The Schein Nine  

 

Browns, Chiefs among teams with new coaches, big questions

Finally, the coaching carousel has stopped spinning.

But questions remain.

In the latest edition of The Schein Nine, I look at burning questions facing those teams that filled vacancies as they head into the offseason.

1) Who is in charge in Cleveland?

I would call last week's news conference to introduce our friend Michael Lombardi as the Cleveland Browns' vice president of player personnel a rather wacky one. I love the Lombardi hire; he's one of the brightest minds in the NFL. But the Browns' process for replacing their general manager and head coach was both backwards and bizarre, especially for a team that likely knew long ago it would be making these moves.

Frankly, it all started when, after rightly firing former GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur, new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner announced they would hire their next coach before hiring their next general manager. I think that was illogical.

Look at the structure of the Baltimore Ravens. That's how a team should function. You hire a general manager, and the general manager hires a coach.

Perhaps you make an exception to that rule if you crave a huge name, a real-deal coach who signs off on a general manager to work with him, as Pete Carroll did when he was hired by the Seattle Seahawks. But Haslam whiffed on Chip Kelly before hiring first-timer Rob Chudzinski, who hardly inspired this year calling plays for the Carolina Panthers.

To Chudzinski's credit, he then hired two outstanding coordinators, bringing aboard former San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner (not a head man, but a great coordinator) on the offensive side and former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

And Lombardi is going to be superb.

But are they all on the same page? Who has the final say on talent? What about trades or the draft? How involved is Banner? Every move, every sound bite, is going to be scrutinized.

2) Can Andy Reid find the next Len Dawson?

Reid got a good chuckle when he said finding the next Dawson was his mission at a news conference introducing him as the Kansas City Chiefs' head coach. I guess it's better to laugh than cry.

There is no classic franchise quarterback for Reid to draft with the first overall pick in April. Will he pursue a veteran like Alex Smith or Matt Flynn? Does he want to try resurrecting Matt Cassel (who I don't see as being a Reid guy)?

Ryan Nassib and Geno Smith can be had in the draft, but would they fit Reid's system? Also, while I like both quarterbacks a lot, I don't see them going No. 1 overall, especially when Kansas City has many other needs.

But whatever he does at quarterback will be crucial to Reid's success.

3) Can Bruce Arians and Tom Moore fix Kevin Kolb?

I would argue that the offensive line, which badly needs to be fixed, represents a bigger draft need for the Arizona Cardinals than the quarterback position.

Part of the genius in new Cardinals GM Steve Keim's decision to hire Arians as his coach -- and what a fantastic hire it was -- has to do with Arians' knack for maximizing quarterbacks. If there's any duo that can repair Kolb's image, it would be Arians and assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Tom Moore. We will find out shortly if fixing Kolb was a prerequisite for Arians getting the gig.

The Cards do need to add two new quarterbacks to the roster. The trio of Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley represented an all-time low at the position. I'd look to add a veteran like Alex Smith.

4) Can Marc Trestman match his news conference?

I think Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery's introduction of new coach Marc Trestman was one of the most uplifting in a long time, with Emery and Trestman both displaying their intelligence and passion.

In a Thursday conversation on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Trestman told me that he's very appreciative of this job after taking a long and winding road to finally get an NFL head-coaching gig. For the record, I think Trestman is the right choice for the Bears. He's an NFL guy who has brilliantly mentored quarterbacks, and he has crucial head-coaching experience from his time in the Canadian Football League. I think he can turn quarterback Jay Cutler into a champion, and I like the appointment of Mel Tucker as defensive coordinator.

But we have to see how Trestman tackles adversity, which he'll likely encounter while handling Cutler. I think Trestman will adroitly deal with his players and the media, but this is a hot-button job in a high-pressure city.

Instant Debate: Best coaching hire?
The Eagles finally got their man in Chip Kelly. Across the NFL, which coaching hire holds the most promise for success? More ...

5) Can Chip Kelly put together an NFL staff?

I gushed over the Philadelphia Eagles' decision to hire Kelly last week. Now I want to see his coaching staff. So far, I'm underwhelmed by the college types.

Shurmur, who is reportedly set to join Kelly's staff, possibly as offensive coordinator, would be an odd fit. Finding the right defensive coordinator will be crucial to Kelly's success.

6) Will the real Philip Rivers please stand up?

Congrats to the San Diego Chargers. They nailed their two big hires, replacing overmatched and cantankerous former general manager A.J. Smith with Tom Telesco, who intelligently picked Mike McCoy to replace overmatched coach Norv Turner.

For good measure, McCoy was smart enough to retain defensive coordinator John Pagano and hire Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator.

Turner and Smith were rightly identified as the problems in San Diego. But it's also important to note that Rivers regressed at quarterback.

McCoy was tabbed to fix Rivers, who now officially has no excuse. With the coaching talent around him, Rivers must breathe new life into his career.

The Bolts' offseason will be about helping Rivers accomplish that, and improving his supporting cast.

7) Can Doug Marrone reach Mario Williams and the Bills' D-line?

I wrote about how wonderful the Buffalo Bills' decision to make Marrone their next coach was when he was hired. He needs to address the quarterback position, but as I wrote then, he could do that by drafting Nassib, who would be reunited with his former Syracuse coach in Marrone and his former offensive coordinator in Nathaniel Hackett, a savvy young play-caller.

One of the main reasons that the Bills fizzled in 2012 was the underachievment of Williams and the rest of the defensive line. That group has the potential to be one of the elite front fours in the NFL. However, the injury-hampered Williams was a bust after taking all that cash from Ralph Wilson as a free agent. Marcell Dareus regressed as he dealt with personal tragedy. Mark Anderson was a non-factor.

The line can't perform like that again. Marrone made a smart choice by plucking former New York Jets coordinator Mike Pettine to run his defense.

8) Who is on the Gus Bus?


Vote for the top 10 plays of the 2012 season. More ...

I love the Jacksonville Jaguars' appointment of David Caldwell as general manager, who said he knew former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was his coach when he interviewed him.

Bradley has the passion, and that's needed. But the Jaguars also need several new players, with former GM Gene Smith having left the cupboard bare.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was drafted by the old regime. Caldwell and Bradley can't get duped; they aren't attached to Gabbert. He should be jettisoned. Caldwell and Bradley can't mess around. They need a new starter -- and a fresh start.

One bit of good news for them? Running back Maurice Jones-Drew told me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he won't hold out this year and will be ready for camp.

9) Can Pep Hamilton and Andrew Luck make more magic?

I thought Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano socked it out of the park by reuniting Hamilton and Luck after Arians took the Cardinals job. Now the former offensive coordinator at Stanford will put Luck back in the West Coast offense. This will be a change from what Luck did with the Colts in 2012, but the quarterback and his supporting cast, including veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, are more than up to the task.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15