The Cleveland Browns can learn a lot from their AFC North adversaries when it comes to hiring a football coach. There are clearly differences in organizations, but both the Steelers and Ravens made dark-horse hires that ultimately won their teams Super Bowls.
In 2007, Bill Cowher resigned as Steelers coach after fifteen seasons. The Steelers interviewed five candidates for the job; Steelers OC Ken Whisenhunt; Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm; Bears DC Ron Rivera; Georgia Tech head football coach Chan Gailey; and Vikings DC Mike Tomlin.
Whisenhunt, Grimm, Rivera and Tomlin had never been a head coach, and Gailey had been the head coach in Dallas for two years, and was the current Georgia Tech head coach. The Steelers’ job was coveted, but the front office focused on names that were High-IQ “fits” for what a Steelers coach should be. The Steelers hired Tomlin, who had overwhelmed the front office in his two interviews as being an intense leader, with a clear picture of what it would take to win football games in the Steelers organization.In 2008, the Baltimore Ravens had fired former Super Bowl coach Brian Billick. The Ravens, interviewed six candidates; Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell; Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano; Cowboys OC Jason Garrett; former Baltimore DC Rex Ryan; Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer; and Eagles secondary coach John Harbaugh. Three other “candidates” had turned down interviews that year, including Patriots OC Josh McDaniels and Browns OC Rob Chudzinski.
The Ravens’ candidates had zero experience as head football coaches in the NFL. Coveted or not, the front office was looking for fit, and were even turned down by some familiar names to the current Cleveland Browns. The Ravens ultimately hired Harbaugh after Garrett turned them down. Harbaugh had spent most of his NFL career as a secondary coach, but had blown away the Ravens front office in his two interviews as a high IQ, high energy leader, which the Ravens would need with their outspoken defense.
What does this mean for the Browns? They can get this right if they can hire a coach that fits the mold of a winning NFL football coach. It’s not an easy process, but one that a good front office can accomplish with the right parameters in place. The key to choosing between Seattle DC Dan Quinn, Denver OC Adam Gase, Buffalo DC Mike Perrino or another unknown candidate is figuring out which coach can lead a football team. They all can coach, but can they lead? Josh McDaniels was and is a fantastic football coach, but how good of a leader was he in Denver?
The big question is whether or not this front office can get it right and then get out of the new coach’s way. That didn’t happen with Chudzinski, but that shouldn’t preclude a failure in their second search.
Time won’t matter, but the parameters and guidelines the put in place ultimately will.