Patience Is a Virtue in the Head Coach Hunt

It's rare that the Browns get credit for taking the smart approach, but they're doing it right when it comes to finding Rob Chudzinski's replacement. The NFL's coaching carousel spins fast. Too fast. And now it's time for the league to make changes to help the hiring teams that can't help themselves

(Tony Dejak/AP :: Ed Zurga/AP)
(Tony Dejak/AP :: Ed Zurga/AP)

I don’t even care if it’s an intentional display of patience on their part, or in reality a byproduct of not being able to give the job away, I’m still convinced the sometimes clueless Cleveland Browns are taking the right approach when it comes to conducting their latest head coaching search. By taking their time.

Yep, I just typed the words “right approach” and “Browns coaching search” in the same sentence. It stunned me, too.

As quaint as it might sound in the instant-gratification world in which we live, the Browns deserve kudos for actually showing some restraint in the pursuit of their next coach. Because the speed dating that passes for the NFL head coaching interview and hiring process these days is growing more frenzied all the time.

It has been only 17 days since Cleveland surprisingly lowered the boom on first-year head coach Rob Chudzinkski, but that clearly is an eternity in today’s NFL. For a team that couldn’t even wait until the league’s so-called “Black Monday” to make the move—announcing Chudzinski’s firing just hours after its regular-season finale on Dec. 29 after the news started leaking out—the Browns are proceeding considerably more deliberately in the hiring phase of the proceedings.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on Wednesday even felt compelled to issue a letter to his team’s panicked fans, offering an explanation for the perceived hold-up in the search, which has included a few candidates removing their name from consideration. After all, six of the NFL’s seven head-coaching openings have already been filled, with only the Browns still interviewing candidates. You snooze, you lose, right?

The Browns, Haslam wrote, intend to “stay disciplined to this process and to interview all of the candidates on our list.” They are being “very methodical” in their approach, and “are prepared to wait as long as necessary because this is a very important decision.”

Well, roger that. Maybe if the Browns had taken a little bit more time to make their coaching decision last year, they wouldn’t have felt it necessary to can Chudzinski one year into a four-year contract. Live and learn, I guess.

“We understood from the beginning that if we wanted to speak to all of the coaches on our list that we may need to wait until they have completed their participation in the playoffs. We are prepared to wait as long as necessary because this is a very important decision. Everyone in our organization is committed to finding the right leader for our team.” —Jimmy Haslam

As novel an idea as it passes for, Cleveland wants to interview all of the candidates on its list, and that means quite possibly waiting until after the Super Bowl to do so, when a bevy of assistant coaches from Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and New England (pretty, please Josh McDaniels?) will become available.

Quite the concept. But why isn’t it more common? Why is it in the NFL that most teams will spends months preparing for the draft, and weeks and weeks diving into free agency research and preparation, but then feel the need to invest only a handful of days into a critically important head coaching search? Isn’t picking your next coach at least as important as picking your next crop of players?

But that’s the current system the patient Browns are bucking to a certain degree, with the NFL’s rules on the interview windows for head coaching candidates during the postseason making a sprint out of some teams’ searches. Hiring a head coach has become a furious game of musical chairs, and teams desperately don’t want to get caught without one of the most sought-after chairs once the last notes are played. Houston got the game going this year, firing Gary Kubiak with three weeks to go in the season, and getting the desired head start on the rest of the field with the hiring of Penn State coach Bill O’Brien by Jan. 2.

That’s the way the hiring-season game is played now, but that can’t possibly be the best solution. While there will no doubt be issues to overcome no matter when the interview window falls, the most equitable thing to do is to make teams wait until after the Super Bowl is played to interview and hire a new head coach. Revolutionary, I know, but it would remove some of the biggest problems that exist in the current NFL system, even if it didn’t serve to dramatically slow the pace of the hirings once the window opens.

For one, assistants coaches on teams that make deep playoff runs or go to the Super Bowl won’t be disadvantaged any more. Those are usually some of the most attractive candidates on the market, as they are again this year with Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Yet many times those still-in-season candidates never get the chance to land a job because teams are too anxious to find their new coach and fill out a new coaching staff, and are thus unwilling to wait for the completion of the five-week postseason.

Last year at this time, San Francisco’s Roman was considered a strong candidate for the opening in Jacksonville, where new Jaguars general manager David Caldwell was shopping for a coach. But when Seattle lost in the divisional round, and coveted Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley came free, he wound up getting the Jaguars before Roman even had the opportunity to interview. Why? Because the 49ers were Super Bowl-bound. And the same scenario has probably played out this year, with Washington (Jay Gruden), Tennessee (Ken Whisenhunt), Detroit (Jim Caldwell) and Minnesota (Mike Zimmer) all making their coaching hires in the past six days. Three of those four coaches were on teams that just finished playoff runs in the past two weekends.

Taking more time to sort through the interview and hiring process would perhaps help teams avoid the pitfalls the Browns think they encountered last year, when their pursuit of Chip Kelly failed, and they responded by quickly landing Chudzinski. The urgency to hire someone, and not be seen as having been spurned by your top candidates, is a real and powerful motivator that can prompt clubs to short-change the decision-making process and all of its long-term ramifications.

Coaching Carousel

Ken Whisenhunt is the right man for the Titans' job. Here's why Peter King thinks so.


Andrew Brandt explores why the firing process is so painful, as well as the inexact science of hiring coaches.


Meanwhile, Don Banks says the Titans' decision to fire Mike Munchak should serve as a reminder that coaches are people too, and not just fodder for headlines.

Gone too would be the onerous practice of making head-coaching candidates on playoff teams schedule interviews in clumps, just a day or two before they work the most important game of their club’s season. The divided attention span issue is a thorny one for playoff teams to contend with, but needlessly so, since it could be eliminated.

No more need for an offensive coordinator like Whisenhunt to interview with three teams and prepare a game plan for San Diego’s divisional-round playoff game at Denver, all within the span of a few days. And no more team officials like Vikings general manager Rick Spielman flying to Charlotte last weekend to interview the 49ers’ Roman and his fellow San Francisco assistant, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, at a hotel less than 24 hours before the 49ers’ road playoff game at Carolina.

Is anyone capable of doing their best possible work under those circumstances? It’s not ideal for the coaching candidates, the teams they currently work for, or for team officials who are forced to jet around the country and jam some pretty crucial job interviews into tiny windows of time.

And if every team searching for a head coach has the potential of the same hiring season start date, then everyone has the same pool to build an assistant coaching staff from, and doesn’t have to make premature or hasty decisions based purely on pressure to compete for the best assistants. There would still be mad competition on that front, but there would at least be a leveling of that particular playing field.

A post-Super Bowl start to head coach hiring season would get push-back from those who think it’d be the end of the world to not have a fully operational coaching staff in place and scouting at next week’s Senior Bowl workouts in Alabama. But a team’s personnel and scouting staff doesn’t get completely wiped out in a coaching change and that assignment could be handled. With the lighter offseason programs in today’s NFL, you don’t desperately need a head coach in early to mid-January any way, and you’d still have months to make up for any draft prep that might be missed by conducting a February coaching search. After all, the draft this year has been moved to the second weekend of May, so there’s still all the time in the world for a new coaching staff to set its board.

I’ve never thought of them this way before, but the Browns might be the smart ones here. They’re taking their time to find a head coach. At least this time. They’re determined to find the right guy. Even if he’s not available right now.

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39 comments
SherylLawtyFlores
SherylLawtyFlores

The browns are the most toxic team in the NFL. There is a reason nobody wants to be there. And getting Adam Gase? Yeah, not going to happen.

JPaulNorton
JPaulNorton

Ultimately, for the Browns, waiting on Gase is smart only because they have no other choice.  O'Brien was the only "must have" guy available and he was not in their orbit.  The other coaches, specifically the ones on their list that dropped out, were not extraordinary.

Let's also remember despite the organizational flux, the Cleveland job is the most attractive available for a new coach.  He walks into a situation where he automatically gets 5 pro-bowlers, 10 draft picks and tons of free agent money.

No doubt taking a 4 win team to 7 in his first year is highly likely and from 7 to 10 in year 2 very probable.  After that, he can write his own ticket...sign a lucrative extension or leave for greener pastures.  This is a can't miss situation.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

Is this author serious? The Browns are an absolute trainwreck from top to bottom. Their owner is trying his best to stay the hell out of jail. Their front office is a mess. They have no reliable QB. There are rumors that they are trying to trade up to get Johnny "10% Charlie Sheen" Manziel. And they still don't have a coach while every other day a top coaching prospect drops out of the hunt. 

There is nothing intentional about this circus. There is a Simpsons episode where Homer somehow saves the day by luck despite overwhelming incompetence. That's the best case scenario here. 

DavidWitcraft
DavidWitcraft

LISTEN CAREFULLY! Put the Kool-Aid down and slowly take several steps back! Take a few slow, deep breaths, and allow your head to clear! Now run, don't walk, to the nearest mental health facility for your much needed therapy!


While the NFL coaching gold rush is rather silly, it's proven effective for the majority of teams involved. Cleveland took two weeks last year, and hired a coordinator no one had ever heard of, because no qualified coach would go within 60 miles of that job! Their diversity interview was probably a Cavs equipment guy! All this year's qualified candidates scheduled Cleveland last, so they'd only have to go there if no one else offered them! I hear Greg Schiano is available! Maybe they could interview Frank Solich, but he'd be leaving a deeper roster for the Browns gig, but maybe he'd jump for a big contract! The Browns deserve their hiring problem!

JamesF.King
JamesF.King

Cleveland is waiting all right but not by choice. 

Jon8
Jon8

Banks seldom gets anything right and he doesn't disappoint here.


What does Banks know about hiring anybody, much less HC's?


What does Banks know about running any organization, much less an NFL franchise?


Has he bothered to do a reporters job and interview owners and GM's to properly educate himself on the specific process?


When has Banks ever put his money where his mouth is?


No, Banks would much rather lob opinion grenades!





modsuperstar
modsuperstar

While the Browns may be viewed as the least desirable chair for coaches, they could viably end up with the best coach of the bunch by waiting. Really they're only fighting against the college vacancies, of which Vanderbilt seems to be the only "major" college job left. I'm really figuring Greg Roman will be the guy in Cleveland. They draft a mobile QB and they could be in business. They seem very similar to the 49ers pre-Harbaugh. Have a solid defense that is ready to contend. The offense is lacking a QB, but they have solid options at TE and WR to build upon. 


It'll be hilarious in a year or 2 when the Bengals and Browns are battling for the AFC North lead while beating up on the salary cap hell bound Ravens and Steelers.

MikeMapel
MikeMapel

What a travesty, Don Banks.  What the Cleveland fans need is advocacy from the media.  The Three Stooges being complimented for making sure all the other teams get the top coaching candidates before we sign someone?  I thought you actually understood football.   On top of praising the Browns for waiting for the dregs of the coaching circuit, please write a follow-up article praising them for their 2013 signing of Devone Bess.  I suppose you would say they were ahead of their time getting a guy who posts pictures of smoking pot, after a season in which he was in the top five in the NFL in dropped passes.


p.s.  Banner is outsmarting everyone again.  While no other team thought Adam Gase or any other coach in the Conference championships were worth waiting for, the Browns had the foresight.

rskins09
rskins09

When Vince Lombardi  came out of retirement  the only reason he took the Redskins  job,he said,  was because the Redskins  didn't have  a  "QB problem "   .. Sonny Jurgensen  was the QB then ...Even then your QB was 30% of your offense ..NFL  drafts of QB's  now is almost like a crapshoot ..And if your QB isn't at least average, they become coach killers too fast ...Have always likes the Browns  ( Browns & Redskins were in the same division years ago )  but seems like  they're jinxed  as far has drafting  an  NFL QB after they cut Bernie Kosar... Tim Couch  was 1st player picked in the 1999 NFL Draft  and he washed out ..   

drewbeedoo
drewbeedoo

"Slow to hire, fast to fire" is a sound business principle for a reason, and one morsel of hope that this Cleveland Browns fan can cling on to.

AF Whigs
AF Whigs

I think it's more than a little silly to simply say "no one wants the job" in Cleveland.  It's an NFL head coaching job!  There are dozens of NFL and NCAA coaches who would love a shot at coaching.  Hell, if Washington found a coach, why is Cleveland worse?  RGIII may be good, but Dan Snyder has to offset a whole lot of excitement about working with that talent.


But, realistically, teams who are hiring have probably looked at lots of film and spoken to lots of people around the league to get outside opinions on character, ability, etc.  So the quick hires aren't surprising.  I agree with the article that teams shouldn't be allowed to approach coaches who are still involved in the playoffs. 


I really want the Browns to pick a young guy with promise and - even if it kills them - give the guy AT LEAST 3 years to do his thing.   We need a young guy who's not afraid of being tough.  I think part of the perennial problem is that when you play for a joke team (and I say that as a lifelong Browns fan) you maybe don't try as hard?  I don't know.  But we desperately need some consistency and some growth in a positive direction.

Kopernicus1967
Kopernicus1967

This would be true if there were an unlimited pool of candidates.


I work in academia.  When you hire a new colleague you jump into the yearly cycle.  The Harvards and MITs advertise in July (for the next year), interview in September and make offers by October.  The big state schools advertise in September and hire in November and so on.  By the following April you are hiring one-year replacements.  There are only so many people qualified to do the job at a high level.


Track record is everything for a head coach and everyone's career is out there for everyone to see.


The Brown's aren't being patient, it is just no one wants to coach there.  Why relocate your life, family and home just to be fired in one year?  What of all the draft picks and cap space?   The Brown's have one of the worst records over the last 10 years at picking in the draft.   How many top 10 picks have they had?  Most aren't even in the NFL anymore.  Free agents?  Again, who wants to go to a place with such a revolving door of leadership?



gary41
gary41

This season seems to be among the worst for changing coaches, but not so much the time element as the process.  Many do not have an idea of what they need and many seem to be swayed by how the candidates present themselves as dynamic salesmen in an interview, backed with a portfolio of what is wrong with the team and how to fix it.  It is not an error that the worst teams tend to have the worst organizations.        

BB2
BB2

I watched most of the San Diego Chargers' games this year, and in the ones where they were successful they passed much more effectively than they did against Denver this past Sunday.  The key to our offense was granting more freedom and autonomy to Rivers.  When the Chargers were winning, running the ball, passing the ball, and generally holding it for 38+ minutes, they were doing it with Rivers getting to the line of scrimmage with 15 seconds left to figure out which play he was going to run.  That takes game planning... that takes an offensive coordinator to be in the film room all day every day, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat., going into the game. This is a great opportunity to go to the Conference Championship.  Instead Whisenut was interviewing for THREE jobs on those days BEFORE A (lots of bad words here...) DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME!! INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY COACHING THE TEAM HE WAS WORKING FOR DURING THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!! 

<p>

HE ACTUALLY WENT TO ANOTHER PLACE ON THREE DIFFERENT DAYS INSTEAD OF COACHING MY TEAM!! WHAT THE F_(&!$U(&$_C&$_(K!!!!


This is absolutely a rule that must be passed. I don't care if they cheat a little and put out feelers, just like in Free Agency.  But, Interviewing for ANY Coaching must start AFTER the playoffs are over. Set a Global date for interviewing. Make it so fans like me don't have to now hate the Broncos and Titans even more.

 



MarkPost
MarkPost

By your own reports they're in no rush because the candidates have all talked to their last coach and to a man they've all run like hell.  That doesn't sound like patience to me. It sounds like we-can't-give-this-job-away.

Gs1
Gs1

The Texans will learn the hard way that Bill Bell's protege's just can't cut it in the NFL because in New England they were "role players, not starters. Bill is the one that organizes everything and just like his no name players perform very well in his schemes, so do his assistants. But take them out of that scheme, and they're mediocre. Josh McDaniel is the biggest walking mistake out there. Just ask anyone in Denver how big of a mistake Josh was. Josh was arrogant, condescending, my-way-or-the-highway-eventhough-I-have-never-proved-anything-on-my-own-before attitude left the team worst then when he got there.

shingen
shingen

I understand and agree with the premise of the column (outside of the actual Browns search), but acting like the Browns seriously mean that is ridiculous. Taking them seriously is ridiculous. They fired a coach with just one year of work, and seem to have no idea what they are doing. No one wants the job, and they are spinning it into some kind of example of their good management. 


The sadder thing is that Banks bought it. 

Canuck
Canuck

Mr. Banks, this was the most intelligent, well-centered NFL column I've read in at least a year.  Any chance you could teach your colleague Mr. King at least a modicum of the common sense that you clearly possess?

DWJ08
DWJ08

Worst coaching jobs in NFL: Browns<Raiders<Redskins<Cowboys

JohnFerguson
JohnFerguson

WHERE DID DON BANKS GO TO SCHOOL.  This article is full of mistakes in grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.  It is almost unreadable.  My daughter would get a C grade is she turned in work like this.  Are there any editors at Sports Illustrated?

Chuckster
Chuckster

@rskins09   If Cleveland can somehow land the right coach and can somehow manage to make the right pick at #4, all they'll need is a good OC and they can do some things.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@rskins09 100% agree.  It's more about the QB than the coach.  The Cleveland Browns of Bill Belicheck are a perfect example.  Belicheck, with no franchise QB, was a total failure in Cleveland.  He goes to New England accidentally stumbles onto Tom Brady and all of a sudden he's a genius.  


Point is:  it won't matter a hell of a lot who the coach is unless the Browns get an above average QB, at minimum.   

shinnstoneer
shinnstoneer

@drewbeedoo Is it a sound business principle? I am sincerely asking. I'm not a businessman. It would seem to me that building continuity and loyalty would be more beneficial to a business. Fast to fire doesn't seem like a way to build that type of culture.

shingen
shingen

@AF Whigs The difference in Washington is that even Snyder, the worst owner in the history of sports, gave his last coach more than one year.

DGraham_3rd
DGraham_3rd

@Kopernicus1967 First off, this is a completely new regime in Cleveland. New owner, GM, everyone making decisions currently has nothing to do with any past drafts. Yet, your comment on missing in the top ten could  not be less accurate. Since 2004, the Browns have selected in the top 10 six different times. Out of those six, four went on to become Pro Bowlers. 2 are still on the team in All Pro's Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. They also have another All Pro and Prow Bowler in Alex Mack who they took in the first round in 09. Phil Taylor is one of the best 3-4 DT in the game, a first rounder in 2011. Could also point out there later round picks in Pro Bowl TE Jordan Cameron or All Pro S TJ Ward, and MLB Dqwell Jackson. Sure you can point to the early years of their return and say they  missed, most notably with Couch. But your suggestion that they always miss in the top 10 is not backed in anyway. Mingo had an okay year for a rookie, but no player in the top 10 last year stood out. Surely youll point to missing on Trent with the 3rd pick, but they were able to recoop a first rounder back for what looks to be a bust and salvage that situation. This roster sent 5 pro bowlers and had 5 All Pros, they have the most cap room to spend this off season with an owner who wants nothing more to spend money, and they have 2 1st, 3rd, & 4th round picks. Its actually one of the better landing spots out of the vacancies that were open in terms of roster management. Far better than Washington and Minnesota.

rckymtn4
rckymtn4

@BB2 Why do you hate the Broncos even more now? It is not their fault that your coach interviewed with other teams.

Merv
Merv

John, it looks like you turned on your idiot switch this morning.  For your sake, turn it off now.

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

@JohnFerguson "where did Don Banks go to school."  I'm sure as someone criticizing someone else's grammar you know that a question does not end with a period, right?  

"It is almost unreadable".  Sentence fragment

"My daughter would get a C grade IS she turned in work like this".  What grade would you give yourself?

"Are there any editors at Sports Illustrated?".  Perhaps after your daughter finishes looking at your work she can pick up an extra $97 an hour by proofreading from home. 

ianlinross
ianlinross

@JohnFerguson Nothing wrong with this column. There are a few unnecessary hyphens, but otherwise it's pretty clean. It's his style of sports writing, something you likely know little about. 

shinnstoneer
shinnstoneer

@Chuckster @rskins09 One problem. By the time they hire a head coach, the assistant coach pool will be depleted. The same thing hampered Greg Schiano in Tampa two years ago. Though he was responsible for part of his demise, having to work with a patchwork coaching staff from the start was among his biggest problems.

rskins09
rskins09

@PhillyPenn @rskins09      Between the NFL  over expanding  (32) teams. free agency  and injuries,  it's almost impossible  to find at least  an  AVERAGE  QB in the NFL ...You can be  the best NFL  coach  for years but if you don't have a decent QB on your team, forget  it ...Bart Star comes to mind ...Bart Star didn't win  many games for the Packers  but he didn't lose many games either ...I'm not picking on Bart Star ... He deserves  his place in the  HOF ..... BTW, he was a 17th round draft pick .. NFL Draft for years was  17 rounds ...And Warren Moon  wasn't even drafted - played Canadian Football for years  before his  great  NFL career began ....

Phroggo
Phroggo

@BPRamone


OK, BP, you sounded like you knew what you were talking about until you said Banks' use of "They're" in the second sentence of the last paragraph was improper.  The use of they're in this case is as a contraction for they are, and it is proper.  Eliminate the contraction and it reads, "They are taking their time to find a head coach".  I left the period outside the quotation marks because I'm using it to end the sentence, not just the quotation and chose not to use double punctuation.  Since you posted this three hours ago, I assume you are already consumed by the flames, but your family will know that you made one more error.   

BPRamone
BPRamone

@CSK @KristianColasacco @JohnFerguson

I'm sorry, but I must do this because you corrected Mr. Ferguson incorrectly and got two people to "like" your post..

"It is almost unreadable" is a sentence.  "It" is the subject, and "is" is the verb.  Subject + verb = sentence. 

Also, in the United States, a period is always put inside the quotation marks.  In the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, the location of the period depends on what is in the quotes.

You should not double punctuate (e.g., "'... Illustrated?'.") a sentence.  Only one punctuation mark is needed.

When changing anything in a quote (e.g., case) you should identify that the quote is changed from the original.  When pointing out an error in an original quote, "[sic]" should be used.  For example, "My daughter would get a C grade is [sic] she turned in work like this." 

Note that the period is in the quotes.

Also, note that in the previous sentence and this sentence, the subject is implied as "you" because they are commands.

As for Mr. Banks' article, the most glaring mistake in my opinion is his incorrect use of "They're" instead of "Their" in the second sentence of the last paragraph.

I'm ready for the flames.

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