Rich's Rant: Wes is More

In Rich's view, WR coach Wes Chandler is an unheralded star of the team's coaching staff. Rich argues that Chandler deserves credit for helping Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow emerge as stars, while head coach Romeo Crennel basks in their success...

Over the past few months, Browns coach Romeo Crennel has received high grades for his ability to turn Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. into Pro Bowl players.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Or less deserved. Unless, of course, you belong to the buck-stops-here crowd. In which case then, Crennel has done a remarkable job in transforming the brashly outspoken two receivers.

But for those of you suspicious that someone else had a stronger hand in quieting the two supremely gifted athletes and turning them into solid pros, look no further than Wes Chandler, the receivers coach who operates well under the radar.

In his own quiet way, Chandler took two almost-out-of-control young men and molded them into professionals on and off the field.

In the previous two seasons, the most outspoken members of the team were the mercurial Edwards and Winslow. Rash and thoughtless public statements landed them in trouble. A sideline squabble during a game involving Edwards caught on camera did nothing to soothe feelings.

They were young, immature, impetuous and generally hard to handle. And if rumors are to be believed, the Browns were so unhappy with Edwards, they floated his name as trade bait before the 2007 college draft. Fortunately, no one bit.

This past season, we heard not a peep from these two, who preferred to let their actions speak a whole lot louder than their words would ever have. In their own way, they stepped up and became team leaders, aiding in no small way to forge a 10-6 record.

Don't underestimate the importance of that role. Successful teams need certain players to step forward and assume leadership. On offense, it usually is the quarterback. But the quiet and reserved Derek Anderson was in his first full season and needed to grow into that role. Edwards and Winslow filled it with marvelous seasons.

While their bravado might have spilled over onto the field in the form of trash talk (which they backed up), it was quite different off the field.

The throw-me-the-damn-ball syndrome did not exist in the Cleveland locker room. One reason might have been offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's pass-friendly offense.

More likely, it was because Chandler convinced Edwards and Winslow to exercise patience and their time would come. Their game-in, game-out performance in the surprising season was the direct result.

Under Chandler, Edwards and Winslow became more precise in running their routes. And their concentration on catching the football at times reached spectacular, sometimes miraculous, heights.

Edwards had the raw ability to become one of the National Football League's best wide receivers. He was fast, but an undisciplined route runner whose hands betrayed him more than they should have. His talent needed to be harnessed.  Chandler worked the reins to perfection.

Winslow, though listed technically as a tight end, played quite a bit at wide receiver in the Browns' multi-receiver sets, creating mismatches opposing defenses had problems with all season.

Chandler taught him the nuances of the position. Although that might not have been necessary because of Winslow's unique and sometimes quite extraordinary skill set. He nonetheless was a more-than-willing student.

Chandler was quite familiar with Winslow before arriving in Cleveland, having played with Junior's famous father at San Diego in the 1980s. He was a star wide receiver on that Chargers team after coming over from New Orleans in a 1981 trade.

He wound up with nearly 9,000 receiving yards in 11-plus NFL seasons and landed in four Pro Bowls along the way after becoming the third player selected in the 1978 college draft.

Winslow's father became famous for his phenomenal and physically-draining performance in the Chargers' dramatic playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins in the 1981 playoffs, but Chandler sparkled with six catches for more than 100 yards in that games and scored on a 56-yard punt return.

If there was anyone who could connect with Winslow and get him to concentrate on how to conduct himself as a pro, Chandler had to be the guy.

It wouldn't be surprising if the old man took Junior aside and said something like, "Son, trust me on this one. I played with the man. Wes Chandler is the best thing to happen to you. Listen to him. He's a good man. He'll help you take that next step. He knows what he's talking about. Listen and learn."

Chandler cut his coaching teeth in high school ball and Central Florida University in his native state before spending seven seasons coaching in NFL Europe. He followed that with stints as wide receivers coach with the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.

In his own quiet way, he is demanding. Watching him in training camp last summer, one could see he was a stickler for details. He's a terrific teacher. It's one thing to play the game well. Teaching it is a different animal.

Chandler is in Cleveland because of Phil Savage, not Crennel. If Crennel had his way, Maurice Carthon would still be the offensive coordinator and Terry Robiskie the wide receivers coach.

Had it not been for Savage's interference in almost totally revamping the offensive coaching staff a year ago, no telling how low the Browns would have finished last season.

So give credit where credit is due when it comes to the success of Edwards and Winslow. Just make certain you place it where it belongs. In this case, it belongs with Wes Chandler.

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