With the firing of head coach Rob Chudzinkski, the Cleveland Browns‘ draft strategy will likely change once again. It’s unbelievable that the Browns just never seem to learn. You can’t just bring in a new head coach and expect decades of futility to get washed away in a single year. I thought GM Mike Lombardi had more sense than to fall for that delusional brand of thinking, but apparently I thought too highly of him.
However, we’re not here to discuss whether or not Chudzinski should or shouldn’t have been fired. We’re here to discuss how this coaching change affects the Browns draft strategy.
With Chudzkinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Browns were utilizing a lot of vertical passes to help set up a power running game using many double tight end sets. On defense, the Browns reverted once again to a 3-4 defense of which they still had many of the remnants left over from the last time they were running an odd front under coach Eric Mangini. Statistically speaking, both offensive and defensive units weren’t bad — especially on the defensive side of the ball.
What changes will be made schematically will obviously be decided with the hiring of the new head coach, whoever that may be. One thing that shouldn’t change is the 3-4 defense which has really started to come into its own. No, the defense hasn’t been the problem; it’s been the offense, which is why I imagine they’ll hire someone with a glittering record of big numbers and a reputation developing quarterbacks.
So this is where the new coach will affect the Browns draft strategy. If the new coach is a truly proven QB-builder, someone like Bill O’Brien, I could see the Browns waiting until maybe after the first round to address their QB needs. He doesn’t necessarily need Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) to make Cleveland good or even Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M). Give him a Zach Mettenberger (LSU) in round two and let him work his magic. Use those two first round picks to add another top flight WR like Sammy Watkins (Clemson) at No. 4 and potentially take an athletic tight end like Eric Ebron (UNC) with their second first round pick. Imagine a rookie QB having four weapons like Josh Gordon (1,646 receiving yards in ’13), Watkins, tight end Jordan Cameron (917 receiving yards) and Ebron.
But say they hire someone like Josh McDaniels, who hasn’t ever developed a QB yet still has the reputation of someone who has. Then they’re probably going to use that first pick on a QB, with Derek Carr (Fresno State), Blake Bortles (UCF), Manziel or Brett Hundley (UCLA) being the most likely candidates. There will be a rush on QBs early on so if they plan to use their second first round pick on a QB — like Mettenberger or A.J. McCarron (Alabama) — they’re going to be reaching, even if slightly (exactly what they did with Brandon Weeden in 2012).
What if it’s a defensive minded coach like coordinator Ray Horton? Well, I just don’t think there’s a chance in that really hot place down below that’s gonna happen. This league is unfortunately all about offense now, and owner Jimmy Haslam is going to want to put butts in the seats. In order to do so he’ll need a young and exciting QB coached by a QB guru (real or assumed) and a high paced offensive attack.
Whoever the new head coach is, he’s got his own style, his own scheme, and his own way of doing things. He’ll mesh well with certain personalities and won’t with others. He’ll have his own priorities, his own way of connecting with players and his own ideas for building the team. There’s no doubt he’ll have to work with/under Lombardi, but unless Lombardi is the biggest fool in football (which I’m beginning to believe is a possibility) he’ll take the new coaches’ plans and needs into deep consideration for utilizing their incredible amount of draft capital (they have seven picks in the first four rounds).