Will Mike Pettine’s young coordinators deliver a game-day advantage?

Browns' new coordinators 590

If nothing else, you have to give the Cleveland Browns credit—they’re not repeating themselves. After watching Browns head coach Mike Pettine introduce his coordinators, you couldn’t imagine a more polar opposite scene from Rob Chudzinski’s staff. Mike Pettine, a defensive guy, replaces the former offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski. Jim O’Neil, a young guy with five years of NFL experience, replaces Ray Horton, who took the Browns coordinator job after being considered a head coaching candidate. A 34-year-old Kyle Shanahan replaces a 61-year-old Norv Turner. Well, I guess there’s Chris Tabor, who remains Teflon greased in olive oil after surviving firings of Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski, who will handle special teams under Mike Pettine.

I can’t find anywhere online how old Tabor is1, and I don’t think I’m insulting him when I say that he looked kind of old sitting next to Shanahan and the baby-faced O’Neil. That’s saying something considering that I believe Tabor is only in his early to mid-40’s2. Regardless, the leader of this crew is 47-year-old Mike Pettine, and the Browns have pulled a bit of a 180 in the profile of this coaching staff.

Make no mistake: Simply hiring young, hungry guys isn’t a strategy. The guys have to be creative, capable, and willing to work together toward a common mission. Press conferences in the early part of February are hardly an indication of much of anything, but I can get on board with giving these guys their fair shake to finally turn this team around.

That’s all any of them can really expect at this point. I can make the case for Pettine, Shanahan, O’Neil and Tabor all day and night if I want, but they’re going to have to put it all together. They’re going to have to put in the time, get through to the players, make the most of what they have, and find a way to do it with enough chemistry that a weekly gameplan starts to achieve wins.

Mike Pettine spoke about the work ethic, smarts and creativity of his new coordinators; that’s great to hear. I’ll be watching closely to see if these guys can finally do what has been lacking, namely, exploiting other teams. When you think about taking an advantage and exploiting it, it’s hard to think of a time when the Browns have done that. More often than not, when the Browns have won over the past few years, it’s been related to a spectacular special teams day like Travis Benjamin had against the Bills in 2013. Even with the massive experience that the Browns staff had this year, it never felt like they were winning the chess match.

When Josh Gordon was putting up crazy receiving numbers, there were a lot of garbage-time yards that were piled up in the second halves of losses. That’s not to take anything away from Gordon’s stats; it’s to point out that it felt more like his talent shining through and less like the coaches were finding ways to put him in a position to be a dominant player. Compare Gordon’s breakout year to that of Peyton Hillis when Eric Mangini was scheming like crazy and that’s the big difference to me. Mangini had other flaws, but there’s little doubt he was a guy who could compete as a coach in terms of gameplanning from week-to-week. Just ask the Saints or Patriots.

So I look forward to seeing what the youth movement can produce here in Cleveland. I want them to make the most of the talent that’s here. I want to feel like the coaching is giving the team – whatever the situation with talent or injuries – something of an advantage week-in and week-out. If Pettine’s right about these guys, the effort will be there. I hope he’s also correct about the smarts and getting that to translate on the field and in the locker room. If he is, it’ll be a change and a welcomed one at that.

  1. Editor’s note: He was born on March 04, 1971, making him 42. []
  2. Editor’s note: Solid guess. []

  • FactoryOfSadness

    Young coaching staff, young pro bowlers, potentially high pick rookie QB. Normally that is a good foundation for years of success. But this is the Browns and it’s Cleveland. Things don’t really go our way…

  • Lucas Vaas

    Always liked Mangini, maybe we can get him back as a coordinator some day!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I really wish all of these photos wouldn’t be guys in 3s ya think between the Browns and the Cavaliers they’d have learned by now but I guess not. I think that same feeling applies to almost everything with this franchise.

    But they sure do look young…young, tender and naieve. I just hope the baptism by fire doesn’t leave them scarred for the rest of their lives from the Browns. Perhaps this “different” direction will work out who knows. I’m not feeling very excited or invigorated for the upcoming season but I am keeping an open mind. Time as always will tell.

  • dwhit110

    To answer your question (I took it as a question anyways) the last time I can remember the Browns winning the coaching chess match was Mangini, Ryan, Daboll, and Seely picking apart the Saints and Patriots over consecutive weekends.

    Of course that turned out to be somewhat of a flash in the pan.

  • CB Everett

    One thing’s for sure, Tabor and his red Swingline stapler are survivors.

  • steve davis

    We are probably still paying him so…..

  • steve davis

    We are probably still paying him so…….

  • RGB

    Young is good.
    They have plenty of time left to get rehired and build quality careers when they get fired next year.

  • Hopwin

    I really liked what I heard out of Kyle at the presser.

  • jewpants47

    not good. I have no idea who’s who in that picture. and i’m not sure they do either.


    Let’s slow down on this whole “Mangini chess match” thing vis a vis the Saints and Pats. If memory serves, they won that Saints game thanks to TWO pick-six’s thrown by Drew Brees, not to mention a gimmicky 65-yard-fake-punt-run from Reggie Hodges.

    As for the Pats game, let’s not forget that it included this:

    Not exactly a sustainable offense, that.

  • Kildawg

    Youth movement to the extreme! Hopefully it bodes well. Here’s some perspective: Jason Giambi is older than all of the Browns coordinators (assuming Tabor is the oldest of the three).

  • hmm… those two COLT MCCOY LED wins over the defending SB champ and the 14-2 pats were followed by the jets (11-5) game that saw two key players (fujita and yates) injured in game yet still had the ball at the jets’ 36 when chansi stuckey fumbled.

    the simplistic calculus of ‘you are what your record says you are’ is the type of nonsense that gets romeo crennel/mo carthon extensions. context matters. let’s be smarter in our analyses moving forward.

    i remind you: 3rd string rookie colt mccoy was mangini’s qb.

    not exactly a sustainable qb, he.

  • humboldt

    Is it bad that I’m half rooting for Chris Tabor to burn down Berea now? It may be the only chance we have to change the direction of the franchise

  • arnold_palmer

    And weeden is close

  • maxfnmloans

    I wonder if he specifically asks for no salt on his margarita?

    Who was Steven Root’s best character? Milton, Jimmy James or Bill Dauterive?

  • Garry_Owen

    Moreover, pick sixes are largely the by-product of good game-planning (chess matchery), particularly against a guy like Brees.

  • Kildawg

    Close to being cut or traded that is, ditto for Jason Campbell as well.