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Browns hire Rob Chudzinski as head coach

The Browns will announce Rob Chudzinski as their head coach today at an 11 am press conference. Here are some initial thoughts.

- After the Chip Kelly fiasco, I’m thrilled with this pick, but frankly would have been happy with any of the candidates the Browns were considering after they moved on from Kelly. The idea of watching a read option offense terrified me, and the RG3 injury last week sealed that thought, so I’m glad we’ll be running a pro-style offense.

- Chud is a very good offensive coach. He turned Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowler here in 2007, and he seems to favor a vertical passing attack that would be ideal for Brandon Weeden. There are reports that Norv Turner would join the staff as offensive coordinator, and that’s a huge plus as well.

- I could care less that this isn’t a “wow” or “sexy” hire. The teams that win Super Bowls rarely make a splash with their head coaching hire. Look it up. It stuns me how few people understand that.

- Mary Kay Cabot has reported that the Browns are likely to switch to a 3-4. I’m not thrilled about this at all, but it isn’t confirmed so I’m not going to get all riled up about it until we hear it from Chud or the Browns. It seems foolish to take a step back on defense and retool at this point. That said, our defensive linemen other than Jabaal Sheard could easily transition to a new system, but Sheard and the linebackers would present the biggest risk/challenge.

I’m curious to see how Chud comes across in the press conference. The most important quality of a head coach is the ability to lead men. We know Chud is an excellent coordinator, and now we have to rely on the ability of Joe Banner and more importantly Jimmy Haslam of identifying that quality in Chud.

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The Browns look like a real team again

GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Jake Delhomme  of the Cleveland Browns calls out a play during the NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field August 14, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

It’s only one preseason game, but watching the Cleveland Browns last night against the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl favorite, had to make Browns fans feel better for a change.

What we saw was a team that belonged on the field with their opponent. We also saw a team that had two NFL quarterbacks. Jake Delhomme looked like a solid veteran, and Seneca Wallace looked like a potential weapon at that position. We don’t have to hold our breath any more and hope that Brady Quinn can hit a wide open receiver or that Derek Anderson can stop throwing the ball right in the hands of defensive backs.

We still don’t know how good this offense can be, but we do know that they probably won’t looked like a bunch of over-matched amateurs when trying to throw the ball. Mike Holmgren realized that a change needed to be made, and I suspect that Eric Mangini was all for a change as well.

The running game also didn’t miss a beat. It was a joy to watch the Browns pound in that first touchdown from the four yard line. Lawrence Vickers is a beast at fullback, and Jerome Harrison showed again that he can gain tough yardage. With a solid running game, Delhomme should be able to have a solid season. Also, we didn’t even see the Wildcat last night and Josh Cribbs didn’t touch the ball!

Peyton Hillis showed that we now have several weapons coming out of the backfield. This kid is a great receiver, and I loved seeing the screen pass. We haven’t even seen Montario Hardesty yet.

The defense could stop one of the best offenses in the league, so let’s hope they play better against more typical NFL offenses. That said, the young DBs looked pretty good. T.J. Ward looks like a real player, even with some of the mistakes. Joe Haden looked solid, and we saw a glimpse of his athletic ability and speed on the kickoff return.

Bottom line – the Browns looked like a team that can play with the better teams in this league. Let’s see how they do next week at home against the St. Louis Rams, a team that seems to be starting over.

Brady Quinn done for the season

WKNR is reporting that Brady Quinn is done for the season due to a leg foot injury he suffered against the Chiefs. Derek Anderson will start the last two games of the season. The Browns offense has been playing better, and Quinn has done a good job managing the offense, but he’s continued to struggle with his accuracy.

New Browns president Mike Holmgren will need to assess whether Quinn can be his quarterback next season, and this cuts short Quinn’s audition period. That said, Holmgren will probably hire a coach that runs the West Coast offense, so Holmgren has probably seen enough to evaluate whether Quinn deserves a shot. I suspect that Derek Anderson will not be in Holmgren’s plans as he’s not at all suited for the West Coast offense. Anderson is a much better fit for a vertical passing game similar to the offense the Browns ran in 2007 under Chud.

Eric Mangini has to be disappointed. Quinn has been able to manage the offense, and now he has to shift gears for the final two games that might decide Mangini’s fate as head coach.

Browns abandon the Wildcat

The Cleveland Browns had another pitiful performance today against the Green Bay Packers. The offense was terrible, as Derek Anderson had another forgettable day. It doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback. The offense stinks.

Who’s at fault? Take your pick. Quinn and Anderson both stink. The offensive line has been bad, and we’re playing mostly with rookie receivers. Brain Daboll certainly hasn’t figured out how to use the players he has. It’s hard to blame him, but the play-calling has been terrible as well, particularly in the red zone.

All of this begs the question – why aren’t the Browns using the Wildcat more? Josh Cribbs is their best player. Let him run the damn ball!

Instead, the Browns tried one running play with Cribbs and kept trotting out Anderson all day. What a mess.

Peter King offers up some bad advice

Peter King was down on the Browns before the season started, and given the terrible start, he looks pretty smart. Now he’s revisiting the topic, and his opinion hasn’t changed much, though he focuses on some irrelevant points like the 6-3 score of the Browns victory over Buffalo and Derek Anderson’s 2-17 performance. As stated on this blog, anyone who watched the football game knows that Anderson was not the problem on offense.

To his credit, King speaks with George Kokinis and Eric Mangini to get their thoughts on where the roster is now, and King acknowledges that the Browns were smart to trade Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

So, I asked Mangini and Kokinis in separate interviews, do the Browns have a better 53-man roster than they did at the end of the 2008 season?

Kokinis: “I think so. But it’s different. To go forward, the environment here had to change. We aren’t in this to put band-aids on the problem. We’re here to solve the problem. When you establish a system, it’s all about building a disciplined program conducive to winning, and you’re going to have people at first who fight the system. But we’ll find the true Browns who buy into what we’re doing. The one thing people need to understand is this situation wasn’t like Atlanta, where you can draft Matt Ryan and sign Michael Turner in free agency and win your division. This team was a long way away. Some free-agency periods and some drafts need to happen for the right amount of change to take place.”

Mangini: “Yeah, I think the roster’s better. I think we have a much better chance of getting where we want to be with this roster moving forward. But it’s not going to be easy. What gets lost a little bit with our draft-day trade is how much money we saved over the long term by trading down — maybe $40 million. And those resources will be spent to build a better overall football team. That’s cash we’ll spend on more players.

“For now, we’re making improvements. Some of the improvements aren’t sexy — more energy at practice and in games, more intensity, playing complimentary football. But regardless of external perception, we have guys who care. And next year, we’ll have 11 draft picks instead of the four we had this year. That’s when you can do some building.”

My take: The roster is absolutely not better because no player of the skill level of Edwards or Winslow has been added. But I would have done all three deals that ManKinis did, because Winslow and Edwards were never going to buy into any long-term rebuilding program, which this has to be. There comes a time when team and player have to divorce, and if player has great success after the trade (Roger Clemens when he left Boston), it doesn’t mean he’d have had the same success in his original place.

Mangini’s point is critical here, and it displays the winning philosophy employed in places like New England. You judge a player not just by his talent and contributions, but also by the cost of keeping him on the roster. The Browns are building the team from the bottom up, with players who don’t have big names (or big salaries) but who play within the system. We’re seeing some of that displayed on the defense and on special teams. Also, the offensive line is starting to come together. The roster is better.

Also, King ignores the biggest issue that Mangini and Kokinis had to face – the collapse of Brady Quinn as the possible franchise quarterback of the future. They inherited Quinn, and Quinn worked hard and earned the chance to start, but he was beyond terrible. He didn’t make stupid mistakes, but he was unable to move the offense. Defenses dared him to throw downfield, and that also hurt the running game. Despite that, the Browns were competitive for most of their games, despite facing teams with a combined 14-2 record in the first four weeks.

That said, it was still an informative article, until of course King decide to dispense some advice – advice that Kokinis and Mangini will hopefully ignore after having a good laugh.

Because of the startup nature of the program, Kokinis said he’s been spending time in and around the team this fall, instead of concentrating his efforts on on-campus scouting. He said he’d do that after the college season. If I were him, I’d accelerate the process. I’d be spending three days at Texas turning over every stone on Colt McCoy, and three in Norman looking at Sam Bradford — as well as extensive time looking at the other quarterbacks in the 2010 draft, like Tim Tebow and Jevan Snead. That’s more important than whatever’s happening in his building right now.

This is amateur hour coming from a writer whose been around the NFL for years. Picking a young quarterback in the draft is the kind of pie-in-the-sky magic bullet that know-nothing fans think about. This approach might make sense if there was a Peyton Manning waiting to be drafted, but the four guys King mentions are more in the Tim Couch mold. Now, Couch wasn’t terrible, and the Browns didn’t help him much as he took a beating for years, but Couch was not worth the #1 pick in the draft.

Regarding Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow, I doubt either of them can even start in the NFL. McCoy reminds me of Brady Quinn, too small and below-average arm, and Tebow is a battering ram, not an NFL quarterback. He might be worth a pick as a future Wildcat quarterback, or as a project on a team that has an established starter, but he’s not the answer for a rebuilding team like the Browns.

Bradford is also another bust-in-waiting. he racked up big numbers throwing to wide open receivers in a conference that doesn’t play defense as Coach Stoops ran up the score hoping for a chance to redeem himself in the BCS championship game. When Bradford faced a real defense, he looked pretty average. he’s a second-rounder at best.

Snead is another guy getting lots of buzz, but he’s having a terrible year.

Snead has completed just 65 of 139 passes (46.8 percent) for 868 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ranks 11th out of the league’s 12 starting quarterbacks (and 97th in the nation) in passing efficiency.

He’s no Eli Manning.

Based on what I’ve seen so far from Kokinis and Mangini, I don’t expect them to waste a high draft pick on any of these guys. There may be a quarterback they like in the draft, and we saw Kokinis draft Joe Flacco in Baltimore, but that team had everything but a good quarterback, so that made sense.

I expect the Browns to keep stockpiling workers like offensive linemen or impact players on defense – the kind of unsexy picks you see from teams who want to be good year after year. Another possibility would be a running back, as they can contribute right away.

So, I’m pretty confident they will ignore King’s advice.

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