The sky is falling in the Cleveland sports universe, as it tends to around this time every year. While the the Cavaliers’ struggle is noteworthy, my mind lingers on the Cleveland Browns Front Office dumpster fire, as Kyle Shanahan and Dowell Loggains departed the Cleveland Browns offensive coaching staff.
For those unfamiliar, Kyle Shanahan was the Browns’ Offensive Coordinator and Dowell Loggains the Quarterbacks Coach, each in their first years in those roles with the team. Both were tasked with getting Hoyer up and running with his offense while also acclimating Johnny Manziel to the NFL game. To outsiders who watched the Browns play this year, both Shanahan and Loggains failed as the quarterbacks were so poor for half the season that the offense could not get first downs, let alone put points on the board.
I can’t argue with this, the Browns quarterbacks were shambles this year and completely held the offense, and team as a whole, back. Since the season ended, there have been multiple reports from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports about organizational instability between the Browns front office and coaching staffs (to read one example click here). While they make for interesting reading, it’s important to keep in mind Kyle’s dad, Mike Shanahan’s history in the NFL and with Jason La Canfora (they’re very close, in fact La Canfora was a Redskins beat writer before getting his national work with CBS), when reading these articles.
Based on La Canfora’s articles, Shanahan’s departure for the Atlanta Falcons and how Kyle is viewed throughout the league as a highly regarded offensive mind, I wonder if Shanahan was getting input/criticism from owner Jimmy Haslam and/or general manager Ray Farmer on playing Johnny Manziel at quarterback sooner than later during the season. I don’t place much stock in the “texting the sidelines about play calling” story personally, but this would certainly fall under the same argument of front office interfering with Shanahan’s duties.
With all of the finger pointing, and eventual departures, it seems a lot of Browns fans have forgotten how productive the offense was at the start of the season. While Brian Hoyer is not a “franchise” quarterback who’s going to win games single-handedly, when he had a healthy offensive line and productive running game, he was a competent quarterback who led the Browns to a 7-4 record through 11 games. After Alex Mack was injured, the offense sputtered and seemed to lose a lot of momentum they initially built. As soon as Mack went down and the schedule got more difficult, the offense quickly deteriorated putting up more than 10 points twice in the last 5 games.
For me, this shows a lack of organizational competency, if Shanahan was hired to run the offense and is trusted throughout the league to do so, why is the Browns owner and front office telling him how to do his job? If you think I’m being naive in this thought, don’t take my word for it, read Bernie Kosar’s thoughts on the matter in this interview from December. Essentially, Kyle Shanahan failed as offensive coordinator because he had no chance the second he started. He was doomed by the Browns Front Office dumpster fire of indecision and leadership when he signed on. In his new role as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, he walks into a fairly stable organization (replacing head coach Mike Smith, but retaining Thomas Dimitroff and the front office structure) and, far more importantly an above-average quarterback in Matt Ryan. It will be interesting to see if Shanahan retains the movement he’s typically required of his quarterbacks of the past in place for Matty Ice moving forward, but I think the Atlanta offense will experience a slight resurgence next year.
Loggains, on the other hand, I have no beef with being fired. While the Browns Front Office dumpster fire can engulf and torch the flame of any promising coach, they do understand the need for consistency and respect. When Loggains told his story of texting with Johnny Manziel on draft night, leading to Jimmy Haslam (and not GM Ray Farmer) demanding the team draft Manziel, he effectively was submitting his resignation. No front office worth their weight in salt would allow a coach to publicly denounce their scouts and draft process and retain him for the next year.
I take solace in at least some organizational continuity for the Browns leading into next year, with Farmer, head coach Pettine and defensive coordinator O’Neil returning. That said, it was clear their goal was to retain all of their coaches heading into the offseason, despite Shanahan having other plans. Pettine has to decide if he will roll the dice at offensive coordinator with someone he hasn’t worked with before (like Kyle Shanahan last year) or if he’ll lean towards someone he’s fought in the trenches with before. I’m optimistic that retaining several coaches and having the same defensive system in place is a baby step for the organization in the right direction. One day, the Browns Front Office dumpster fire may even fully extinguish, but don’t hold your breath …
What are your thoughts on the Browns offseason so far? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn and thanks for reading!
(The image was taken from Flickr’s Free Use photos, posted by user Luca Bove and available here: Fire.)