NFL head-coach candidates generally fall under two categories: little-known up-and-comers and solid second-timers.
Suffice it to say that the Browns, based on media reports, are pretty well focused on the first in their search to replace Rob Chudzinski.
Yes, they have interviewed one former NFL head coach, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has since decided to remain in his current job.
In addition, the Browns have reportedly shown interest in a couple of college head coaches, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, but only Franklin has coaching experience in the NFL as an assistant (one season as a receivers coach for the Packers).
The common theme with these names is that they would take the Browns’ job with a virtual blank NFL canvas. And it is that quality that ties into the belief of team owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner that there is a far better chance of finding a dynamic talent in someone who brings a fresh approach to the job versus someone whose best trait is that he has previously worked as an NFL head coach … a.k.a. the “solid” guy.
For instance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went the “solid” route by recently hiring former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith to replace someone who qualified as an outside-the-box choice in Greg Schiano.
Smith guided the Bears to a Super Bowl and was fired after leading them to a 10-6 record in 2012, so it would be easy to view him as a safe answer. Whether he can find similar success with the Buccaneers remains to be seen, but the essence of his program, which is driven by a strong defense, is already well established.
No one can say with any degree of certainty what any of the candidates in whom the Browns reportedly have interest would stand for as NFL head coaches.
But Haslam and Banner are trusting in their ability to identify special qualities within each that will ultimately translate into the ability to lead the Browns to championships. Banner, in particular, is following a blueprint similar to the one that led him to a Packers quarterbacks coach named Andy Reid when Banner was in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles’ front office. Reid’s hiring was widely criticized by Philadelphia media, who were upset that the team passed over others with successful histories as NFL head coaches.
In 14 seasons, Reid guided the Eagles to six NFC East titles, five appearances in the NFC Championship Game, and a Super Bowl.
A former NFL general manager told me that the importance of hiring a “big name” head coach who can “win the press conference” when he is introduced to the media is greatly overblown. He said its impact on ticket sales and other business-related areas is not nearly as vital as whether the club has, in fact, found someone who wins.
And if that happens, his name will quickly be known.
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