Well, hello there and welcome to another edition of HGTV’s Coach Hunter where we take readers behind the scenes as fan-bases learn what to look for and decide whether or not a coach is meant for them. Focusing on the emotional experience of finding and hiring a new coach, each episode follows a prospective team through the coach-hiring process. Today’s episode is with those love-able Cleveland Browns, who you might remember from past episodes Only the Pettine remains, Kelly rebuked with a hanging Chud, and Nepotism for Shurmur.
During initial discussions, a feel for the type of coach desired was completed. The mere mention of a college coach brought back harsh flashbacks to Floridian Butch Davis realizing how difficult the rebuilding project was in Cleveland and fleeing back to college with his tail between his legs. And, the thought of a strict, disciplinarian coach brought to mind Eric Mangini who disposed of any naysayers before leaving town with a roster barren of talent. So, the focus quickly narrowed down to three candidates. Hue Jackson, the wily veteran player’s coach who has been there and done that. Sean McDermott, the hotshot coordinator who is near the top of every team’s list. And, Matt Patricia, the smartypants coordinator with an unusual path.
There is just something warm and fuzzy about a football coach who is a bit older and has a ton of previous experience including at the head job. While everything is conjecture about the young coaches who have not yet had their chance, there is something of actual substance to lean back on when discussing a veteran coach. Hue Jackson was head coach of the Oakland Raiders and managed to take the team to an 8-8 record. They were even within a game of the playoffs before losing a Week 17 contest to the San Diego Chargers. Since leaving the Raiders, he has done well as offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals and had quarterback Andy Dalton playing at a nearly elite level. Additionally, in his career, Jackson has employed the Air Coryell offense, West Coast offense, and many other variations based on the talent on hand. The one consistent measure with a Jackson led offense is a running game utilizing a power attack.
Hmmm, but there do seem to be a few warts beneath the surface. One of the main reasons he was removed from his Oakland position were curious moves as the de facto GM. For instance, he traded for Carson Palmer and gave a bounty to the Cincinnati Bengals during a time where the Bengals were being held over a barrel by the situation. Then, the Bengals hired him, which was not a good look. Now, he is looking for some measure of control over personnel again. Also, the power running style he prefers might not mesh well with the athletic, nimble offensive line assembled with the Browns.
Oh, but Jackson is charming. Former players such as Terrelle Pryor rave about their days playing for Jackson. He is said to push players constantly, but in a way that demonstrates respect towards them. And, the charm extends to the fan-base and media. Leaving a Jackson interview will bring a smile to most any face.
We have more coaches to look at before making a decision though.
The former Andy Reid / Jimmy Johnson protege architected and implemented one of the most respected defenses in the entire 2015 NFL. Quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers gets most of the press, but the defense led the league in turnovers while finishing sixth in yards and points given up. There were rumors in 2014 that the Jets favored McDermott, who has been the Panthers defensive coordinator since 2011, to become their next coach, but Todd Bowles bowled them over.1 In Carolina, players such as Luke Kuechly, Greg Hardy, Thomas Davis, Josh Norman, and Kawann Short have all thrived in his aggressive defense. So, he has many things going for him, and he’s bound to get his chance as a head coach soon.
But, there are always dangers of hiring a defensive coordinator who works under a defensive head coach. Ron Rivera is a former linebacker coach and defensive coordinator himself, and McDermott did not endear himself to anyone with the job done in Philadelphia before landing in Carolina. Additionally, coordinating a team and managing an entire coaching staff and player roster are two distinctly different tasks. There have been many great coordinators who have failed in their attempts to man the helm. Dick LeBeau and Wade Davis are off somewhere nodding in agreement.
Still, the idea of having an aggressive defense with the ability to create turnovers and set up the offense is a fun one. And, McDermott is known to be a thinker with a William & Mary background that might help him work with the analytics staff in Berea.
Alright, just one more coach to go.
Matt Patricia does not have smartest man in the room syndrome. You see, oftentimes people will make decisions and outwardly say things to attempt to demonstrate to everyone around them that they are the smartest person there. The thing is the actual smartest person in the room does not need to employ such tricks. Plus, having a huge scruffy beard tends to downplay one’s own intelligence. Patricia might not be the smartest man in every room, but even in his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute people raved about his intelligence. This past season, Bill Belichick pondered the idea of Patricia just building a plane if he ever missed the chartered flight.
Patricia started with the New England Patriots in 2004, coached linebackers in 2006, moved to safeties in 2011, and took over defensive coordinator in 2012, which he still coaches today. Engineering a defense under Bill Belichick is a thankless task at times as good seasons are the product of Belichick and bad seasons are the faults of those around him.
And, like McDermott, the coordinator to head coach transition is not an easy one to project. Additionally, the Cleveland Browns appear to be the only team interested in interviewing Patricia, so his demand is not particularly high (whether or not that means anything). Patricia (and McDermott) also will need to wait until their team has completed a possibly lengthy playoff run, which could lead to some of the best assistants, coordinators, and coaching staff members already having jobs for 2016.
Oh, but the beard is amazing as his reported ability to decipher complex schemes and translate them easily to players. The teaching aspect is a characteristic which should serve him well when he is setting the stage for how he wants a team to be run. And, his analytical and methodical approach should lend itself well to the analytic side of the Browns. Patricia is the candidate where a partnership makes the most sense.
Hey, let’s sit back and have a GLB Dortmunder Gold, while contemplating and recapping all of the choices.
And, we have a decision. The owner Jimmy Haslam is not going to ditch owner meetings to interview a guy for a second time unless he is attempting to convince him to become the next head coach. But, negotiations seem to be breaking down. We might lose our first choice of coach. Perhaps the asking price (too much personnel control?) was above where we felt comfortable. Well, let’s keep tabs there, but the NFL Playoffs sure took on an added importance for the Cleveland Browns. I’ll be watching the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers with added fervor.
Until next time, this was HGTV’s Coach Hunter!