Cleveland Browns  


New coach will find tall order in helping rebuild Browns

  • By Pat Kirwan
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Mark Duncan / Associated Press
The Browns' new coach will have to determine if Colt McCoy is the team's future at quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns have a rich history. However, the franchise has yet to appear in the Super Bowl, and Cleveland hasn't won a division title since returning to the league in 1999.

In January and February, took a look at the five pressing questions facing each team as it heads into the offseason.

AFC East:
» Buffalo Bills: Must remedy draft failures
» Miami Dolphins: Need to overcome awkwardness
» New England Patriots: Issues start on defense
» New York Jets: Rocky road to reach Super Bowl
AFC North:
» Baltimore Ravens: Immense pressure on Flacco
» Cincinnati Bengals: Distractions cloud team's future
» Cleveland Browns: New coach faces no easy fix
» Pittsburgh Steelers: Father Time is biggest hurdle
AFC South:
» Houston Texans: Big issues on defense
» Indianapolis Colts: Big decisions on key players
» Jacksonville Jaguars: Same issues haunt team
» Tennessee Titans: Big void at QB with Young gone
AFC West:
» Denver Broncos: Defense will dictate offseason
» Kansas City Chiefs: Sustaining is next challenge
» Oakland Raiders: Team has hope, questions
» San Diego Chargers: Bolts aim to bounce back
NFC East:
» Dallas Cowboys: More holes to fill than coach
» New York Giants: Many lingering questions
» Philadelphia Eagles: More drama on horizon
» Washington Redskins: Huge problems to tackle
NFC North:
» Chicago Bears: Cutler opens deep bag of issues
» Detroit Lions: Closing in on respectability
» Green Bay Packers: Champs face tricky offseason
» Minnesota Vikings: Uncertainty surrounds team
NFC South:
» Atlanta Falcons: Need help to take next step
» Carolina Panthers: Plenty of room to improve
» New Orleans Saints: Time to tackle backfield, D
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Next step won't be easy
NFC West:
» Arizona Cardinals: QB quandary still an issue
» San Francisco 49ers: Must settle QB situation
» Seattle Seahawks: Playoff run can't hide issues
» St. Louis Rams: Reason for optimism

The Browns wrapped up another losing season by firing Eric Mangini after just two seasons. It's a shame that the combination of president Mike Holmgren -- an offensive genius -- and a defensive-minded head coach such as Mangini couldn't turn around a franchise in a city starving for a winner. Mangini leaves Cleveland with many questions to be answered regarding the future of the team, and it should be clear to Holmgren that this is no easy fix.

1. Who is the head coach?

The best head-coaching candidate is probably in the building sitting in the president's office. Holmgren might look at the work to be done in Cleveland, then the impending work stoppage, and conclude this is not the time to jump back on the field. Fair enough, given that Holmgren really does have a lot to do from his present post.

Who is the right coach, then? Ideally, an offensive-minded young coach with great energy who isn't burdened by the team's rich history. Hopefully, that offensive-minded young coach has a top-notch 3-4 defensive coordinator coming with him. Switching defensive schemes on top of addressing the offensive issues would be too much at one time. There are 12 teams in the playoffs, and 10 of the head coaches of those teams came from the coordinator ranks. Only Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll don't fit that mold. Marty Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator of the Eagles, is a solid name to consider.

2. Do they have a quarterback?

My digging around leads me to believe there is uncertainty about Colt McCoy. I really like McCoy, and I remember what personnel guru Gil Brandt said at the 2010 NFL Draft when McCoy was available. Brandt said that McCoy has a chance to be really good if he gets a chance to go to a place like Cleveland with Holmgren.

I like McCoy's 7.1 yards-per-attempt average, as well as the fact that he led the Browns to wins over the Saints and Patriots, but there are still major questions about if he can lead this team to a division title against the likes of Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati. Do the Browns draft a quarterback high in April? Trade for a guy like Kevin Kolb? Or, stick with McCoy?

3. What are the top three draft needs?

When it comes to the Browns, I could list seven positions -- like one of their coaches did when I asked him. The top three areas of need after quarterback should be: 1. A top wide receiver; 2. Right tackle; 3. Defensive end. Backup consideration in the draft should go to guard, linebacker and free safety. The Browns gave up the most passing touchdowns in the AFC North last season with 26, and they scored the least amount of passing touchdowns with 13, which means the blame is on both sides of the ball.

4. What scheme to run on defense?

As Bill Parcells said to me the year after he took over the Dallas Cowboys, "I'm not moving to the 3-4 until I have the necessary pieces." He stayed in the 4-3 for another year.

So many coaches make the jump and really struggle. Buffalo abandoned the project and got back to the 4-3. The Redskins went from a top-10 defense in 2009 in a 4-3 scheme to the No. 31-ranked defense in 2010 trying to play a 3-4. I don't believe the Browns are ready for a quick transition. Whether it's 4-3 or 3-4, the real problems are in the coverage area.

5. Do the Browns need better backups?

Roster depth is critical in the NFL, and when a team goes 2-5 down the stretch after beating the Saints and Patriots earlier in the season, that indicates the backups just couldn't get the job done. Only nine Browns regulars were able to start at least 15 games. A team such as Baltimore had 15 players, and Kansas City had 17. Granted, some teams won with multiple starters out, but those teams proved to have roster depth.

The Browns proved that they didn't have quality depth. For example, linebacker Scott Fujita was brought in to start and, more importantly, run the nickel and dime defenses. Fujita got hurt after nine weeks and the Browns were only able to win two more games the rest of the season.



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