In the span of a long(ish) power lunch, we went from this to this and then returned to where we started from. Certainly, the events of the last 48 hours nearly peaked with perhaps the most dramatic and/or optimistic and exhilarating moment of the past 25 years of Browns’ football then crashed into the cold reality that has been the dismal expansion era.
Naturally, the Browns’ failure to land Chip Kelly has returned all the familiar “Woe is Me (or I)” and Cleveland Sports Misery proponents and general insufferable Curse advocates to the forefront of Browns’ talk. The “Welcome to Cleveland, Jimmy Haslam” sentiment has been overwhelming, as if the irrestiable vortex of ill fortune that has stained the Browns’ expansion era is too strong for basic competence and bankfuls of money to overcome.
The loss of Kelly also marked the return of some fans retreating into their personal safety zones, as the renewed calls for Jim Tressel, Bernie Kosar and Bill Cowher to coach the Browns were overwhelming by late Sunday. Beyond these familiar Ohio names, several Twitter mentions were made regarding Marc Trestman, who maintained a Pat Shurmur-esque position with the Browns nearly 30 years ago. To these fans, I can only say that words can’t express my disdain for these unoriginal ideas – and that I hear Lindy Infante is available.
Anyway, back in the progressive thinking world, it certainly stung to see the Browns lose out on Kelly. However, as the (non) events culminated Sunday night, a few realities became clear.
1. At least Chip Kelly didn’t pick the Eagles over the Browns.
We’ll probably never know the full details of what actually occurred and despite Banner and Haslam’s weak “we’re moving forward” proclamation, it became evident that Kelly didn’t view both the Eagles and Browns as the right fit for his eventual move to the NFL. Similar to how he romanced the Bucs last season, it’s becoming obvious that Kelly is waiting for the perfect situation to unfold – something that is far beyond the allure of Haslam’s money or the Browns’ actual roster. The exact same logic can be applied to the Eagles, a team that also features an uber-wealthy owner and flawed roster.
2. In the end, Chip Kelly picked Chip Kelly.
By returning to Oregon, Kelly can likely squeeze another short contract extension/huge payday from the Phil Knight coffers and yet again reload with top prospects and field another title contending team. In doing so, Kelly can add to his burgeoning reputation – a reputation that was greatly enhanced by David Dunn’s masterful job of raising his client’s value to astronomical levels. Unless some sinister fates reveal themselves in the next year, Kelly will yet again be the top NFL coaching candidate, yet again command some 8-9 million dollars a year, yet will have a better selection of teams to choose.
3. Even without Chip Kelly, the Browns are in much better shape.
Call this a cheap rationalization, but despite not landing Kelly and despite not having a clear coaching candidate on the horizon, the new ownership and front office of the Browns have already proven that they are a significant upgrade over Randy Lerner’s tepid tenure. While it’s easy to say that the Browns should have never allowed Kelly to leave without a deal, it’s worth remembering that Haslam and Banner have at least put in some serious labor in trying to upgrade the team. Or, if it helps – just imagine Lerner and Mike Holmgren caring enough to conduct essentially two days worth of coaching interviews.
4. Look for another Big Bang and soon.
A few people on Twitter began to float the idea that because the Browns lost out on Kelly that the next coaching candidates would be a huge splash name such as Nick Saban, Brian Kelly or (groan) Bill Cowher or (double groan) Jon Gruden. On paper, this makes sense as it’s possible that Haslam will feel the pressure to save some face by grabbing both a big name and a big headline. And for most Browns’ fans, such a move would feel good. However, much like a team that spends wild on free agents, such a move is temporal and may not serve the best interests of the Browns moving forward.
5. There are lessons to be learned from Chip Kelly.
There is no doubt that Kelly was the most attractive coaching candidate and the Browns’ narrow focus on him proved this, while also showing that Haslam is a big boy owner eager to distance his new team from its recent past. However, in losing out to Kelly, both Haslam and Banner can take the opportunity to first widen their search and not again get painted into a corner with a candidate. Although it’s hard to tell their exact level of interest, the Browns’ exclusive pursuit of Kelly lost them Doug Marrone to the Bills. Moving forward, both Haslam and Banner can learn to better protect themselves.
6. Who is Doug Marrone and why should we care that he is not the Browns’ coach?
Seriously. Here’s what I know about Marrone and unless you’re a Syracuse football fan, you probably don’t know much more: he coached under Sean Payton but didn’t call plays and he helped Syracuse beat average teams.
Is there something I’m missing here? Should we really be upset that the Browns lost out on this guy?
7. At least we don’t have to read dumb fans and hack writers’ crying about quarterbacks again.
This is definitely like receiving a third-place trophy, but at least we don’t have to witness the inevitable clash between the Jeff Schudel’s of the world and progressive football fans and writers that would have occurred had Kelly come to Cleveland. Back in the days (like Friday) when we all thought Kelly to Cleveland was a “done deal”, a flood of articles suggested that because the Browns don’t have a “running quarterback” or “fast players” or even “college players”, Kelly’s offense wouldn’t “translate” to the NFL. Evidently, a lot of “paid” sportswriters were under the impression that most college coaches don’t realize they can’t EXACTLY copy their college offenses to the NFL.
8. There was no guarantee that Kelly would deliver a Super Bowl.
Despite hearing and reading some ridiculously stupid fan and media thoughts on Kelly, I will concede that just like any other coach, Kelly would have experienced a difficult transition to the NFL. Going far beyond the primitive idea that “Kelly’s offense won’t translate to the NFL”, it’s again worth remembering that Kelly is still a bit inexperienced as a Head Coach. Perhaps this factored into his eventual decision, but Kelly is still a novice when it comes to coaching. And of course, the leap from Oregon to the NFL in terms of pure coaching would have been monumental.
9. At the very least, no Chip Kelly could mean no Mike Lombardi.
Unless something extraordinary is about to occur, the evidence of the past few weeks suggests that the Browns will not utilize a traditional GM – at least in the sense of what Tom Heckert’s specific duties were. The person (or more likely people) that fill the role will instead serve as more of a glorified player personnel position – one that feeds into Banner. In this sense, Mike Lombardi seemed destined to fill such a role – especially given his lack of experience, talent, expertise, etc. However, the certain coaches (Kelly, Saban, Josh McDaniels, Bill O’Brien) were linked to Lombardi don’t appear to be candidates at this time.
10. It’s never as bad as it seems and curses aren’t actually real.
Let’s get the curse talk out of the way first. Any mythical curse could easily be confused with the incompetence of the Lerner era. Lerner is gone, which was probably the biggest victory the Browns have achieved during the expansion era. And just because the Browns didn’t land Kelly does not mean that a non-existent curse continues. Kelly turned down the Browns just as he turned down the Eagles. And while Haslam and Banner are currently a bit stuck, it’s obvious that they are trying to make the Browns a player in the league – something that this franchise hasn’t seen in over a decade.
And always remember – things could be much worse. Like Pat Shurmur and Mike Holmgren worse.