The Cleveland Browns commenced upon “operation overhaul the defense” this week by firing their defensive coordinator Ray Horton and hiring former Rams defensive coordinator Greg Williams. The move set in motion a number of additional changes that gives the illusion that the Browns are conducting a monumental overhaul of the coaching staff. In honor of one of my favorite Cleveland sports writer Terry Pluto, I’m going to talk to myself about some of the questions and answers that the Browns have going forward.
Question: So the Browns are making more changes to the coaching staff, and you’re okay with this?
Answer: Listen, I get it, making changes to such a successful unit is insanity.
Q: Can we do without the sarcasm?
A: What do you want me to say? The Browns defense was awful this year. I wrote about it week in and week out. I even went as far as to say the Browns need to move on from Horton at one point in the season.
Q: So you’re blaming all of this on Horton?
A: Of course not, Horton wasn’t the only problem but this defense could have played much better. Horton’s biggest problem was trying to fit round pegs in square holes. Dropping a pass rusher like Emmanuel Ogbah into coverage doesn’t help the team or the player. While I won’t ignore the glaring lack of talent, the defense showed temporary improvement, but then regressed again. That was alarming to me. Though he comes from the Dick LeBeau coaching tree, he hasn’t had a tremendous amount of success in his career as the lead defensive play caller. Could he have been better with more talent? The Browns didn’t have it this year I can’t answer that definitively.
Q: Isn’t that the front offices problem?
A: Everyone is at fault. I’m not making Horton the scapegoat, I’m simply saying the defense was the worst unit on the team and if changes needed to be made then it needed to start with Horton. The bottom line is Horton had a chance his first time around, with more talent, and the defense looked about the same.
Q: There goes the continuity. That doesn’t bother you?
A: Ok, you got me; I’m the preacher of continuity. I hate to see coaching staff changes as often as the Browns have made them. But ask yourself, is continuity good just for continuity sake? If the Browns want to head in a different direction, if they want a more intense, super bowl winning coordinator to improve their team, don’t they get that prerogative? Let’s get this clear, this isn’t Kyle Shanahan asking to break his contract and then downgrading to John DeFilippo after one season like we seen with the Farmer and Pettine regime. The Browns certainly have upgraded to one of the top three defensive coordinators in the game. Continuity is important in three spots of the organization.; The front office, the head coach, and the quarterback. While it’s hard to argue the Browns have any of the three after a 1-15 season, they are keeping in tact 2 of the 3 and upgrading their defensive coordinator is hardly going to hurt that same 1-15 team.
Q: But now they will all have to learn a new playbook and when you don’t know the playbook you have to think before you react. How could this not hurt them?
A: Listen, it’s a valid point. The more they know the playbook, the better they will be. But consider this, most of this team was filled with very young players, while even more are likely to be added this offseason. So it’s not as if the players have years of learning under an individual system. Players like Ogbah and Carl Nassib seemingly played out of position and the rest of the team didn’t seem to be executing the current playbook with much effectiveness.
Q: Now you’re just making excuses.
A: I want continuity more than the next guy but if you must make a change, now is the time. With the lack of surefire offensive weapons available in the first round of this years draft, I have a hunch analytics is telling the Browns to go defense with their top picks. They don’t have time to waste another year without getting more results from their top picks. Greg Williams has a track record of helping change a teams culture, and the Browns culture needs overhauled ASAP. I know there were certain times in the season when Hue Jackson metioned how he was unhappy with the defensive effort, or lack thereof.
Q: So why does Hue Jackson and the front office get a pass?
A: I think this was a Hue Jackson made move, not a front office driven move. I believe Jimmy Haslam wants to now have continuity. I also think that he has given Jackson the freedom to make staff changes at his discretion. I believe this move was made more because of the availability of a top echelon defensive coordinator then it was to pass the blame on any individual in particular. To compete in this division, the defense is going to need to be tougher. They weren’t tough this year and that needs fixed immediately. The Browns know they are in rebuild mode. However, just because a wall needs to be knocked down doesn’t mean the whole entire foundation needs to be rebuilt.
Q: So how much of a difference will these new changes make?
A: The success of this team will not hinge on a switch at defensive coordinator. The front office still has to draft well, they still need to find a quarterback, and Hue Jackson still has to be the face of the organization. In this case, I believe Jackson actually believes he is getting a better man for the job and that is why the change was made. We won’t know how it affects the team until they play next season. But we will have time for plenty of chats before then.
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