Mangini is gone and that also spells the end to Brian Dabol and the ineffective, confused offense in Cleveland. What is the next phase in Cleveland’s development? What changes will be made to make Cleveland a playoff team in 2011? This article will review where the team currently stands and if there are free agents or draft pick available that can help the Browns become relevant in the coming season.
Do not let the 5-11 record fool you—the Cleveland Browns made great strides in 2010. They became more competitive at several positions. A new coach versed in the west coast offense will allow the receiving corps will be more solid than expected. Free agency and the draft can push the Browns past the middle-of-the-pack status they have been famous for since their return in 1999.
Wide receivers have to run precision routes in the west coast offense and be able to make plays after the catch. Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie, Mohammed Massaquoi and Chansi Stuckey all fit the west coast system. This does not make them exceptional receivers, but it means they fit the system if it is put in place. The Browns will need to upgrade that position regardless of offensive system put in place.
Possible Draft Additions: The draft could yield a future playmaker in either A.J Green from Georgia, or Julio Jones from Alabama. Jones may be the more pro ready pick and fit the West Coast offense better. Both catch with their hands and have big play ability after the catch. Either can create a mismatch against a linebacker or nickel back, eventually developing into a No. 1 receiver.
Wild Card 1: Terrell Owens played in the west coast offense and is built for short crossing routes and to catch passes over the middle, much like he did in Dallas. He has shown there is still production in that body.
Coming off an injury should make his price tag much more affordable. The problem is that the west coast offense does not allow for improvisation, which T.O has shown to be a problem in Cincinnati. His attitude can be tempered as it will be hard for him to catch on with a team. He knows this is his last opportunity and his production has never been in question.
Wild Card 2: Vincent Jackson is still not signed to the long-term deal he is looking for in San Diego. Leaving sunny San Diego for the cold confines of Cleveland is unlikely, but in the NFL money talks. He is an exceptional talent and although he is not a typical west coast receiver Colt McCoy would appreciate at least one big physical target fighting for the ball in the red zone.
The Browns are solid at the tight end position with Ben Watson having a solid year and turning into Colt McCoy’s No. 1 target. Evan Moore has shown the soft hands and ability to get open. In a west coast offense all the receivers, backs and tight ends have to catch. Cleveland was fortunate to find Evan Moore and Ben Watson should have even more Chemistry next year.
Wild card: Owen Daniels was slowed by injuries but could be available and would add another set of hands and depth to a pretty strong tight end group.
Peyton Hillis will only be as strong as Cleveland’s second or third back. With the workload that was placed on Hillis this year, it was only a matter of time before the country strong beast broke down. Monterio Hardesty will be healthy next year but coming off another knee injury does not instill a lot of confidence. This is a position where the Browns can actually make a big move in the draft to add quality depth and secure a playmaker.
Possible Draft Additions: Going against what all the prognosticators are saying about how much the Browns need a receiver, they should grab Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram.
The running back situation in Cleveland is terrible once you get past Peyton Hillis. With Mark Ingram the Browns can extend Peyton Hillis’s career while adding another weapon that will reap immediate rewards. They could very well go with a receiver with their first pick, but Mark Ingram can reap many more returns.
Wild Card: Brian Westbrook understands the west coast offense and would be assured of quality playing time in a new Cleveland offense. He would understand the calls and be a good teacher for whoever else occupies the running back corps. With the uncertainty of what type of coach and offensive coordinator is coming to Sanfrancisco there is not real assurance they will make him an offer.
The right side of the offensive line has been problematic all year for the Browns and an upgrade is necessary if the team is to move forward. Shawn Lauvao showed promise and should be able to step into the right guard spot as a starter next year. Tony Pashos should be back healthy next year but the Cleveland needs to invest a higher round pick in a right tackle or right guard.
Possible Draft Addition: Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin could be had in the second round possibly if teams don’t project him as a starter on the left side. The Browns could install him instantly on the right side. He took over for Joe Thomas at Wisconsin.
At 6'7", 327 lbs he has the size to handle the right side and an elite first kick step. He would also give the Browns a solid back up should Joe Thomas be injured. His waist- bend is an issue and may scare some teams off, but that can be fixed with the right coaching. He has shown to have good punch and would definitely be an upgrade on the right side.
Wild Card: There really are not a lot of free agent linemen that are appealing other than Harvey Dahl, and Atlanta will not be letting him get out the door any time soon.
The Browns have three quarterbacks and it is clear that the team is placing Colt McCoy as the lead dog. Seneca Wallace provides a very solid backup to Colt with a lot of the same skills sets, although not as accurate. Jake Delhomme is just collecting a check at this point in his career and should be released. Bring in a good quarterbacks coach and Jake Delhomme is no longer needed in Cleveland.
Possible Draft Addition: There are not a lot of quality QBs coming out that are worth wasting drafts pick on, but Andy Dalton out of TCU has shown that he can play on the big stage. He can be a nice developmental quarterback for the pro game. He would have to adapt to the west coast system, but as the third-team quarterback he could have the time to get acquainted with the system and terminology.
Wild Card: Troy Smith is familiar with the division and is a younger version of Seneca Wallace. He has the leadership ability and would be content to hold a clip board if it was in Cleveland. He would be a solid backup to Colt McCoy and would offer a similar skill set with a stronger arm. Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Troy Smith would present a nice triad of mobile, quick-footed QBs.
Some offenses go from a quarterback that is a strict drop back passer to one that has a totally different skill set behind the starter. This changes the entire offensive scheme. In Troy Smith the Browns would get a complementary quarterback that can do all the things that they would ask of Colt McCoy.
Troy Smith showed flashes with the 49ers and had no time to digest the playbook. Bringing him into camp early would allow for him to have every opportunity to unseat Seneca Wallace as the number two option in Cleveland.
With Mangini fired, Mike Holmgren has stated that he does not want to yet return to the coaching ranks…yet. He has sent out feelers to other teams with regards to interviewing a few candidates. Perry Fewell from the New York Giants is gaining a lot of attention, but how much of that is Rooney rule centered is to be determined. He has about a zero point zero chance of getting the Cleveland job, but is getting his name out there.
John Gruden would be at the top of Mike’s wish list, but he is on the top of everybody’s dream date list. Gruden’s hard style, gravel torn voice and blue collar ethics fit the Browns like a surgical glove. The problem is Gruden can coach anywhere he wants too, so why would he pick Cleveland? Cleveland may not be attractive to outside observers but to Gruden, Cleveland can be his Cinderella.
Gruden loves a challenge and he has stated before that Cleveland has started to build the franchise in the right direction. He would have the freedom and cooperation from the front office that most coaches dream of and never get. Gruden is an Ohio guy and would love to turn around the Browns franchise and be able to take full credit.
In Tampa, his Super Bowl has the “Tony Dungy” asterisk by it. He won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team against a team he knew all too well in the Raiders. This would give him the chance to establish his own legacy with a team he helps build.
Wild Card: Mike Holmgren may be naming Marty Mornhinweg the head coach sooner than later. Marty Mornhinweg is not the sexy pick, but neither was Jim Tressel. A resounding “who is Jim Tressel?" echoed throughout Buckeye nation at his announcement. I think that has worked out pretty good for Ohio State.
Marty Mornhinweg will install the west coast offense that Holmgren wants and will be a solid mentor for Colt McCoy. Mornhinweg has two totally different quarterbacks in Philadelphia and both have developed well. There is also an obvious Eagles and Browns connection from front office to players. Browns fans may want more of a splash, but they can change that splash in for a competent team that can get to a Super Bowl.
This Cleveland Browns have improved even though their record says otherwise. This will be Mike Holmgren's first hire and he wants to take the time to get it right. He is not just going to award the job to an undeserving coach if he thinks he could do a better job. Cleveland still has the "Big Show" to fall back on.
Following up on the 5-11 season should be easy for whomever takes over in Cleveland and if the team continues in the right direction the offense can be a strength. Do not lose faith now, Browns fans. Help is on its way.