It's looking more and more as if the next head coach of the Browns isn't going to be someone that excites the fan base.
The hopes for those that wanted a former head coach who had been to the Super Bowl like a Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, John Fox or even Mike Holmgren seemed to be fading every day.
Gruden says he's staying at ESPN, while Holmgren says he's not ready to coach, now. Cowher is rumored to be interested in only a couple of places, while no one really knows if there is interest in Fox or vice-versa.
The names Pat Shurmur, Perry Fewell, Mike Mularkey or even Marty Mornhinweg don't seem to be the likes that will cause fans to line up to buy season tickets.
However, Browns fans are loyal and fair and will support whoever is calling the shots. How else can you explain the support for a team that has played horribly for the better part of 20 years?
The trust that Holmgren will get it right is what the Browns fans are counting on. However, bear in mind that this is something that Holmgren has never done before at the NFL level. The fact that Holmgren thought Jake Delhomme would be the bridge at quarterback causes some concern to the fan base.
As the search continues, it appears more and more that there is traction to the rumors that Shurmur is considered the front runner to be the team's next coach. Where there is smoke, there's fire and national reporters like Chris Mortensen and Peter King are given more information than local media personalities, leading to the speculation that there's truth to it.
Nothing against Shurmur, but if he is indeed named the coach, it's hard to figure the reasoning behind it, besides being the nephew of Fritz Shurmur, Holmgren's former defensive coordinator. When Holmgren said that he was going to find the best coach because this hiring was "huge," it lead most people to think they would interview more than three candidates.
In looking at the Browns history, they haven't fared too well in the department of hiring former assistant coaches. The last assistant coach to be successful in Cleveland was Marty Schottenheimer, who took over mid-season for Sam Rutigliano in 1984. He was 4-4 his first year, followed by 8-8, 12-4, 10-5 and 10-6 in his final year. Rutigliano and Blanton Collier would be two other assistants who were successful with the Browns as head coaches. Collier took over Paul Brown's team and led the Browns to their last NFL Championship in 1964.
After Schottenheimer, there was a parade of first-time NFL head coaches in Bud Carson, Bill Belichick, Chris Palmer, Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel.
Having previous head coaching experience in the NFL doesn't guarantee success. Mangini was the first coach hired who had previous head coaching experience in the NFL dating back to the 1960's and that didn't fare too well. Mangini was 10-22 in his two seasons with the Browns.
In looking at the numbers where Shurmur was this past season, the Rams were the 26th best offense in the NFL, not too far ahead of the Browns, who were 29th. Shurmur has Steven Jackson, the best weapon on the team offensively, and he was only given the ball 11 times in the season-ending loss to the Seahawks. It would seem if the Browns were going to go for an assistant coach, they could get one with much more impressive numbers than what the Rams put up.
Of the candidates interviewed, Mularkey would seem to be the top choice considering he's had much more successful offenses than Shurmur.
I didn't have a problem with the Browns firing Mangini as it was apparent the philosophy of Holmgren and he were never going to coalesce. However, I assumed that Holmgren had already a good idea of who would be the next coach.
As I have stated many times, I thought Holmgren would step in at least for a season to make the most seamless transition, but he apparently isn't thinking that way now. However, if they didn't already have someone lined up, it's hard for me to understand why Mangini was fired.
Just like the case of Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, I didn't have a problem getting rid of them, but NOT before you had someone close to their talent level in place. The addition of Ben Watson in 2010 replaced Winslow, but they had no real tight end threat in 2009. The Browns have been searching for a wide receiver threat that causes double teams for the defense ever since Edwards was traded. There is a case that can be made the No. 1 priority the Browns have this offseason is finding a No. 1 wide receiver.
It is the same with the coach. If you can't significantly upgrade the situation, then why do it, just to do it?
The most disturbing item that Holmgren said in his press conference to announce the firing of Mangini was the statement that he wasn't concerned with continuity.
If the Browns aren't going to build on what they did this last season, then it very well could be a total rebuilding project once again. If a coach isn't hired who will plug what the Browns already have into the system, then what was the purpose of keeping Mangini around for the 2010 season? It could very well turn out to be a wasted season if the new coach is going to completely overhaul the roster, offensively and defensively.
Browns fans don't want to hear it, but if Holmgren doesn't hire someone who will run the desired offense and defense tailored to the Browns' personnel, we might soon hear the dreaded seven-letter word.
Happy New Year!