Cleveland Browns Coaching Search Takes Turn in Right Direction Without Chip Kelly

Updated: January 7, 2013

By Bob Evans
Senior Writer

Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been one of the NFL’s biggest losers—constantly finding themselves in the middle of rebuild after rebuild. And after missing out on the hottest head coaching candidate—Oregon’s Chip Kelly—on the market, their fan base is left wondering if they will ever leave the NFL’s cellar.

It may seem this way, but things have not always been a revolving carousel at the head coaching position for the Cleveland Browns.

From 1946 to 1995, the old Browns’ organization had just 10 head coaches. From their inaugural leader Paul Brown to their last head coach before leaving for Baltimore, Bill Belichick, the head coaching position for the Cleveland Browns had been one of relative stability prior to their exit from the NFL.

However, that has been the opposite of the case since the reincarnated franchise once again began to grace the shores of Lake Erie. As the Browns head into their 15th season since returning to the NFL, they will be looking to finally strike gold with head coach number seven.

Chris Palmer got things started with a 5-27 record from 1999-2000, Butch Davis led the team to their only playoff game since returning to the NFL but finished with a 24-34 record from 2001-2004 before giving way to Terry Robiskie for the final six games of 2004. After Robiskie, the team went to the Belichick tree with Romeo Crennel from 2005-2008 but he finished with a 24-40 record. After Crennel, Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmur manned the sidelines. However, they would suffer the same fate, as those two finished with a combined record of 19-45 from 2009-2012.

Fourteen years with just two winning seasons and one playoff game—not to mention having to read that list of failed coaches—would drive any normal fan base to the edge. Add in the fact this is a Cleveland city tortured by failed sports moment after sports moment, and one can understand why they are taking the loss of Kelly like their girlfriend just left them for their best friend.

While it would have been great to land the top coach on the market, hiring Kelly became a gamble even new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner could not take. After stringing the Browns’ brass along for more than 24 hours, Kelly’s unwillingness to dedicate himself to the NFL game provided Haslam and Banner with the last bit of information they needed about Kelly to move on—if the reports from Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer are correct.

Even without those reports, Kelly and his fast-paced, unproven offense posed too much of a threat to the Browns’ franchise.

Nothing was set in stone, but the introduction of a read-option offense would have likely meant the end of Brandon Weeden as the team’s starting quarterback. And what that would mean is that not only would the fan base be looking at their seventh head coach since 1999, they would be looking at starting quarterback No. 19 since returning to the league as well.

Now that Kelly is out of the mix, it seems the Browns are eyeing up head coaches who can install an offense and scheme which can finally utilize Weeden’s talents. The newest name in the mix is CFL head coach, and Weeden’s former NFL Draft tutor Marc Trestman.

He may not end up getting the job, but interviewing Trestman shows that Haslam and Banner are finally committed toward finding a head coach who is willing to tailor the offense to the team’s playmakers. By bringing in someone Weeden is familiar with to interview for the job, the team’s brass just may be giving him a subtle vote of confidence as well.

Who ends up as the Browns’ next head coach is anyone’s guess; but throwing in the towel and destroying what is finally becoming a watchable roster week in and week out would be doing this fan base a disservice. Hopefully the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns recognizes the potential and talent already on the roster, and the once proud franchise can return to its winning ways after nearly a 25-year absence.

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