Memo to Randy Lerner: Cleveland Browns Are Just a Couple Smart Picks Away

Casey DrottarCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2009

Welcome to another episode of "Here We Go Again" on the shores of Lake Erie.

Once again, the Cleveland Browns felt they had the best GM-Coach tandem they could get.  And once again, these "ideal leaders" were sent to unemployment.

Now, the Browns have pressed the reset button of the franchise once more, and are leaving many fans wondering if said button is jammed or set on automatic after three or four years.

If Browns owner Randy Lerner needs inspiration when it comes to hiring the right people, he needs only to watch the NFL playoffs this weekend.  Three of the eight teams playing this weekend started 2008 in a much worse situation than ours.

The Baltimore Ravens (yes, it does pain me to use them as an example of "doing it right"), had a dismal season last year, which included a loss to the 0-15 Miami Dolphins, the firing of their longest tenured coach, and still a huge question mark on the quarterback situation. 

They hired a relative unknown assistant, John Harbaugh, as head coach, followed that with the questionable drafting of Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, and are now one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins were easily the worst team of 2008, with a 1-15 record and, like Baltimore, had no quarterback.  After this, they brought in Bill Parcells and Cowboys assistant Tony Sparano to right the ship.  From there, the combination of Jets outcast Chad Pennington and the Wildcat formation running wild lead the Dolphins to the AFC East crown.

Despite these two turnarounds, the other revival, the Atlanta Falcons, should be Randy Lerner's main source of motivation.

The Falcons went through a miserable 2008 season.  Their franchise quarterback was sent to prison, their new head coach bolted for Arkansas mid-season, and the team became the joke of the NFC. 

In attempts to fix this, team owner Arthur Blank hired Mike Smith, a coach nobody had heard of, went and drafted Matt Ryan, a quarterback many thought wasn't ready to lead an NFL team.  With Ryan and running back Michael Turner at the helm, the Falcons shocked the world with an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.

Now, Randy Lerner must look to these teams to see that, yes, it is possible to go from bottom to top without multiple years of rebuilding.  With the Cleveland Browns, enough pieces are present to believe it could happen for them next year.

In Brady Quinn, you have a quarterback to build around.  Though he only played three games, he showed the poise of a veteran and the offense just seemed to work better around him than it did with Derek Anderson.  The severity of his finger injury does make some wonder if the Houston game was more just struggling to play through injury than it was poor quarterbacking. 

The offense as a whole has a decent amount of talent. It just needs the right mindset.  They need someone who can tell Braylon Edwards to shut up and play.  They also need someone to tell Donte Stallworth to actually run the right routes.  Add a reliable slot receiver and we might just have a working offense.

The defense has more holes than one would want to deal with, but this at least indicates where the most offseason work should be focused on.  Shaun Rogers is really the only defensive stalwart, but with improvements to the linebacking core and secondary, this side of the ball could significantly upgrade.

With Romeo Crennel, it didn't seem like the Browns had a coach, just a buddy who happened to be paid to be in charge.  He lacked fire, discipline, and an overall ability to lead.  When the wheels fell off, they stayed off.

Right now, the future of the Cleveland Browns hinges on Randy Lerner's decision making.  He knows the fans don't want to see decades upon decades of rebuilding.  And he knows the players don't want to be a flash-in-the-pan every fourth or fifth year.  Therefore, he needs to make the right hires this time around.

When he hired Crennel and Phil Savage, Lerner was still new to the ownership role of the team.  With three years of experience, one can't help but think he's learned about the importance of the right people in the right positions.  And, after going through the Savage-Crennel regime, Lerner at least has to know what not to do when it comes to hiring.

So, Mr. Lerner, do realize that no matter how ugly this year was (and it was pretty bad), we can turn it around.  But it's all up to you right now.  You have to make sure you bring in the right people for the job.  Your decisions will determine whether we can create our own revival or spend another half decade in the dumps.

This team lacks a true leader as much as it lacks identity, and we the fans suffered through 17 weeks of realizing this. 

We're currently on the brink, and only you can bring us all back.