Browns’ coaches should remain in tact
CLEVELAND – It could be called a news flash when it’s said that there won’t be an overhaul of the Browns’ coaching staff in the offseason.
Of course, that could all change a year from now. In the normal cycle of changes for the struggling franchise, it wouldn’t be a shock if owner James Haslam has second thoughts about coach Rob Chudzinski about Christmas time of 2014.
For now there’s stability at the top of the football operations, which is the first step needed in building a consistent winner. Chudzinski is going nowhere except the NFL combine in late February, and the same might be said of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Turner has had three chances at being a head coach, which means that ship has probably sailed for him. Horton interviewed for the Browns’ coaching opening last year and has been included on a list of candidates a special NFL panel will give to teams with openings after this season.
Both coordinators should be happy to see the 2013 season come to an end. Each has had to deal with injuries and inconsistent play in certain areas. The defense played extremely well early but has faltered of late. The offense has struggled through numerous quarterback changes and a non-existent running game.
“This has been a frustrating year for us as coaches because there are a lot of examples where we’re real close,” Turner said. “I think from a standpoint of what we’re going to do with our players (next season), there’s a lot that happens between now and when we get back on the field again. I do believe, like I would say to our players, when we’ve done it right and when we played at the level we’re capable, there are signs that this could be really good.”
Turner could very well be working with a rookie quarterback acquired in the top five of the draft next season. Turner also will get another look at quarterback Brian Hoyer, who showed plenty of promise before suffering a season-ending knee injury in early October.
There will likely be other offensive components added through the draft. Through several trades, the Browns have added an extra pick in the first, third and fourth rounds, giving them seven picks in the first four rounds.
“There’s no question (there’s potential), but really from a coaching standpoint, the first thing we’ll do is look at our guys and, as you guys ask, ‘How have they improved?’ ” Turner said. “Where are they right now after playing in the system for a year, and where do we project where they can get to? I think teams improve with the players they have, and then you add players that can go out and score points from an offensive standpoint.”
Horton used his arrival earlier this year to tell the media that his philosophy is to find big men that can run and little men that can tackle. He also talked about getting after quarterbacks, a goal that was met successfully early in the season but hasn’t been as effective since.
“Throughout the year we installed everything, but we didn’t call everything,” Horton said. “I think the foundation is there, I really do. Schematically it is. Player involvement, player knowledge, scheme, technique, it’s there, but we didn’t open up the drawer and use everything that we have.”
The biggest defensive project in the offseason will be to build on the potential offered by rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who hasn’t supplied the pass rush that was envisioned from the sixth overall draft pick.
“Get stronger,” is Horton’s advice to Mingo. “Live in the weight room, which I’m sure he will, and also live in the playbook, which I know he will. We ask a lot of that position. It’s a player that has to be smart. He has to play the run, and that’s a strength part of it, but he also has to drop into coverage.”
There’s plenty of room for improvement everywhere.