Ray Horton has been the whipping boy for many during the Cleveland Browns’ 0-10 start. What they’re ignoring, however, is his partner in highway robbery—Special Teams Coordinator, Chris Tabor.
Randy Lerner and Jimmy Haslam have signed his checks. Mike Holmgren, Joe Banner, Ray Farmer, and Sashi Brown have all elected to retain him. Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, and Hue Jackson have all included him as a chief part of their respective staffs. Amid the constant flux and turmoil the past of the past six seasons of Browns football, there have been two constants in Cleveland: Future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, and special team’s coordinator Chris Tabor.
The difference between the two is that Tabor is not heading to Canton, and it is time for the Teflon Titan to be shown the door.
The Browns have undergone a large scale youth movement in 2016. Even special team veterans such as Jonathan Bademosi and Marlon Moore have been replaced with late round draft picks and UDFAs. Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee was traded at the end of the preseason. The team is on their second kicker of the season, plucking Cody Parkey off the street hours before he went on to miss three field goals in an overtime loss.
There was an expected learning curve for Tabor’s units. There is also the point where youth can benefit special teams by inserting a bunch of young, hungry players looking to earn their place in the NFL.
Nevertheless, the Cleveland Browns rank dead last in the NFL in starting field position as they begin their drives on their own 23-yard line, two full yards worse than a kickoff touchback. There are other components that contribute to such a statistic including the defensive competence (or lack thereof), but the Browns have once again been an unmitigated disaster throughout their return units. Their punt returns ranks 30th in the NFL with just 5.9 yards per return. Their kick returns match the ranking with just 17.2 yards per return. Tabor’s unit might not hammer the nail in the Browns’ coffin, but they drill starter holes.
Tabor’s unit might not hammer the nail in the Browns’ coffin, but they drill starter holes.
The punting group is perhaps the best of the special teams just by not being horrific. The average punt travels 45.4 yards, which is only slightly below average at 18th in the league. The Browns are also not one of the three teams to have a punt blocked in 2016. Even better, the punt coverage team might be the one component of the special teams that can almost be referred to as good. The 8.3 yards per return given up is slightly above average on the whole with a ranking of 13 in the NFL. Where being average is a pipe dream for the rest of the special teams units, this could be considered a huge win.
Perhaps Randy Lerner fired Chris Tabor years ago and due to a glitch in payroll he’s still getting paid. If so, the Browns need to hire the Bobs to fix the glitch and let the problem take care of itself. If he ends up burning the offices in Berea down, then he’d only be doing what every fan has felt like while watching the Browns special teams units this season.1
- Y’all can thank Andrew Schnitkey for the Milton reference with Tabor. He brought it up in conversations, and it was just too perfect. [↩]