Cleveland Coaching Perspectives
Not sure if anyone has heard this yet, but the Cleveland Browns have fired last year’s coaching staff and decided to start anew. What? This is old news? Oh well…time to move on to other endeavors. Wait…how many actually know much about this new staff? Well then, this shall now be the overlying topic of conversation. Hold on to your seats because this will be a fact filled ride chalk full of interesting minutiae.
January 7th 2009 marked the latest reboot of the Cleveland Browns franchise when team owner Randy Lerner hired former New York Jets’ head coach Eric Mangini to serve in the same function for his organization. In doing so Mangini becomes the twelfth official head coach in franchise history following in the footsteps of greats like Paul Brown, Blanton Collier, Marty Schottenheimer, and even his own mentor Bill Belichick. The rise of this former collegiate nose tackle to the NFL ranks is well documented and has now come full circle. This latest head man in charge started as a ball boy for the Browns. He worked his way up to making coffee. Then he was anointed the staff’s go-fer. Coach Belichick even remarked recently at the NFL Combine that he nearly fired his young ward after Mangini had a car accident while transporting an official team member. Those days are now long gone and an official NFL head coach has taken the place of that once determined neophyte. He began his official career in coaching as an assistant on the 1995 Browns’ squad. Then he worked his way up to quality control coach after the team’s move to Baltimore under Ted Marchibroda. This driven candidate served in a similar capacity with the Jets until 1999. Finally, he was granted a positional coaching position for the first time in 2000. Once again under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick, Mangini served as the Patriots’ secondary coach for four years. Ironically, Mangini was tapped to replace Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator when the old sage garnered an opportunity in becoming Cleveland’s eleventh full time head coach. In 2006, Eric Mangini was granted his first head coaching job with the New York Jets. As the Jets head man, he was able to amass a 23 wins and 25 losses. The team did make the playoffs once during his three seasons manning the team’s chief leadership role. Coach Mangini was let go after a disappointing second half finish in 2008. Now, Eric Mangini will look to step into a situation many no longer see as one of the top positions in all of football. A once great franchise has fallen on hard times and this latest in a formerly great line of coaches will look to resurrect a storied history via means of discipline and preparedness.
Offensive play calling duties have now befallen Brian Daboll. This is the former New York Jets quarterbacks coach’s first foray into a coordinator position. A position which did not appear destined to be his initially. Head Coach Eric Mangini appeared to prefer his old offensive coordinator from his Jets tenure, Bill Callahan. Callahan was not released from his New York contract, and Daboll was handed the job by default. Prior to his experiences with the Jets, Daboll served dutifully under Bill Belichick and his New New England Patriots as a wide receiver coach. Daboll even has a year experience as a defensive assistant. This collegiate safety brings Charlie Weis’ west coast system to Cleveland’s north coast and will look to mentor Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson hoping one realizes his potential. Overall, the newly minted offensive coordinator will look to resurrect an offense which was proclaimed dead upon arrival after last year’s futility.
The rest of the offensive staff is rounded out by running backs coach Gary Brown, quarterbacks coach Carl Smith, offensive line coach George Warhop, the recently promoted wide receivers coach George McDonald, and the return of another former Browns assistant in tight ends coach Steve Hagen. One name in particular automatically pops off the page when looking at their potential contributions. George McDonald is a very interesting case. This young and rising coaching candidate was initially hired in the middle of February as an offensive quality control assistant. Just mere weeks ago, McDonald was promoted to wide receivers coach. Coach Mangini appeared leery to elevate this former Minnesota Golden Gopher but their experiences together while breaking down the teams’ recent wide receiver additions via the draft finally garnered the quick advancement. George McDonald will play a vital role in the offense developing these young talents as well as trying to get superstar Braylon Edwards back on track. Past McDonald, Coach Mangini made sure to hire experienced positional coaches to help in the eventual development of his offensive coordinator.
Defensive duties fall squarely on the ample shoulders of Rob Ryan. For those who do not know, Rob is the son of former defensive genius Buddy Ryan and the twin brother of current New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. This family has been well respected and liked around the league for decades. Some nepotism did occur for Rob to earn his first job which was as the Arizona Cardinals’ secondary coach under his father. He then moved on to his first coordinating job, but at the collegiate level for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Then the Patriots came calling naming Ryan their linebacker’s coach. Rob recently left a less than successful five year stint with the Oakland Raiders. During his time in Oakland, this coordinator was not able to successfully apply his precious 34 scheme and as a result seemed to lack any comfort within his own defense. The results were a progressive deterioration of statistics of said unit each year under his supervision. Only 2006 bucked the trend when the Raiders finished in the top ten in overall defense. This was the only instance where a Ryan led defense finished out of the bottom ten in the league. Some may argue the dabbling of a loony owner had somewhat of a negative effect, but Ryan would never claim as such. Instead, Rob Ryan will enter Cleveland looking to mold this defense in his particular image and the bar has been set low in accordance to potential marked improvement.
Fleshing out the rest of Rob Ryan’s defensive coaching staff, these names include: defensive line coach Bryan Cox, defensive quality control coach Andy Dickerson, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, along with defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson. Two names immediately catch the eye for differing reasons. Bryan Cox is a name many NFL fans should know well. The fiery former middle linebacker forged quite a reputation for himself throughout his playing years. Many may still remember the scene of Cox “saluting” a Buffalo home crowd on one occasion. Why he is such an interesting addition to this staff, particularly handling defensive line duties, is the reputation which precedes his best player Shaun Rogers. “Big Baby” has been rightly or wrongly labeled as lazy at times. Cox’s demeanor will simply not allow any of his players to fall into this trap. He could light that consistent fire throughout the entire season and finally see the absolute best out of one of the best in the game. Whereas Matt Eberflus comes with much less fanfare and overall experience. This will be his first NFL job. This is certainly surprising considering the emphasis placed on the linebacking position within a 34 base defense. His previous coaching experience extends no further than the collegiate ranks. Though Eberflus did serve as defensive coordinator for the Missouri Tigers the past few seasons. Past the coordinator, this will prove to be a young and relatively inexperienced defensive coaching staff.
Often overshadowed is the extreme importance of the special teams coordinator. Brad Seely takes the mantle in this latest Browns incarnation. Seely may not be the type of personality recently seen by Cleveland fans in regards to their special teams coach, but his vast experience is a key reason as to why he was also named assistant head coach. Seely has spent twenty one seasons as a coach in the National Football League. All of those years serving as a special teams coach. The past decade was among his New England Patriot brethren which generally saw his third of the game excel. Brad Seely will prove to be the wise old hand on this staff and will help to create some stability and accountability within their ranks.
As critical as it is to hire the right head coach, it is nearly as important when hiring those which fill out the rest of the coaching openings. In this particular instance, head coach Eric Mangini has done a solid job landing some of the more coveted individuals throughout the league while also allowing some younger prospects to develop under the bright lights of the NFL. The overriding will continue question to remain after this hiring, will Eric Mangini live up to his billing as “Man-genius” or will his Browns squads look more like the New York Jets seen the last half of 2008?
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