Jimmy Haslam went out of his way, in new General Manager John Dorsey’s introductory press conference, to point out that current head coach Hue Jackson would be back for the 2018 season. The move to make this call in such a bold manner left many Browns’ fans stunned. Under Haslam, the Browns have never been gun shy with removing a failing head coach. At the time, Jackson was 1-27 in his Browns tenure and many felt he was a lock to be fired at season’s end. Since the promise of a Jackson return, John Dorsey was on hand for the fourth quarter collapse against Green Bay, and the past two weeks drubbings at the hands of Baltimore and Chicago.
Dorsey has never outwardly committed to bringing Jackson back himself. The notion of a new general manager wanting his own head coach is nothing new. Many expected just that when Dorsey was introduced. The idea that he would get that shot to bring in his own head coach. But this is Cleveland, and nothing follows the natural progression of logic. The power structure in place with former Executive Vice President of Football Operations (de facto GM) Sashi Brown left both Brown and Hue Jackson reporting separately to Haslam. This naturally caused a rift; a rift Hue Jackson ultimately won. Yet, as we approach what seems destined to be the NFL’s second 0-16 season in its history, Browns fans are left pondering if the team will actually bring back a head coach with what will be a 1-31 record in his time leading the team.
It’s unclear if John Dorsey will have any say in the matter of Hue Jackson’s future. Haslam made the promise just three weeks ago – all before the Green Bay collapse, the following week’s blame game press conferences, and poor showings against Baltimore and Chicago. The heat has turned up higher than ever for Jackson’s future. Should the Browns entertain the notion of removing Jackson and seeking alternatives, here is how the 2018 head coaching landscape will present itself.
The Established Guard
Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator, Eagles: This is a name many who follow the NFL are familiar with. Schwartz took the Lions’ head coaching job in 2009, one season after the Lions had gone 0-16. After a tough start in his first two years with first overall pick Matthew Stafford, Schwartz led the Lions to the playoffs in 2011, their first playoff appearance since 1999. Overall Schwartz record settled at 29-51 and things ended poorly in 2013 after the team started 6-3, then dropped six of their next seven before Schwartz was fired. Since his firing Schwartz took over the Bills defense in 2014, playing a key role in the Bills 9-7 season, their first winning season in ten years. The Bills defense finished fourth overall in points and yards allowed per game. After taking a break in 2015, Schwartz again returned to the sideline leading the Philadelphia Eagles defense the past two season. Schwartz has the Eagles defense in the league’s top 10 overall category this season, and has been vital to the Eagles 13-2 record. Schwartz has a history with the Browns, he was a personnel scout for the franchise from 1993-1995.
Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator, Vikings: Everyone remembers Shumur. The Browns coach for the 2011 and 2012 seasons went 9-23 in his two seasons before being fired. Since his Cleveland departure, Shumur has been in both Philadelphia and Minnesota as an offensive coordinator. Shumur helped Chip Kelly’s offense set multiple team records in Philadelphia, and launched the career of Nick Foles to places few thought it could go. Shumur has done the same thing in Minnesota this season with Case Keenum. The Vikings are 12-3 largely thanks to the efforts on offense led by Shumur. It would be difficult to see the Browns turning to Shurmur again, and Shurmur actually wanting to return, but his work since leaving Cleveland has many franchises taking notice.
Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, Patriots : For better or worse, McDaniels will always be linked to the possibility of coaching the Browns due to his ties to northeast Ohio. McDaniels worked his way through the coaching system quickly after his time at John Carroll University, and caught on with the New England Patriots when the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. He worked hand in hand with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, first as the quarterbacks coach, then as the offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008. McDaniels’ first run as a head coach went poorly in Denver. Hired at the age of 32 to take over for tenured Broncos’ coach Mike Shanahan, McDaniels went 11-17 in his time there. He was fired toward the end of his second season after a poor start and a video taping scandal broke. McDaniels served as the Rams offensive coordinator for one season before his return to New England in 2012. Many seem to believe he has repaired his reputation to seem fit for a second go around as a head coach. McDaniels was a hot name last year, interviewing with a few different organizations before ultimately deciding to return to New England. He will most likely have his pick this off-season.
The Hot Coordinator Names
Frank Reich, offensive coordinator, Eagles: We all remember Reich for leading the Bills to the NFL’s largest comeback in history. Since his playing days though, Reich has embarked on a successful coaching career. Working in Indianapolis, Arizona, and San Diego, Reich has performed well as position coach for wide receivers and quarterbacks. He has been integral in the development and success of Carson Wentz in the Eagles system since taking over as offensive coordinator prior to the 2016 season. Reich is near the front of the line for an opportunity as a head coach.
John DeFilippo, quarterbacks coach, Eagles: I know, he isn’t a coordinator, but he has been before. A young up-and-coming name that has gathered more momentum this season as the Eagles have taken off. DeFilippo is a name many Browns fans know well from his single season as an NFL offensive coordinator in 2015. He served in the role in Mike Pettine’s last season with the organization. While juggling acquired veteran Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, DeFilippo constructed one of Cleveland’s most prolific offenses: 4,156 passing yards (4th-most in franchise history), 2.0 INT % (2nd-best), and a 4,100 passing yard, 1,500 rushing yard season for the first time since 1986. DeFilippo has coached quarterbacks at the college and NFL level since 2000, and he has impressed many within the NFL. Momentum seems to be gathering toward a DeFilippo head coaching role sometime in the future, perhaps soon.
Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator, Patriots : Talk about a circuitous path to NFL coaching success. Matt Patricia was a sought after engineer at the turn of the century but caught on with Syracuse as an offensive graduate assistant before making the leap to the NFL with New England. Since 2004, Patricia has worked on both sides of the ball, but more so with the defense coaching all three levels before taking over as defensive coordinator in 2012. Patricia has generally got the most out of his talent as defensive coordinator and has been a vital part of New England’s prolonged success.
Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator, Chiefs: A name gathering buzz among NFL circles seems to be Nagy. Nagy’s coaching career is young, and he is just 39, but he has already shown a propensity to lift quarterbacks he has worked with. Since Andy Reid passed off the play calling duties, the Chiefs have been much better on that side of the ball in the second half of the season. Nagy had a long playing career in the arena league, and just got into coaching in the 2010 season with the Eagles. He caught his break as the Chiefs’ quarterback coach in 2013 and has quickly worked his way up to offensive coordinator. The Andy Reid coaching tree is spread all over the NFL and Nagy may be the next to find success.
Pete Carmichael, offensive coordinator, Saints: This is a name that has not gathered enough buzz. Carmichael has had a long successful NFL coaching career, working extensively on the offensive side of the ball. He has stops in Washington, San Diego, and even Cleveland back in 2000. Carmichael’s best success has been working alongside Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans. He began coaching quarterbacks there in 2006, and he has been the offensive coordinator since 2009 . The New Orleans offense is always near the top of the league statistically, and his work with Brees has been beyond successful. His work with Brees might interest the Browns if they draft someone who is very similar to Brees’ style coming out of college this year.
Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator, Rams: Another name with extensive quarterback coaching experience. LaFleur, still only 37, has been attached to turning around quarterbacks at each of his stops. Those stops include Washington, Notre Dame, and Atlanta. LaFleur was the Redskins quarterback coach from 2010 to 2013 and led the tandem of Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman to 4,200 yards his first year on the job. A year later he got 3,000 yards from Grossman in just 13 games. Then in 2012 the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III, who promptly went to the Pro Bowl and won Rookie of the Year. When he landed in Notre Dame in 2014, he got the best out of Everett Golson, who wasn’t the same before or after he left. The same can be said for Matt Ryan who saw his career best numbers in the two years LaFleur was his position coach. He is working alongside Sean McVay in one the NFL’s best offenses in Los Angeles, and is a name that can really take off this off-season for the right head coaching position. His trail of success should spark plenty of interest.
Other Names to Consider
Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator, Panthers: Wilks is in his first year as an NFL defensive coordinator, but has coaching experience at both the NFL and college level dating back to 1997. He has been around the block at all levels of the defense, and has the Panthers defense near the top third of the NFL ranks.
Mike Vrabel, defensive coordinator, Texans: A name many Browns fans are familiar with from his college playing days and coaching experience. Vrable continues to rise in the coaching ranks as he is well known for his defensive intelligence and leadership. Vrable began his coaching career under Urban Meyer at Ohio State in 2011, and has quickly jumped the ranks to the NFL as the defensive coordinator in Houston. He is a name to pay attention to come interview season.
Teryl Austin, defensive coordinator, Lions: Austin has an extensive coaching career dating back to the early 1990’s. He has worked in the NFL with the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Ravens since 2003. He has been the Lions’ defensive coordinator since 2014, and has been a big part of two Detroit playoff teams in 2014 and 2016. His chance is coming soon.
Dave Toub, special teams coordinator, Chiefs: This is a name directly connected to new Browns general manager John Dorsey. Toub has been coaching since the late 1980’s and has been in the NFL since 2001 with the Eagles, Bears, and Chiefs. Each stop has been in the special teams coordinator role. It’s rare to see a coach make the jump from special teams coordinator to head coach in the NFL, but John Harbaugh is the most recent example and he has enjoyed plenty of success in Baltimore. It’s clear Toub’s name carries respect in NFL coaching circles.
Bruce Arians, head coach, Cardinals: This one seems a stretch despite reports earlier this week that the Cardinals and Arians were set to part ways after the season. Arians again refuted a story regarding his future, as he had to do the same when retirement reports made their way around the league earlier in the season. If Arians and the Cardinals do part ways at the conclusion of next week, the odds are it will be the retirement route. But if Arians becomes open to working with another team, expect deep interest from Cleveland as Arians has mentioned before his desire to turn the franchise around.
Jon Gruden, former Buccaneers and Raiders head coach: We all know the story here – the former Raiders and Buccaneers coach is always a name brought up when this time of year comes around. Gruden hasn’t coached since 2008, but he remains an active part of the game with Monday Night Football and his off-season Gruden Quarterback Camp segments on ESPN. Gruden is still only 54 and has never quite shut down the possibility of coming back to the NFL if the urge struck him. Recently he told ESPN Radio: “I love Monday Night Football, don’t plan on leaving, but as you know in life, you never say never to nothing.”
Jim Harbaugh, head coach, Michigan: This one is a stretch for anyone in the NFL as the former 49ers head coach has settled in for what seems like the long haul in Ann Arbor. Should Harbaugh express interest in listening to an NFL return, a phone call should be made.
David Shaw, head coach, Stanford: The college ranks aren’t providing many NFL direct coaching candidates, but Shaw is the exception. He has show the ability to run a pro-style scheme on both sides of the ball and continually get the best out of his talent. Shaw’s name has floated around for a few off-season’s now, but there has never been serious interest from his side.
Other names to watch for:
George Edwards, defensive coordinator, Vikings
Harold Goodwin, offensive coordinator, Cardinals
Kris Richard, defensive coordinator, Seahawks
Paul Guenther, defensive coordinator, Bengals
Mike Munchak, offensive line coach, Steelers
It is unclear what the Browns will do with Hue Jackson following the season. Odds are he will be returning in the same capacity as he is currently, only with the hiring of an offensive coordinator to ease his burden. Should the Browns part ways with Jackson, it will be hard to see them find that established name so many crave. Odds are in their favor to land one of the younger offensive minds, and work him alongside an established defensive coordinator to replicate what the young Los Angeles Rams have been able to produce. If they are able to get Jim Schwartz from the Eagles, that could be a nice fit as well. Whoever the name is, whether Jackson or someone new, the culture of the organization has to see an immediate change. That will be the head coach’s biggest single job in 2018.