveland's attack was an over-simplified West Coast offense that became far too easy for defenses to anticipate.
As of late, the use of Josh Cribbs in the Wildcat, Travis Benjamin in some reverses and even Greg Little lined up in the backfield have all spiced up a previously dull game plan.
Huge credit must go to both Childress and wide receivers coach Mike Wilson because the progression of Josh Gordon and Greg Little as go-to receivers is remarkable.
Each week, Gordon demonstrates a greater understanding of the offense and Little is finally cured of the drops. These are a pair of dynamic playmakers that will only get better as time goes on.
Childress falls under the same category as QB coach Mark Whipple in that he is supposed to be a strong developer of quarterbacks.
Since Brandon Weeden, to this point anyway, is not adapting or seemingly learning from his errors then it is the teachers who take the hit.
It is also difficult to gauge his general importance to play calling during a game since it is a collaboration of ideas between himself and Pat Shurmur.
Unless Childress is given the authority to be the man in Weeden's ear on Sundays then there is not much point in keeping him around.
Head Coach: Pat Shurmur
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In January 2011, Pat Shurmur was named as the 13th head coach in Cleveland Browns history.
After 22 seasons of coaching at the college and NFL ranks, this was Shurmur's first job at the helm of a team.
The Dearborn, Michigan native has developed a reputation of being able to mold young quarterbacks.
First, he worked alongside Brad Childress in Philadelphia to develop Donovan McNabb.
With Shurmur as QB coach, McNabb enjoyed his most successful campaign in 2004 and posted a passer rating of 104.7.
In addition, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions.
After leaving the Eagles, the Michigan State alum took his talents to St. Louis as offensive coordinator in 2009.
The job Shurmur did with 2010 first overall pick, Sam Bradford, is what made the Cleveland brain trust feel that he was the right man to guide their young quarterback, Colt McCoy.
Bradford set rookie QB records for completions (354), and his 3,512 passing yards were the second-most all-time by a first-year player.
It's been a turbulent 14 games for Pat Shurmur in 2012.
He went from being the long-term solution under former president Mike Holmgren, to being uncertain if the new ownership regime will keep him around.
Also, when you throw in an inconsistent rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden along with players such as Josh Cribbs and Trent Richardson questioning his offensive strategy, it makes things tough.
Cribbs complained on multiple occasions that the coaching staff does not know how to use him effectively.
Richardson commented that it was "shocking" that he only carried the ball twice in the second half of last week's loss to Washington.
Despite those situations, however, Shurmur does seem to have control of the locker room.
The youngest team in the NFL battles every game, having only been defeated in two of their nine losses by more than 10 points.
However, there have definitely been concerns—a major one being the lack of communication on play calling.
Getting timely decisions into Weeden had been a problem during several matchups, but never more so than in the 25-15 loss to Baltimore in Week 9.
The Browns burned three timeouts, including two in a single second quarter series, because they were unable to get plays called and the right personnel lined up fast enough.
Cleveland's bye week followed and Shurmur told reporters, "I'll take full responsibility for all of it. We can streamline some things."
To his credit, the communication on offense during the five contests since has run much more smoothly.
Predictable and questionable third down calls, particularly on short yardage scenarios, were also troubles that plagued the head coach earlier in 2012.
Throwing a screen pass to Chris Ogbonnaya on third-and-short became so predictable that opposing defenses would automatically swarm the target.
Not handing off to your first-round pick running back, Trent Richardson, in those situations also raised eyebrows.
Like the indecisive play calling, these issues also seem to be generally taken care of.
Are all of the improvements too little, too late?
Shurmur's fate lives and dies with Brandon Weeden.
The head coach makes it clear on a regular basis that No. 3 is his quarterback and nothing outside of an injury is going to change that.
The Browns' coaching staff is littered with QB experts in Mark Whipple, Brad Childress and Shurmur himself.
Of course they can only do so much and then it is up to Weeden to execute.
A league leading 21 batted balls as well as the almost constant uncertainty of where and when to release the ball all point to regression.
If ownership had not changed hands then Shurmur would have been given more time.
The new regime will want to put their own stamp on this franchise. Unfortunately for the current head coach, that will not involve him.
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam
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Denver and Pittsburgh round out the Browns 2012 schedule.
Both are upper-echelon caliber clubs that have something to play for and are tough on either side of the ball.
Will Cleveland's coaching staff be able to bounce back from the smackdown that Washington gave them a week ago?
Can enough be done to prove to ownership that they are worthy of a return?
The clock is ticking. Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner will be watching and evaluating now closer than ever.