The flying circus that is the Cleveland Browns front office is again immersed in what has become a nearly annual ritual: a head coaching search.
Since firing rookie head coach Rob Chudzinski hours after the conclusion of the Browns season, Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi have been looking for a new head coach. In the process, the trio that earned the nickname, “The Three Stooges” has made the Browns the laughingstock of the league.
Of the seven teams in the market for a new head coach, the Browns are the last team to make a decision. More coaching names have floated around in the connection with the job than the Browns have had quarterbacks since 1999.
The Carroll News sports team decided to have a roundtable to discuss the team’s woes and how the Browns can salvage something from this offseason. The participants in this discussion are:
Zach Mentz, Editor-in-Chief of The Carroll News, former Sports Editor (Twitter: @ZachMentz)
Dale Armbruster, Assistant Sports Editor (Twitter: @Dale_Armbruster)
Kevin Reynolds, NFL/NFL Draft Writer (Twitter: @reynoldsk47)
Joe Ginley, Sports Editor (Twitter: @JoeGinley)
Joe Ginley: Do you trust the coalition of Banner, Haslam and Lombardi?
Zach Mentz: Trust is something that has to be earned, not given. And based on what I’ve seen from this trio, I don’t have any trust in their ability to not just run an NFL franchise, but to overtake a job that requires as much work as the Browns. So no, I don’t trust this trio yet, and whether they’re competent or not is yet to be seen.
Dale Armbruster: Absolutely not. I normally try to give the benefit of the doubt to front offices, but this group has proven to be completely inept in public and league relations. It made me concerned that the Steelers would allow Jimmy Haslam to buy a rival team. Now I know why. The hires of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi were questionable at the time and insane in hindsight. After a calendar year of making moves for 2014, they tried to sell a bronzed pile of garbage to us, claiming they did not win enough to justify keeping Rob Chudzinski. This is the lowest the Browns franchise has ever been.
Kevin Reynolds: I think I trust these three more than most. I tend to usually give them the benefit of the doubt in situations where their actions are criticized mostly because we are not in the room with them and do not know what is actually going on. I do think, however, that Banner and Lombardi will run out of town if they don’t get this hire right.
JG: Who should the Browns take with their No. 1 draft pick?
ZM: Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. The Browns have only taken three QB’s in the first round since their rebirth (Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden). Obviously, none of those guys worked out, but considering that the Browns have a top-10 pick basically every year, it’s surprising they’ve only taken one QB in the top-10 since 1999. I lean towards Manziel over Bridgewater, but either one would be a fantastic pick for Cleveland. Blake Bortles is not worth a top-five pick right now. In a perfect scenario, I’d take Manziel.
DA: If I’m the general manager of the Browns, I’m calling Houston and offering our first three picks in the draft to select Teddy Bridgewater. I look at him as a taller Russell Wilson. He is intelligent in the pocket, unafraid of pressure, he steps up to make throws and has the strong arm necessary to play in a wind tunnel on the lake. Add in that he runs in the mid 4.6 range, and he has the mobility to extend plays and move the chains with his feet.
KR: It’s too early to say who they “should” take, but I would take a QB. Teddy Bridgewater is the best QB in my opinion, with Johnny Manziel not far behind. I’d be happy with either guy. Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney are contingencies.
JG: If you have the opportunity to trade up to No. 1 overall pick and select Johnny Manziel, do you do it?
ZM: Yes, but only at the right price. It’s a tough question, because it depends just how much the Browns would have to give up, and it would likely included packaging both first rounders and then some, which wouldn’t be wise. Manziel is the top QB in this class, in my opinion, but he’s not so far ahead of Bridgewater that he’s worth trading a multitude of picks. But at the right price, I say you gamble on Johnny Football.
DA: No. I would not be livid if they took him at their current pick, but the king’s ransom it would take to move up to first is not worth it. I question whether he could handle the added pressure of being the first overall pick.
KR: If he’s your guy and really believe in him you have to do it. It would be a very tough choice since it would probably take three first round picks to do so, and the 2015 first rounder may be a very important pick.
JG: What position or player should the Browns target with their second first round pick, assuming they don’t package it away in a trade?
ZM: Assuming the Browns take a QB with their first pick, they should use their second first rounder on a wide receiver or offensive line. If you’re going to take a young QB early, you best protect him with stud lineman or give him options to work with at receiver. Otherwise, it will be Tim Couch 2.0 and they’ll end up wasting another QB’s talent.
DA: They’re likely to draft their quarterback with the first pick, so they’d be smart to add a piece for the right side of the offensive line. Adding one of the various tackles in a deep offensive line class would help solidify the pocket around the new Browns passer.
KR: Wide receiver may seem like the obvious choice but it may be the deepest position in the draft this year, so I think you may get value from another position like offensive tackle/guard or inside linebacker. If a guy like Alabama ILB CJ Mosley or Notre Dame OL Zach Martin are still available I’d jump on it. WR still could be the pick and names to look for are Penn State’s Allen Robinson and LSU’s Odell Beckham.
JG: Should the Browns target anyone in free agency, and if so, who?
ZM: Sure they should – why wouldn’t they? First, they need to find someone who can consistently run the ball 15+ times a game. Guys like Ben Tate, Knowshon Moreno or Darren McFadden/Rashad Jennings (whichever Oakland doesn’t keep) are all veteran players who have something left in the tank, and can help balance the offense more than Willis McGahee or Chris Ogobonnaya. Inside linebackers such as Karlos Dansby or Brandon Spikes could help add weapons to an already talented defense. Lastly, I’d look at a guy like Josh McCown or Michael Vick in free agency – someone who can accept a backup role, but be ready to play if needed.
DA: A lot of these questions depend on what coach is hired. Personally, I would make a bid for Houston running back Ben Tate, Miami cornerback Brent Grimes and St. Louis guard/tackle Roger Saffold. The running back void and depth on both sides of the line should be addressed.
KR: The Browns will probably be pretty involved in Free Agency due to Banner and Lombardi being on the hot seat if the team doesn’t contend. A few names I’d like to see targeted are San Diego LB Donald Butler, Raiders OT Jared Veldheer, Seahawks OT Breno Giacomini, Packers CB Sam Shields, and Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn.
JG: Finally, the million dollar question: who should the Browns hire to be head coach?
ZM: If the Browns pass on Mike Pettine, the only other somewhat-sensible option left is Seahawks OC Dan Quinn. Quinn could help build an offense around Manziel or Bridgewater, both of whom have similarities to Russell Wilson. And if they don’t get Pettine or Quinn, that, the Browns might as well re-hire Chud. As we’ve seen with the Cavs, Cleveland teams have a history of re-hiring previously fired coaches.
DA: Dan Quinn. He’s my favorite choice. I see the intensity and ferocity that the Seattle defense plays with. I love the idea of a defensive squad filled with personality and swagger that has never truly developed in Cleveland. He coordinated the best defense in the NFL. While some say “the league is all about offense,” tell that to the Seahawks, who have crushed offenses on their way to the Super Bowl.
KR: It’s hard to say, but Dan Quinn would be the next guy they’d go to if they didn’t get Mike Pettine (I wouldn’t mind). After that, the remaining guys they’ve interviewed were Mike Munchak and Dirk Koetter. Don’t be suprised if some of the 49ers assistants get a call from the Browns either.