And so continues the search for the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns… Mystery Date style. Who’s going to be behind the door at the end?
Over the past few days info has started coming out regarding the newest candidates for the Browns head coaching vacancy. The two newest dream boats in the running are St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Judging by the resume’s of these two coaches and the other candidates who have been named, it is fairly obvious that the next coach of the Cleveland Browns will have an offensive pedigree. This is a welcome change. The Browns offense has been abysmal for what seems like forever now. This may be due in part to hiring 3 head coaches in a row who’s previous job experience all focused on the defensive side of the ball, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, and Eric Mangini. Bringing in an offensive mind could be just what the doctor ordered for this team.
Pat Shurmur arrived in Cleveland last night and briefly met with the team. He is slated to meet with the Browns today about the position. I fully expect the center of these conversations with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert to focus on Shurmur’s offensive philosophy and how exactly he would plan on molding Colt McCoy into a high caliber NFL quarterback. He should be aided by the fact that he spent this past season helping develop rookie QB Sam Bradford. Bradford’s rookie season is widely considered to have been a success. He avoided injury, put up solid rookie numbers, and helped guide the Rams to a 7-9 record and within 1 win of a playoff appearance a year after going 1-15. Granted this was accomplished in the putrid NFC West, but the future looks bright for Bradford. The downside for Shurmur, however, is the Rams offense wasn’t exactly a juggernaut and he only has two years of experience as an offensive coordinator. Does that really qualify him as a legit coaching candidate? I’m not sure. Apparently Mike Holmgren thinks so and in Holmgren we trust, right?
Mike Mularkey is another interesting candidate for the position. Currently Mularkey serves as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, a position he has held since 2008. Like Shurmur, Mularkey has spent the past few seasons helping shape and mold Falcons QB Matt Ryan. To say that this molding has been a success is an understatement. Ryan has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and this past season guided the Falcons to a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC. In his time with the Falcons, Mularkey has consistently had one of the top offenses in football thanks to a plethora of weapons including the aforementioned Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. Mularkey also served as the offensive coordinator of the Steelers from 2001 to 2003 and regularly burned the Browns through his utilization of Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and Antwan Randle El.
There are red flags surrounding Mularkey as well. When he has weapons at his disposal his offenses are often ranked near the top of the NFL in terms of total offensive production. The problem is that when he doesn’t have weapons, his offenses are atrocious. In one unsuccessful season as offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins in 2006, Miami ranked 29th in the NFL and only averaged 16 points per game… ugh. Another read flag is his only previous head coaching experience was with the Buffalo Bills in 2004 and 2005. In those two seasons the Bills had records of 9-7 and 5-11. He was also stuck with quarterbacks Kelly Holcomb and J.P. Lossman so the fact that he won that many games is rather remarkable. It’s also important to note that Mularkey wasn’t fired as Bills coach, but instead resigned citing a disagreement in the direction of the organization which had recently hired a new management team. Mulareky is expected to meet with the Browns on Saturday so stay tuned.
One name that can officially be removed from the Browns wish list is Jim Harbaugh. The Browns placed a request to speak to the Stanford head coach, but he declined the request. This isn’t exactly surprising. Harbaugh is in such high demand at the moment that he could literally pick the job he wants. Odds are he’ll choose to either stay at Stanford along with QB Andrew Luck and go for a title, take the 49ers job where he has a relatively loaded team competing in an awful division, or he could still take his talents to Michigan and restore glory to the Wolverine football program. He could also end up in some mystery job that comes out of nowhere. It’ll be interesting to see which direction he decides to go.
So stay tuned folks, the Browns head coaching search is in full swing. Let’s just hope they make the right decision this time. Who will be behind that door at the end? Your guess is as good as mine.