One of the lightning rod points for Browns fans has been and always seems to be is play calling. In Pat Shurmur's first season, the offense struggled and many felt an offensive coordinator would make a big difference in the Browns offense.
Brad Childress was hired to inject new life into an offense that averaged only 13.6 points per game (30th in the NFL). The Browns were 29th overall in yardage (28th rushing and 24th passing).
But, will he be the answer?
Former NFL head coach Dick Jauron brought stability to the Browns defense as they finished 10th in the NFL, overall. Shurmur appeared to turn over the controls to Jauron and overall, he did a good job. The defense clearly wasn't the problem last season, but rather the offense. Jauron also had another former NFL head coach on his staff in Ray Rhodes.
The Browns are hoping bringing in Childress can bring stability to the offensive side of the ball, albeit a year late.
Let's take a look at Childress and what he brings to the Browns.
Childress was head coach of the Vikings for five seasons from 2006-2010. He was 39-35 with the Vikings and won consecutive NFC North titles. Childress was fired after a 3-7 start in 2010. In his five seasons in Minnesota, his offense ranked 23rd-, 13th-, 17th-, fifth- and 23rd.
Childress' best season was also Brett Favre's last productive year in his career, when the Vikings lost in overtime to the Saints in the NFC Championship game after the 2009 season.
Childress did not coach in 2011 after 33-straight years coaching, previously. Shurmur worked with Childress on the same staff with the Eagles from 1999-2005 where Childress was the offensive coordinator and Shurmur was the quarterbacks coach while Andy Reid called the plays. After getting a lot of the credit for the high-powered Eagles offense, Childress was hired as the Vikings head coach.
There has been no announcement on who will call the plays next season, but reportedly, Shurmur will call the plays "to start" in 2012. In terms of play calling, Shurmur has actually called plays more than Childress has in recent history. Shurmur has called the plays the last three seasons, two as offensive coordinator with the Rams and last season with the Browns. Childress last called the plays as head coach of the Vikings in 2006. In that season, the Vikings finished 23rd in yards and 26th in points scored (17.6 avg.).
"The coordinator role obviously, it's like having another decision maker amongst your staff that has the title of being able to say we're going to do this or do that," Shurmur said in his season ending news conference when asked if he'd allow the coordinator to call the plays.
"His final role, there's a lot of different models as to how that works."
It is expected that Childress will shoulder some of the burden for Shurmur by putting together the game plan and leading offensive meetings during the week. The fact that Childress did not call the plays the majority of the time he has been an offensive coordinator means that it wasn't a major issue with him.
In hindsight, a person like Childress would've seemed to have helped Shurmur immensely navigate through the trials of tribulations of being a first year head coach in the NFL.
Shurmur interviewed a couple of potential coordinator candidates in 2011, but they went elsewhere and Shurmur ultimately decided to handle the job himself. The Browns struggled with clock management and personnel issues that Childress should be able to help with moving forward.
The bottom line, however, is if the Browns don't add play makers to the offense, it doesn't matter who is calling the plays, the offense will still continue to struggle. And once again, that is why the 2012 off-season is so important to the future of the Browns—especially the offense.