Tales from the In-Box

Lane answers your questions as the buzz continues around the Browns head coaching position. Plus... what, if anything, has happened to Joe Thomas? Why are some saying that his performance has slipped since his rookie season?

Q: With all the talk of head coach Romeo Crennel being fired at the end of the season and rumors of Bill Cowher and-or Marty Schottenheimer being candidates, what do you see happening?

LA: Right now, I would classify as being all talk with limited substance until the 'if and when' with Crennel occurs. Anybody and everybody outside of the organization does believe Crennel will be let go at the end of the season - including myself from discussions I have had with people close to the organization.

There are some within the organization that are steadfast in their belief that team owner Randy Lerner will retain the veteran coach for another season. While unlikely, in my opinion, stranger things have happened.

Now onto your points regarding Cowher and Schottenheimer. The former Browns head coach has not talked with the Browns in an official or unofficial capacity, I am told. Schottenheimer, as well as Cowher, respect the position of the current Browns head coach and will not discuss or entertain the notion of the position being available.

As for Schottenheimer the man, he is quite comfortable with his hiatus and has nothing forcing him to return to the strenuous task of being a head coach. To get him back on the sidelines now would be a tough sell but one key items is the drive to finally get to the elusive Super Bowl.

Cowher, meanwhile, has plenty of appeal to Browns fans, as well as the owner of the team. On some fronts, Cowher still chomps at the bit and misses the game. His intensity and drive to win and be part of the game has not escaped him, but the longer he manages to stay away from the immediacy of the game, the less likely he will return. Cowher has a certain love for Cleveland, as a player and former assistant coach here, he still has the desire to coach and the Cleveland head coaching position would be an opportunity he would have to think long and hard about.

Each of these two former Browns have enjoyed their time away from the game, the chance to be close to family and the opportunity to separate their personal lives from the daily grind of the NFL. Interestingly, neither men discount the opportunity at some point of potentially crossing paths once again.

Until the 2008 season concludes, neither man will directly comment on Cleveland in a manner which provides much insight. Do not discount Lerner's ability to recruit talented replacements if he fires Crennel. Lerner is thorough and does have a strong belief in history, which has proven Schottenheimer and Cowher are winners.


Q: Much is being said about Schottemheimer and Cowher being on the short list of candidates for the Browns head coaching position. Does anybody REALLY know what has or is transpiring as long as this team still has a head coach and the organization does not discuss the possibilities?

LA: The Cleveland Browns organization does not talk about the inner-workings of the team. This is an organization that prefers everything quiet. To the fans and media alike the team's philosophy is that the only thing relevant to the unit is what occurs on the playing field.

The organization has absolutely nothing to gain in discussing former coaches such as Cowher and Schottenheimer publically. This is particularly true when the season is ongoing, there is a head coach in place and the organization preaches continuity.

One thing that must be understood with this game is that people love to talk. People in and around the game love to be heard - sometimes to provide information, at others times to serve their immediate agenda.

When something like the head coaching position of the Cleveland Browns is in play, there will be those in and around the game that will offer up some information. Sometimes this is self-serving, and in other cases it is someone a writer or reporter has a long and trusting relationship with.

I can't say with certainty the thoughts of either Schottenheimer or Cowher - but I note with the utmost certainty that nobody associated with the organization, directly or indirectly has spoken with Schottenheimer. As for Cowher, I have been told he has been made aware of his lofty status in the mind of someone responsible for the Cleveland Browns football organization.


Q: You have noted on a couple occasions in the 'Ask the Insiders' forum and in articles that you believe Joe Thomas has not had as good a season as he did as a rookie in 2007. Do the injury issues of starting left guard Eric Steinbach play into this equation?

LA: Yes, i have noted on several occasions starting left tackle Joe Thomas has not been as consistent and dominating as in the 2007 season. While still playing at a high level, Thomas has not been the force in pass protection he was a season ago - though he remains very good.

A season ago, it did not matter what type of lineman or defensive end he faced, Thomas was sound. He was fundamentally as good as any left tackle in the game last year and he was efficient as a run blocker while teaming with Steinbach to arguably make-up one of the very best left-sides in the game in the 2007 season.

Thomas has faced some good competition week-in and week-out and has done a solid job. But he was spectacular last season - not only in combating the opposition one-on-one, but in teaming with Steinbach to stonewall the defense.

Steinbach has not been 100% for the majority of the season, but has played well in most cases. The issue with Steinbach, as well as Thomas, is that neither player is a physical force at the point of attack, and they rely on technique and quickness to offset the strength of the opposing defense.

In all, I am sure Steinbach's injury issues does factor into the Thomas issue to some minor extent - as does the overall state of the Browns offense. That doesn't explain Thomas' efficiency when matched-up one-on-one. This is where he has not been as effective in 2008, though remains a solid left tackle and should remain one of the better in the game due to his fundamentally sound technique.


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