To be a Cleveland Browns fan requires a special kind of perspective. You’ve suffered. You’ve endured. You’ve become almost immune to the monotonous turmoil that is inflicted by being within any relative proximity to the franchise.
That is why friendships – often brought to life through text threads in the year 2018 – are so essential to Browns fandom.
And boy, do I have the text thread for you. For the last three years, my brothers Adam and Sam, plus their friends Nick and Zak Perge, have conducted an annual Thanksgiving snake draft to predict the following year’s Cleveland Browns Week 1 starting quarterback. That base has led to a text thread that also includes myself and Drew Bennett, one of Nick’s close friends in Columbus.
This text thread has its own round of inside jokes. Lots of nicknames for various athletes. Lots of random tangents. Hundreds of texts a day, especially on Sundays. And a whole lot of talk about what can be done to top the most recent quarterback draft.
On Thanksgiving 2015, the next year’s Week 1 starter Robert Griffin III was pick No. 23 by Nick. On Thanksgiving 2016, the next year’s Week 1 starter DeShone Kizer was pick No. 7 again by Nick. And then on Thanksgiving 2017, the next year’s Week 1 starter Tyrod Taylor was pick No. 6 by Sam.
But, given the ascension of Baker Mayfield and the obviously expected fall of Hue Jackson’s tenure, this led to only one viable option: A head coach draft. And for the first time ever, all six of us together participated over a conference call line late on Thanksgiving evening. The selection order was randomized.
After 72 quarterbacks were drafted last year, we knew we had to top it. So we drafted 108 coaches this time around. These are the results. Following the results, each participant shares their thoughts and reactions to how it all went down (current ages and professional occupations all represented below):
- Adam – Gregg Williams (60), Interim Head Coach, Cleveland Browns
- Jacob – Lincoln Riley (35), Head Coach, University of Oklahoma
- Nick – Josh McDaniels (42), Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
- Drew – Matt Campbell (39), Head Coach, Iowa State University
- Sam – Mike McCarthy (55), Head Coach, Green Bay Packers
- Zak – John DeFilippo (40), Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings
- Zak – Todd Monken (52), Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Sam – Eric Bieniemy (49), Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
- Drew – Mike Mularkey (57), Former Head Coach, Tennessee Titans
- Nick – Kirk Ferentz (63), Head Coach, University of Iowa
- Jacob – Matt LaFleur (39), Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans
- Adam – Kris Richard (39), Defensive Backs Coach, Dallas Cowboys
- Adam – Dave Toub (56), Special Teams Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
- Jacob – Dan Campbell (42), Tight Ends Coach, New Orleans Saints
- Nick – Jim Harbaugh (54), Head Coach, University of Michigan
- Drew – John Harbaugh (56), Head Coach, Baltimore Ravens
- Sam – Zac Taylor (35), Quarterbacks Coach, Los Angeles Rams
- Zak – Bruce Arians (66), Former Head Coach, Arizona Cardinals
- Zak – Jason Garrett (52), Head Coach, Dallas Cowboys
- Sam – Nick Saban (67), Head Coach, University of Alabama
- Drew – Sean McVay (32), Head Coach, Los Angeles Rams
- Nick – Bob Stoops (58), Former Head Coach, University of Oklahoma
- Jacob – Jim Schwartz (52), Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
- Adam – Jack Del Rio (55), Former Head Coach, Oakland Raiders
- Adam – Dennis Allen (46), Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints
- Jacob – Jim Bob Cooter (34), Offensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions
- Nick – Tony Dungy (63), Hall of Fame Head Coach
- Drew – Pete Carmichael (47), Offensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints
- Sam – Chris Petersen (54), Head Coach, University of Washington
- Zak – Mark Helfrich (45), Offensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears
- Zak – Vic Fangio (60), Defensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears
- Sam – David Shaw (46), Head Coach, Stanford University
- Drew – Ken Whisenhunt (56), Offensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Chargers
- Nick – Leslie Frazier (59), Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
- Jacob – Mike Groh (46), Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
- Adam – Urban Meyer (54), Head Coach, Ohio State University
- Adam – Matt Rhule (43), Head Coach, Baylor University
- Jacob – James Bettcher (40), Defensive Coordinator, New York Giants
- Nick – Mike Vrabel (43), Head Coach, Tennessee Titans
- Drew – Bill O’Brien (49), Head Coach, Houston Texans
- Sam – Chuck Pagano (58), Former Head Coach, Indianapolis Colts
- Zak – Freddie Kitchens (44), Offensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns
- Zak – Jim Caldwell (63), Former Head Coach, Detroit Lions
- Sam – Norv Turner (66), Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers
- Drew – Doug Marrone (54), Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Nick – Tony Romo (38), Former Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
- Jacob – James Franklin (46), Head Coach, Penn State University
- Adam – George Edwards (51), Defensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings
- Adam – Chip Kelly (55), Head Coach, University of California, Los Angeles
- Jacob – Dowell Loggains (38), Offensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins
- Nick – Kliff Klingsbury (39), Former Head Coach, Texas Tech University
- Drew – Brian Daboll (43), Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
- Sam – Peyton Manning (42), Future Hall of Fame Quarterback
- Zak – Brian Schottenheimer (45), Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
- Zak – Mike Martz (67), Head Coach, San Diego Fleet
- Sam – Mike Shanahan (66), Former Head Coach, Washington Redskins
- Drew – Jason Candle (39), Head Coach, University of Toledo
- Nick – Dan Pees (69), Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans
- Jacob – Byron Leftwich (38), Offensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals
- Adam – Rex Ryan (55), Former Head Coach, Buffalo Bills
- Adam – Marvin Lewis (60), Head Coach, Cincinnati Bengals
- Jacob – Gus Bradley (52), Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Chargers
- Nick – Marty Mornhinweg (56), Offensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
- Drew – Scott Frost (43), Head Coach, University of Nebraska
- Sam – Joe Gibbs (78), Hall of Fame Head Coach
- Zak – John Fassel (44), Special Teams Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
- Zak – Mike Leach (57), Head Coach, Washington State University
- Sam – Ted Ginn Sr. (63), Head Coach, Glenville High School
- Drew – Matt Cavanaugh (62), Offensive Coordinator, Washington Redskins
- Nick – Adam Gase (40), Head Coach, Miami Dolphins
- Jacob – Paul Guenther (47), Defensive Coordinator, Oakland Raiders
- Adam – Pat Shurmur (53), Head Coach, New York Giants
- Adam – Sean Payton (54), Head Coach, New Orleans Saints
- Jacob – Brian Kelly (57), Head Coach, University of Notre Dame
- Nick – Dabo Swinney (49), Head Coach, Clemson University
- Drew – David Cutcliffe (64), Head Coach, Duke University
- Sam – Brett Favre (49), Hall of Fame Quarterback
- Zak – Greg Manusky (52), Defensive Coordinator, Washington Redskins
- Zak – Don Martindale (55), Defensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
- Sam – Lance Reisland (44), Head Coach, Garfield Heights High School
- Drew – Steve Sarkisian (44), Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
- Nick – Kirby Smart (42), Head Coach, University of Georgia
- Jacob – Mike McCoy (46), Former Offensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals
- Adam – Teryl Austin (53), Former Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
- Adam – Darrell Bevell (48), Former Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
- Jacob – Jeremy Bates (42), Offensive Coordinator, New York Jets
- Nick – Brad Seely (62), Special Teams Coordinator, Houston Texans
- Drew – Matt Canada (46), Interim Head Coach, University of Maryland
- Sam – Joe Thomas (33), Former Left Tackle, Cleveland Browns
- Zak – Aaron Kromer (51), Offensive Line Coach, Los Angeles Rams
- Zak – Zach Smith (34), Former Wide Receivers Coach, Ohio State University
- Sam – Jason Trusnik (34), Former Linebacker, Miami Dolphins
- Drew – John Dorsey (58), General Manager, Cleveland Browns
- Nick – Jimmy Haslam (64), Owner, Cleveland Browns
- Jacob – Dirk Koetter (59), Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Adam – Condoleeza Rice (64), Former U.S. Secretary of State
- Adam – Ryan Day (39), Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State University
- Jacob – Shane Waldron (39), Tight Ends Coach, Los Angeles Rams
- Nick – Jim Tressel (65), President, Youngstown State University
- Drew – Kelsey Martinez (26), Strength & Conditioning Assistant, Oakland Raiders
- Sam – Pete Carroll (67), Head Coach, Seattle Seahawks
- Zak – Wade Phillips (71), Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
- Zak – Jeff Fisher (60), Former Head Coach, Los Angeles Rams
- Sam – Butch Davis (67), Head Coach, Florida International University
- Drew – Bill Cowher (61), Former Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Nick – Rod Marinelli (69), Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
- Jacob – Brian Flores (37), Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots
- Adam – Vance Joseph (46), Head Coach, Denver Broncos
Jacob: I studied hard for this thing! To get my first chance to participate in the draft meant that I had to step it up. I had a list of over 130 names heading into this thing. And yet like just over half of that list even got drafted! This got way wackier than I expect. I blame the tryptophan. And my brothers, mostly.
A week later, I’m sort of regretting Lincoln Riley at No. 2. Some of the other veteran coaches, like Mike McCarthy, may have been more appropriate. At the time, the Riley rumors were all over the place!
Afterwards, my strategy was just to pile up as many well-regarded coordinators and retreads as possible. I went straight down my top-50 list and gathered names and names and names. While my brothers were off drafting la-la names like Zach Smith, I was still laser focused on legitimate options I studied intensely.
Heck, my round 17 (Shane Waldron) and 18 (Brian Flores) picks could be the real deal! Or they might not get a head coach interview for another half decade. Anything is possible when we’re dealing with the Browns. This better not be the first time we have a No. 1 overall pick actually win this thing.
Sam: I really hope I’m wrong, but Mike McCarthy feels like a lock to be the next Browns coach. Between all the Packers ties in the front office, the fact Haslam and Dorsey will respect his “football guy” makeup, and his work leading a consistently successful franchise, he’s the perfect candidate. Now of course, I absolutely do not want McCarthy, I would prefer a young up-and-comer, but this was the right pick in the first round.
I went with some young offensive gurus from elite offensive teams I’d like to see get a shot in Bieniemy and Zac Taylor with my next two picks. Either one of them makes some sense to create that air-raid style offense they currently lead in KC and LA and bring it to Baker and the Browns.
Things started to get messy in the middle rounds, where I mixed in some Jimmy Haslam picks (throwing a big bag of money at Saban, Peyton Manning, Mike Shanahan), some off-the-wall picks (Brett Favre, Joe Thomas), some local high school coaches (Ted Ginn Sr., Lance Reisland) and some guys I had to Google to see if they were still alive (Joe Gibbs). I even picked one cousin-in-law/former Browns player (Jason Trusnik) just because that would be fun. Pete Carroll was my favorite late-round pick, if things go south in Seattle ya never know if he becomes available.
Anyway, there is a fairly decent chance we didn’t pick the guy who becomes the next coach here today, and I think that may be for the best.
Adam: A Thanksgiving tradition, remade. We finally have our QB and now we need his overlord. I drafted Baker last year in what should be the final QB draft in a long, long time, but I didn’t win since Tyrod started the season. Taking that mojo into the coach draft, I was blessed with the No. 1 pick. I immediately “put my testicles in the C-gap” and drafted Gregg. This guy is either the second coming of Vince Lombardi or Hue was just that bad. Either way, I like my chances with the Browns on a winning streak and a QB that oozes swag.
Gregg coaches with the same kind of fire that my second-round pick, Kris Richard, coaches with in Dallas. Dude got into a fight with Jalen Ramsey the other week (seems to be a recurring theme for Ramsey). Both are kind of the opposite of Jack Del Rio, who I scooped up in the fourth round. Del Rio wears leather and lets the players run the show. I guess when Derek Carr is wondering what took you so long to be fired he fits the Browns mold.
My later picks were highlighted by a couple big names like Urban Meyer (this was before OSU trounced Michigan, again), Chip Kelly (he might be out of football at year’s end), Marvin Lewis (would be oddly satisfying if him and Hue switched places), Sean Payton (Baker > Brees) and Condi Rice. I went with Condi despite her denial of the coaching rumors. This is 2018 so I can’t believe she lasted this long.
Don’t sleep on Dave Toub, special teams coach in KC. Dorsey loves him some KC BBQ and Toub could go against the grain landing the HC job after a decade coaching kickoffs. Same goes for the Baylor coach, Matt Rhule, who knows a thing or two about coming into a program after they’ve cleaned house. I picked a few other defensive coaches, Dennis Allen (DC Saints) and George Edwards (DC Vikings) because the Browns shouldn’t ever go back to the HC calling plays. Defense wins championships, baby!
Zak: I wonder what would happen if I put this much effort and prep into any other aspect of my life. Going in, I had 85 names divided between current coaches, OC/DC, college, retread and other. I think my top five picks are all pretty feasible. This franchise certainly shouldn’t take a defensive guy, but this is the Browns so I had to hedge with a few picks.
If the Browns can finish 7-8-1 or better, playing this way with Baker putting up these kind of numbers, Kitchens is a real possibility. I think we can all agree that whoever will become the coach isn’t on this list and will be terrible. I was prepared to go so many more rounds. Some of the hot commodities remaining on my big board were Hue Jackson, Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Philbin, Romeo Crennel, Mike Pettine, Chud, Baker’s Dad, Chris Foerster, Tom Izzo, June Jones, Mark Trestman, Mike Florio, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dee Haslam. Go Cavs?
Nick: Here we are. One of the most perverse annual traditions I can think of. Typically at this point in the season it’s all we can do to laugh at the meat grinder that is the Cleveland Browns organization.
Let me first say this: It is beyond presumptuous that we are not doing a QB snake as well. We should know better at this point to assume we know who our week one starter is next year.
As far as the head coach draft goes, this draft could have gone twice as long. I think to myself, if we had done 18 rounds the year we got Mike Pettine on contract, would he have been drafted? Very hard to say, but my gut tells me no.
My strategy, after picking the ever-mentioned Josh McDaniels with my first pick, was to go to the college well early and often. Kirk Ferentz, Jim Harbaugh, Swinney, and Smart all taken. My most dubious picks were Tony Romo and Tony Dungy, but what’s crazy these days? Hell, we brought back a 1-31 coach. Anything can happen.
Steal of the draft beyond a doubt was Jeff Fisher in the 18th. He’s begging for the Orange and Brown pullover.
Drew: This was my first snake draft with what I will henceforth refer to as “the guys.” For those of you familiar with the guys’ 2017 Browns QB draft, you may remember Nick dreading a coach draft. He even mused, “God, how high would Kirk Ferentz have gone?” By now you know the answer to that is the second round (to Nick). Zak posed the most compelling post-draft question: “Did we even draft the next Browns coach?” I say yes. So, with that, here are a few scribbles:
My best chance: Probably Mike Mularkey or Ken Whisenhunt. Possibly John Harbaugh and Doug Marrone should they hit the market.
Immediate regrets: Matt Campbell in the first round. If Dorsey values veteran coaches as much as he does players, this was probably a wasted pick. I expect to regret passing on Mike McCarthy and Bruce Arians in this slot. Side note: I wanted Riley or McDaniels here, but both were off the board and I panicked.
What were we thinking?: Letting Jeff Fisher slip to Zak in the 18th round!
I’m not ruling out: John Dorsey (who says no, buddy boy?)