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The Sunday Drive with the Oregon spread offense in Cleveland?

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Oregon offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery

Oregon Offensive Coordinator Philip Montgomery

I’ve been feeling a bit closer to the North Coast over the past few weeks, as the temperatures here in North Carolina have more resembled the frozen tundra of the borderlands of Lake Erie. While the temperature here has dipped below freezing far too many times for my liking, we have avoided the ample snow-footage that the Lake provides. I don’t miss the thrice-daily slogs out to my snow blower to clear the driveway of both wind-blow and street-plow piled snow. Still, the recent cold blast has me dreaming wistfully of the Indians’ Spring Training, the Browns’ draft and summer camp, and the Cavs foray back into the lottery.

Thankfully, all three Cleveland teams were active in one way or another over the past week, albeit in very different ways, which kept me from crawling into sports hibernation.

While my attention has needed some warming up no thanks to the weather, it’s been mostly focused on the warm seasons of 2014 for Cleveland sports. The Indians, however, continue to do everything they can to keep some of that attention pointing right back to the 1990’s thanks to their 2014 version of Tribe Fest. The Tribe has their normal conglomerate of current players headlining the event, but the focusAlong with the current roster, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Charles Nagy and Kenny Lofton were part of the contingent getting the Indians’ fans prepped for the 2014 season.

I would normally not even bring it up, but Jim Thome is currently a member of the Chicago White Sox organization, and Omar Vizquel is currently the first base coach for the Detroit Tigers. Understandably, Thome was brought in as part of an announcement that his statue would be unveiled this season, and Vizquel will be inducted into the Cleveland Indians hall of fame.

My three favorite Indians during that 90’s run were Thome, Vizquel and Kenny Lofton, but I have to ask; did the two that belong to other organizations need to be part of Tribe Fest?

I’m all about the history of this team. The 90’s was truly a golden era, and one that I’m sure marketing is all over as being important to the crowd that would be showing up for the two-day event, but…

…am I the only one that’s annoyed that they aren’t a part of the Indians’ organization? What next? Is Victor Martinez and CC Sabathia going to be asked next year, while playing with other teams? Is it any different just because they are retired?

The Indians surely could have pulled together a press conference announcing Omar’s induction and Thome’s statue outside of TribeFest, and then figured it all out from there.

Instead, we’ve been infiltrated by the enemy, and as much as I love the former 90’s and beyond Tribe stars, they shouldn’t be here for Tribe Fest. Let them come and get their awards when their teams come through, but don’t reassociate them with the current team until they aren’t with another current team.

Oh, and just out of curiousity, who do you think deserves a statue from those 90’s Indians more: Charles Nagy, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome or Kenny Lofton? I loved Thome, but would the fans have picked him?

Alright, enough of my incessant grumbling…let’s get driving, before it starts snowing…

The Cleveland Browns finally hired a pro football coach this past week, even if it wasn’t one of the guys that they originally planned on hiring. The Browns hired Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their 15th official head football coach. I’m not crazy about the current Browns’ front office, but at the end of the day, I believe they hired the right coach moving forward. Of course, they haven’t played a single game yet, but I like the hire on paper.

The Browns have been in a head-coaching mess since 1999. In the Browns first fifty football seasons, they were led by ten total head football coaches. Over the past 15 season the Browns have hired seven coaches, and had one interim coach take over in mid-season, for a total of eight head coaches. Since 2008, the Browns have had five head coaches. No other team in the AFC North has had more than one.

The current front office can’t take blame for the ghosts of the Browns’ past, but having fired two entire coaching staff’s book-ending your first football season in control doesn’t exactly breed confidence in an extremely anxious fan-base. That doesn’t preclude failure going forward.

Let’s just get this out of the way; the Browns handled this coaching search with the adeptness of a blind elephant. Rob Chudzinski was fired on the last day of the season, and the Browns proceeded to interview ten candidates. They interviewed new guys and old guys and guys that they had interviewed last year. They interviewed former head coaches and coordinators and coaches that hadn’t been either. They seemingly interviewed with the attention of a dog, calling whichever coach happened to walk in front of them at the time.

If you are to believe the reports, their top two candidates were always Denver’s offensive coordinator Mike Gase, and Seattle’s defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Of course, initial reports said that Josh McDaniels was their goto guy, until he backed out early in the process.

That’s when reports came out that he backed out because he wasn’t the leading candidate.

That alone should let you know how on top of things these reports truly were, which certainly didn’t help the Browns in the PR department.

Regardless of how or why it came about, the Browns interviewed Pettine, liked him, and after a second and third interview, hired him this past week. Of course, whilst interviewing Pettine, they managed to interview Greg Schiano and Dirk Koetter, so it’s hard to figure out if this front office knows what they are doing, or needed to build horrible parameters to make themselves believe that Pettine was the right choice.

It’s also unknown whether or not Gase or Quinn would have come to Cleveland to begin with. If you are to believe the rumors, both coaches may have sent messages through backchannels that each wouldn’t be accept the job if it were offered.

Pettine reportedly gave the Browns an ultimatum after that second interview, stating that if he didn’t get an offer, he’d have to pull out of the process out of respect to the Bills’ organization, and their head coach, Doug Marrone.

Thank goodness there are seven months between now and the beginning of the 2014 football season. Hopefully between now and then, Pettine does everything right and makes the Browns fan-base forget this month-long fiasco and can make this front office look brilliant. Right now, it looks like they hired Pettine through a comedy of errors, or rather, a comedy of interviews.

When it’s all said and done, I like the Mike Pettine hire. While much has been made of the fact that he wasn’t a legit head coaching candidate for this year by many other teams, he has been in the hunt in prior years. Last season, he was mentioned as a candidate for the Miami Dolphins before he declined the Jets’ offer to remain their defensive coordinator.

He did phenomenal things with the Jets as their defensive coordinator from 2009-2012, but left to get out of the rather ample shadow of head coach Rex Ryan, who had his hands in the Jets’ defensive cookie jar because of his Defensive Coordinator roots. It was hard to take Pettine seriously as a coach, because it was impossible to see where Rex Ryan’s influence ended, and where Pettine’s began.

He left to go to the Bills, and while that defense has some legitimate talent, that can’t dampen the fact that under Pettine, that Bills unit got better. He ran a high pressure defense that went after the quarterback on nearly 40% of opposing quarterbacks in 2013. Pettine’s Bills’ D had 57 sacks, second in the NFL, which included Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes, all with double-digit sacks.

While those three are unquestionably talented, it was clear that Pettine’s schemes brought out the best in the entire unit.

What impressed me most is that the Bills weren’t pigeon-holed as a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. While Pettine has used the 3-4 predominantly utilized by Rex Ryan, his defensive base last year was a 4-3 because of the personnel on that Bills D. While much has been made of his struggles against the run, you could make a case that it was based entirely on the fact that their D was shaped as a pass-rushing unit, and didn’t have the overall linebacking crew to stop any run game consistently.

The fact that he molded the Bills D around their strengths speaks volumes about him in an IQ-sense.

The fact that he ultimately wanted away from Rex Ryan speaks even more.

On the outside looking in, Pettine looks like the complete opposite of Rob Chudzinski, so while it pains me to say this, I have to give kudos to the front office for the simple fact that they went “different.” I don’t think they did it on purpose, but they did it nonetheless.

How do I mean different?

Let me put it to you this way: If the Browns have a player in the mold of Greg Little next season, my best guess here is that Pettine will be sending him along his merry way rather than throwing him out there week-after-week. That doesn’t predicate success, but it at least will give an outward sense of leadership.

The coordinator positions may be just as important as the head coaching hire. I’m curious to see if Pettine gets the guys he wants, or if the Browns front office goes after guys they want. In a perfect world, those coaches would be one and the same, but it really seemed like Banner and Lombardi chose Chudzinski’s coaches for him, even though Chud was involved in the process.

Before we get into the reports, my thoughts on the coaching hires were fairly simple. Go out and get a DC that best fits Pettine’s defensive schemes, hire an innovative, young offensive coordinator, and then hire a veteran coach who has held a head coaching job before as an “assistant head coach” who can also be an offensive line coach, or a linebackers coach or something of that ilk. Make him your second highest paid coach on the staff, and have him help Pettine along the way. It would also put that coach in position to get another head coaching job next year, and allow the Browns to lose that coach without losing a coordinator.

My pick for that Assistant HC job was Gary Kubiak.

Of course, all of that would be outside the box thinking by the Browns’ front office. Immediately, reports were rumbling that the Browns wanted Kubiak as their offensive coordinator, and that Kubiak wanted nothing to do with it because he was still getting paid, and still had health concerns.

With Kubiak off the charts, perhaps the Browns would be smart to look at a guy like the Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach, Bill Callahan. Now I want to preface this by saying I don’t think Callahan is a good head coach. With that said, one could argue that he’s a phenomenal offensive assistant with head coaching in his background. He also wouldn’t be a threat to Pettine’s job, and would likely be okay as an assistant head coach/offensive line coach.

Callahan’s name hasn’t been mentioned anywhere because he’s not a “hot, young candidate,” but he would be ideal for the Browns.

Of course, you could just make Callahan your OC, and hire a young commodity as your QB coach.

Now rumors are surfacing that Pettine wants to bring in Bills linebackers’ coach Jim O’Neil as his defensive coordinator, and could also bring in several other coaches that he took to Buffalo with him, such as defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and assistant secondary coach Samson Brown. A lot of that will depend on what new Bills coordinator Jim Schwartz wants to do there, as Pettine’s staff is still under contract.

On the offensive side of the ball, it appears as though Pettine had interest in hiring Green Bay Packers quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt, but reports quickly refuted that, stating that Van Pelt was staying in Green Bay.

I’d love to see the Browns look outside the box here, and go after a guy like Philip Montgomery at Baylor, who shares similarities with the Chip Kelly approach at Oregon. Montgomery’s offense is a symphony of movement, and puts an immense amount of pressure on the opposing defense. His spread offense is revolutionary. Of course, my hesitancy there is that “his” offense is really head coach Art Briles’ offense, but it wouldn’t be hard to envision Montgomery being able to bring that offense to Cleveland, if he had the right quarterback.

Another extreme “outside-the-box” would be Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s 30-year-old coordinator, who runs a similar motion-type spread offense, and like Montgomery, is a disciple of his head coach, Gus Malzahn.

Of course, I’m not sure that Pettine, who seems to get AFC North football, would want a spread-type offense.

We shall see.

I’m very apathetic to the Cleveland Cavaliers at this point of the season. The top eight in the East right now, in order, are Indiana, Miami, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, Washington, Brooklyn and Charlotte. The Cavaliers are currently the tenth best team in the East, and only 1 ½ games out of the playoffs.

I still question that they’ll get into the playoffs. Realistically, the only spot that should be available is that eight spot, although there is a long way to go.

In between the Cavs and that eighth spot are the Detroit Pistons. The Cavs may be the most talented of all the teams fighting for that spot, but they haven’t, as of yet, looked anything like a basketball team that can do much of anything consistently.

I keep hearing about how good they are defensively, but they really aren’t all that good. They can be, but they aren’t.

The offense is disjointed, the players don’t mesh, and there just isn’t a whole lot that I find entertaining, even when they are winning.

This team works a lot like a faucet that keeps getting clogged. There are times when the water gushes out of the faucet, and times when it trickles. If the Cavaliers could ever find their steady stream, offensively or defensively, they could be really, really good, and it seems like they might not be far away.

Of course, I have no good reason to think or feel that.

This team is extremely young, and that’s likely the one saving grace, but at the end of the day, will this team have enough time to gel as a legitimate playoff team, and will they ever acquire the right parts?

I think it’s a pipe dream that the Cavaliers will get even one max-contract player, let alone two that some CSI readers are predicting. I also think it’s highly unlikely that the Cavs get into the top six of next season’s draft, which is unfortunate, since it’s the first draft that could give any one of the first six teams a #1-ish type player.

I know that last bit on the Cavs was fairly haphazard, but so are they…so who cares.

What does fire me up at this point is the Cavs continued misuse of Anthony Bennett. I don’t know where that’s coming from, although national reports seem to be pointing at the coach, and from the coach, through GM Chris Grant, and from the GM, through the owner, Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert wants to win at all cost, and I’m sure has applied pressure to the front office, who has applied pressure to Mike Brown. Grant doesn’t want to be fired, and Brown doesn’t want to mimic the Rob Chudzinski era as a one-and-done head coach.

Of course, is that why Bennett isn’t playing?

Does anyone really know why Bennett isn’t playing?

We know he wasn’t in shape, even after he was hurt. We know that he can sometimes take plays off, which isn’t odd for a youngster in this era of the NBA. We know that he not yet shown any of the aggressiveness that made him something special in college. We also know that he hasn’t shown any real NBA IQ up to that point.

But, has he had a chance?

I struggle, if only because Earl Clark still gets any time on the court. What legitimately would happen if Bennett was given 20 minutes a night, or if the Cavs just threw him in at 30+ minutes a night, like Magic guard Victor Oladipo.

Even if the Cavs are winning now, would Bennett’s playing time hurt that chance?

Jason Lloyd from the Akron Beacon Journal absolutely dropped the hammer on Kyrie Irving on Saturday.
Of course, we’ve been critical here of Irving from the start, but I was surprised to see such an outward brow-beating of the Cavs all-star point guard.

Lloyd made note of some interesting points in the piece, and while I always question how “on” the local beat writers are with regards to the Cavs, these do seem to be on point.

“Something changed within Irving last season, and it coincided with his return from All-Star weekend. It was evident to anyone around the team, particularly former coach Byron Scott, who told me in the days before he was fired, ‘I haven’t changed, but he has.’ At some point, winning has to matter more than All-Star games, 3-point shootouts and even USA Basketball. At some point, if Irving wants to be considered the best in the league, he has to win.”

While I think all of that was dead on from Lloyd, he saved his best for last.

Part of the problem was Irving being anointed the Big Man on Campus immediately upon arriving. He hasn’t been held accountable much the last couple years. That has festered into what we’ve seen this year, which is too much dribbling, at times a lousy attitude and a 21-year-old who has shown his immaturity.”

That is the problem, in a nutshell. I’ve tried to express this unsuccessfully for two years now, but this is the best expression of Kyrie’s biggest issue since league Coach K at Duke. He’s the next “LeBron,” and because of that, he’s been given a leash that’s far too long.

You’d think the Cavs and the fans would have learned from the first version.

The biggest problem with this is the domino effect that it has caused. Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving clearly aren’t on the same page. Triston Thompson is clearly left out of the game plan at times. New players have a hard time finding the ball, and finding their shot because of all the chemistry issues.

Yes, this is a young team, but it’s also a team that acts even younger.

Kyrie, as talented as he is, is a central problem. He said he wanted to be the leader of the team. It’s time for him to be accountable.

I’m really interested in seeing what the Cavs ultimately do with Irving next season, contract-wise.

In the rearviewmirror…

  • The NFL pro bowl is on today at some point, and on some channel. Deion Sanders may play! Yeah…I don’t care either.
  • I just started watching the series “Chuck,” and am damn surprised by how good it is. No, it’s not to be taken all that seriously, but it’s definitively entertaining.
  • There’s a lot that I love about sports, and a lot that I hate about it. My biggest issue with fellow fans is when someone tries to smack you in the face with something definitive. A couple months ago, I wrote a piece that essentially said that the Indians would never pay the asking price of Justin Masterson, because the Indians tend to shy away from offering pitchers closing in on 30 or passing that age any sort of long-term contract. You never say never, but it’s just not something the Indians have ever done. Part of that reason was based on the one guy they did extend, Jake Westbrook, missing two years of the three-year deal after getting hurt. He’s the only pitcher the Indians have been able to sign, and that was for three-years and $33 million, although you could make a case that it was four years, since it also bought out his last option year. I wonder if the Indians are still planning on signing him to a long-term deal? I hope they do, but after arbitration numbers were given out, I have to imagine that Masterson will be gone.
  • No, Clayton Kershaw‘s massive deal, as well as Masahiro Tanaka‘s will have no effect on the pitcher’s market where Masterson is concerned. I mean, there’s no way that drives up the market right…RIGHT!?! Of course it will skew the market…thinking otherwise is silly.
  • Matt Garza isn’t great. I read somewhere that he was taking a massive paycut, and that “fans think he was going to make $75-80 million and five years.” Show me that fan, so I can laugh at him hysterically. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to patronize here, but if Matt Garza is worth $80 million, then Masterson is much, much better.

Author: Jim Pete

Jim KNOWS that Albert Belle deserved the MVP, and that the false prophet, Mo Vaughn did not. He thinks that Mike and Greg Pruitt are truly related, because, c'mon, what are the chances? He cries at least once a day, watching videos of LeBron's block, followed by Kyrie's shot. He loves miracles at Richfield, Ron Harper, parking at Gate D, Alex Cole park dimensions, and the glorious Kenny Lofton, who is the REAL Alex Cole. When he isn't writing or talking Cleveland sports for EHC, he moonlights as a husband, father, coach, teacher, Twitter screamer, golfer, runner, and lover of spaghetti carbonara. He also commutes from Raleigh to the North Coast, because it builds character

One thought on “The Sunday Drive with the Oregon spread offense in Cleveland?

  1. If it’s me, I’m voting for Omar Vizquel. He WANTED to stay with the Indians, but the Tribe didn’t believe in him. What a mistake they made. Shoulda moved Peralta to third back then. I’m fine with Thome, unlike some of these raving idiots, but I’d prefer a guy like Larry Doby, or Addie Joss, or Nap Lajoie.

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