The Cleveland Browns struggles on offense this season can be summed up in a flashback to one simple drive. In Week 17, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the Browns on the ropes in the first quarter with a 14-0 lead.
After starting the drive on their own 18, Colt McCoy led the Browns on a six minute drive that led to a fourth and goal at the Steelers 2. Instead of playing to cut the deficit in half, Eric Mangini sent out Phil Dawson to kick a 19-yard field goal. All of the momentum of an 85-yard drive was gone, along with Mangini's chances of being retained.
In 2010, the Browns ranked 29th in total offense and 31st in points per game. 1n 2009, they ranked 29th and dead last in those categories. For anything to change in Cleveland, Mike Holmgren needs to find a coach with a strong offensive background.
If you want a key to why the Browns have not succeeded, look no further than the five coaches hired since they returned to the league. Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel and Mangini all had defensive backgrounds and allowed the offense to become stagnant under their guidance through poor playcalling and the hiring of mediocre coordinators.
Chris Palmer: 5-27
Butch Davis: 24-34
Terry Robiskie: 1-5
Romeo Crennel: 24-40
Eric Mangini: 10-22
Number 6: ?
The team should take a look at the following five, offensive-minded coaches.
He's the one everyone wants. Chucky. The Super Bowl winner. The Mike Holmgren disciple. The only question is: does he want to be in Cleveland?
Since being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years ago, Gruden seems content working as the lead analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football. However, as a Sandusky native and childhood Browns fan, it isn't that far off to assume that Gruden would at least listen should Holmgren call.
It doesn't hurt either that Gruden gave his most glowing reviews to Browns quarterback Colt McCoy during the NFL Draft coverage.
Overall at Oakland and Tampa Bay, Gruden compiled a 95-81 record, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. His hire would bring immediate credibility to the staff and instant changes to the offensive scheme.
Note: The Browns have not inquired about an interview with Gruden as of yet.
This name may shock some, as it has not yet to this point been brought up by the media. However, by hiring Brian Billick, the Browns would have a coach that commands respect from his players and a strong offensive mind.
In the seven years Billick spent at Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, the Vikings made the playoffs six times and set numerous offensive records.
As Ravens head coach, Billick had a record of 85-67, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Billick would also tempt big name coordinators and free agents to come to Cleveland, just as Gruden would.
Billick spent the last three years working as a broadcaster on "NFL on Fox" and NFL Network coverage. He has expressed a desire to return to coaching if the "situation was right."
Note: The Browns have not mentioned Billick or inquired about an interview as of yet.
The name Pat Shurmur may elicit groans from Browns fans, but the fact that he is a relative unknown now doesn't mean he will stay that way forever.
As offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, Shurmur is credited with helping along the quick development of Sam Bradford at quarterback. He also is credited with helping QBs like Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb while in Philadelphia as an offensive coach.
Shurmur holds many of the West Coast offense principles that Holmgren is looking for in a new coach. He is a tempting candidate because of his reputation as a motivator and ability to deal with young QBs like Colt McCoy.
The hiring of Shurmur would also allow Holmgren to retain all decision making control, something he might have to share with a veteran big name coach.
Note: Shurmur interviewed with Cleveland on January 7.
The name Mike Mularkey, like Pat Shurmur, may elicit groans from fans but it shouldn't. Unlike Shurmur, Mularkey has prior head coaching experience.
In two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, he had a record of 14-18. In his first season, Mularkey enjoyed success but was unable to gain momentum in year two due to a QB controversy and philosophical differences.
While his tenure in Buffalo was marred by controversy, he experienced great success as a coordinator in Pittsburgh and currently in Atlanta. He also has had great success in developing Matt Ryan.
As a head coach, he would open up the offense that previously was not able to flourish under Eric Mangini. He also would bring with him cold weather and AFC North coaching experience, two things vital to success in Cleveland. As a former player, he would also command respect of the locker room.
Note: Mularkey was interviewed by the Browns on January 8.
Depending on how far the New York Jets advance in the playoffs, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer could be a viable candidate for the Browns.
In 2010, the Jets ranked 11th in total offense and 13th in points per game. What is most impressive about Schottenheimer is his ability to integrate a supposedly "over-the-hill" LaDainian Tomlinson into the offense and revive his career. He is also recognized for his work in developing young QB Mark Sanchez.
Schottenheimer has previously shown interest in being a head coach when he interviewed for the Jets vacancy after the 2008 season. Although he turned down an interview with Buffalo after the 2009 season, it is possible that he would accept an interview with the team that jumpstarted his father's coaching career.
He is not without criticism, however. When the Jets struggled in the middle of the season, Schottenheimer's playcalling came under fire. However, this could be due to the fact that the New York media can throw someone under the bus on Monday and deify him the next Sunday.
Note: The Browns have not inquired about Schottenheimer as of yet.
In the end, Mike Holmgren has made sure that the blanket of security over his decision is a tight one. Information coming out of Berea will be scarce until moves are actually made.
Unfortunately, that leaves immense room for speculation. However, it is a safe bet to think that Holmgren will choose a candidate with strong offensive credentials who will focus on developing Colt McCoy and maximizing the potential of Cleveland's young core of players.
Whoever the next coach is, Browns fans just have to sit and hope that three years down the road, we won't be having this conversation again.