Outside the Perimeter: Mobile Obsessions

If the Browns reboot their coaching staff again, they will once more miss one slight off-season edge

Though one won't exhaust oneself imagining downsides to losing Eric Mangini as Browns' head coach this winter, there is at least the potential of one significant negative: Cleveland coaches will once again not be coaching a Senior Bowl squad.

There aren't many benefits to losing like few in one's conference, but one is that the NFL tries to assign the least-successful intact coaching staff from each conference the opportunity to work hands-on and intimately with one of the all-star collegiate squads.

Not since Bill Belichick in 1993 have the Browns been permitted the advantageous privilege.

Consider how well having Marty Schottenheimer's then-staff assigned to the late-January Mobile extravaganza worked for the San Diego Chargers in 2004. The Chargers came away with QB Philip Rivers, center Nick Hardwick, PK Nate Kaeding, OLB Shawn Phillips and short-time ORT Shane Olivea from those rosters. So understandably pleased were they, the SD staff plucked WR Vincent Jackson and RB/KR Darren Sproles after the southern Alabama game in ‘05.

Phil Savage got in on the plundering in 2006 when he essentially drafted from his own backyard, selecting Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson, Travis Wilson and Lawrence Vickers from the open-practices of Ladd-Peebles Stadium. In ‘08, it was Beau Bell and Martin Rucker he was obsessing over.


The concept of obsession is one worth contemplating, as it affects Cleveland's Browns. Savage surely exhibited his share when determined to deal-up for Bell, Rucker and Hubbard in that ill-fated final draft class of his. Only NT Ahtyba Rubin remains, himself a Senior Bowl alum.

Then again, maybe the only difference between obsession and conviction is whether it works out.

It must've been obsession that compelled then-Cleveland coach Butch Davis to allow Kent State's basketballer Antonio Gates to escape NE Ohio. Butch already had his eyes on Miami Hurricane TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., for whom he (needlessly?) sacrificed an ‘04 number-two in order to leapfrog Detroit and select Winslow at six. Had he exercised patience, restraint and clear thinking, he'd have consoled himself with either WR Roy Williams, CB DeAngelo Hall or QB Ben Roethlisberger, while retaining that valuable #2.

Had he simply locked-up Gates in ‘03, he'd not have needed to bother himself with Winslow in any case.

Oh well.


Thinking of the Chargers' arrival this weekend also causes one to reflect on the intelligence that went into dispatching offensive-coordinator Rob Chudzinski last off-season. It brought to an end Chud's second go-'round with the club he grew-up watching from Toledo and always dreamed of joining.

Chud was, of course, the architect of what went so well in 2007, that 10-6 campaign that challenged the franchise record for most points scored and sent a large handful of players to the Pro Bowl. Chud is instead back for a second stint in San Diego as TE Coach and offensive assistant, probably quite instrumental in what has become one of the league's most consistent passing games.

Young WRs Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naane have fully blossomed this year in the Southern California sunshine. Meanwhile, the Browns are under the bewitching spell of first-year playcaller/designer Brian Daboll, distinguishing themselves via historically bad non-achievement.

What is the point of hiring a never-before OC, having him cut his teeth with some significant success while gaining needed and helpful experience, only to release him before giving him a chance to show he's learned from his mistakes?

Chud's non-retention marks the second time in recent years a power-mad defensive-minded dictator of a head coach has elected to hold onto the Cleveland QB but not his coordinator, team fans and fortunes suffering for it. Following that 2003 playoff loss in Pittsburgh—the one during which the Browns came from ahead to lose—Davis clung to Kelly Holcomb but scapegoated both coordinators, Bruce Arians from the offense and Foge Fazio from the defense. There have even been reports it was upon Davis' over-riding calls of Fazio that the Steelers feasted.

When Chud's Cleveland comet was brightest, Derek Anderson was his QB.

Oh well.


Fans wondering how it could be street free agent WR Jake Allen is suiting-up on Sundays while second-round selection and 36th-overall draft choice Brian Robiskie is not, understandably fail to permit this administration the benefit of the doubt. It could be they actually know what they are doing, though nabbing Robo at that point in the draft argues otherwise.

It just may be that Allen provides a bit of that which was lost when WR Braylon Edwards was dispatched after Week Four, something Robiskie most definitely cannot. Maybe Allen personifies some of that downfield speed and quickness Edwards used en route to club records in receptions, yardage and single-season touchdowns.

Those same threats also had a lot to do with the offensive enjoyments experienced by teammates and fans alike in ‘07 under Chudzinski.

After all, even Daboll must've noticed how cramped the box is each week his offense takes the field, regardless of his QB choice. RB Jamal Lewis is expected to have noticed, as well, though he seems capable of averaging about 3.4/carry in any system these days.

Ironically, Edwards' last game was the first Cinn contest, when his work as decoy contributed to rookie Mohamed Massaquoi's bust-out, eight-catch performance, one that was heavily contributory to the Browns' pushing the Bengals into overtime before succumbing 23-20. That happens to be one of only two truly competitive games the Browns have played all season, partial evidence of why it's now 1-10.

While this space has not been a huge fan of Edwards in totality, it has never failed to recognize his value to what little offense has recently been witnesses around these parts, much as Quincy Morgan similarly served a function on a winning Browns' outfit. As unpredictable and unreliable as they oft-times were, Edwards and Morgan nonetheless frightened oppositional secondaries with big-play, deep-threat potential.

Without such an asset, this Browns' club has been much too easy for which to prepare and much too easy to contain, though a bounty of factors contribute. As Jeff Schudel's research indicates in Lorain's Morning Journal and the Lake County News-Herald, Cleveland has had passing totals this season of 22 versus Buffalo, 81 versus GB and 74 two other times, versus Chicago and Baltimore. An Edwards or Morgan could realistically surpass any of those figures, at least theoretically, on any given play. Allen may be the current hope for such suddeness.

Longtime fans know Cliff Branch's status in the old Raiders' lineups primarily consisted of his going deep 2-3 times per game, even if none was successful. The practice kept back the safeties and opened the underneath stuff for other Oakland weapons, often a back or TE over the middle. Oft-times league castoff Todd Christensen became a household name because of it. Tim Carter started all those games in 2007 just to help free and complement Edwards, as well as Winslow, Jurevicius and RB Lewis, who rushed for over 1300 that year.


Lastly, though this is an acknowledged Browns' site, let's be decent about honoring those elected to the inaugural Pride of the Lions' class, announced during the Cleveland-Detroit contest November 22 (coincidentally the 46th anniversary of JFK's assassination).

Twelve Lion alums were designated to the club's equivalent of the Ring of Honor: CB Lem Barney, DB Jack Christiansen, QB Dutch Clark, OT Len Creekmur, CB Dick "Night Train" Lane, S/P Yale Lary, QB Bobby Layne, RB Barry Sanders, TE Charles Sanders, MLB Joe Schmidt, RB Doak Walker and DT Alex Wojciechowicz.

Conspicuous for their thusfar absence are CB Dick LeBeau, RB Billy Sims, DT Alex Karros, LB Waye Walker and WR Herman Moore.

Though many of the listed preceded my time (and most of yours), many times the Lions provided cherished memories of old-time NFL football, often featuring those listed and witnessed from afar. (Lane, LeBeau, Yary, Schmidt, Karros and LB Walker suited-up against the Browns in my first-ever live NFL contest.)

Those of us boomers fortunate enough to grow-up just across the Great Lake from the Motor City have much for which to be thankful, not the least of which emanated from that city: Motown music, Ernie Harwell and the opportunity to look-in on a football franchise that once, believe it or not, had been a part of the Western Conference of the National Football League.

Until 1960, only Chicago and Green Bay had franchises further from the Atlantic but east of SF and LA. The latter, incidentally, was home to an organization that 'til 1946 had been the Cleveland Rams.

Thanks for the memories, Detroit. And congrats to the Pride of the Lions.


More from this writer can be found at xanga.com/maleonard

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