"We do it our way, one play at a time."
This was the motto former Cleveland Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer used while leading the likes of Bernie Kosar, Earnest Byner, and Clay Matthews to multiple playoff appearences in the '80s.
As of now, I'm not terribly sure how to react to this news.
Apparently everyone and their mother knows current coach Romeo Crennel is getting a Christmas present in the form of early retirement right after the final game this year. When—not if—this does happen, it will mark the fifth-straight head coach in Cleveland to last no more than four years. All of these men were experiencing their first head coaching job, and none left with a record above .500.
So now, as Randy Lerner organizes his list of potential candidates, it seems he wants to recruit the last Browns coach to make it to the playoffs more than once.
There are immediate issues one might have when looking at this possible situation.
At first glance, this move has, "It worked before, why not try it again," written all over it. Much like the Washington Redskins did when bringing back Joe Gibbs, this would be a struggling franchise that is trying to recall the last coach to successfully right the ship.
Schottenheimer is the only candidate who can legitimately say, "Hey, when I coached, I made the Browns good." Why not bring him back, since Paul Brown is slightly unavailable?
One problem is his age. Schottenheimer is 65 years old, not exactly prime age for a solid head coach. At best, I'd say he would last three years, if that. For a team that is already struggling with identity issues, maturity, and a lack of real leaders, is a coaching rental the best possible solution?
I will give Randy Lerner props for finally looking for someone with head-coaching experience. He's apparently looking for someone to take over personnel decisions from Phil Savage, an area that has been lacking some NFL knowledge. However, three years removed from the league, how much of Marty's know-how is still strong enough to pull the Browns together?
There are also some positive aspects to Schottenheimer making his return to the Cleveland sidelines. The aforementioned experience would automatically please many fans, along with the nostalgia of seeing Bernie and the Boys becoming a dominant force in the AFC.
Schottenheimer boasts a very impressive regular season record, as he is one of the few NFL coaches with over 200 victories. He's also very good at working with the talent he's given and players enjoy taking the field for him. Many members of the San Diego Chargers were candidly upset when Schottenheimer was fired in 2006—after he led them to a 14-2 record.
In a recent interview with NFL Network, Schottenheimer said he would be interested in coming back if the team had a "good core of talent." As bad as the Browns have been this year, there is talent here, it's just not really showing—at all.
Schottenheimer is the type of guy who could probably get these players to play up to their level, but will he want to?
There's one thing everyone knows about his coaching style—Marty-Ball needs a running back. Another sure thing—Jamal Lewis is no LaDainian Tomlinson.
If Schottenheimer was to take the job, look for Lewis to either lose playing time, play better than ever, or be shown the door. However, Jerome Harrison might enjoy the move. Surely Schottenheimer sees the potential in this young back, and unlike Crennel, he'd probably use it. Otherwise, Schottenheimer would probably make running back a draft-day necessity.
Another thing to watch out for is how Brady Quinn would handle Schottenheimer's style.
Bernie Kosar was notorious for changing some of the coach's calls in the huddle, as he was opposed to the constant need to run the ball and he preferred running an "offensive offense" (using offense to score instead of running the clock or keeping it out of the other team's hands).
However, Kosar wanted to fling the ball every chance he got. Quinn's short-yardage-with-an-occasional-long-ball quarterback style might actually work quite well with Schottenheimer's plan. The way Quinn likes to chip his way down the field would encourage a strong rushing attack, just like Marty enjoys.
Either way, right now all these surfacing rumors of new coaching candidates does for fans is make them wish the offseason started right now.
And while some of those fans might have issue with the fact that Marty Schottenheimer's one weak spot is his inability to succeed in the playoffs, I pose to you one important question:
After everything that's gone down in the 2008 Browns season, is how we perform in the playoffs really the chief concern right now?
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