Now that Mangini is gone, it’s time for deductive reasoning.

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments


The speculation started while news of Mangini’s dismissal broke, who will the next head coach in Cleveland? Since the firing there have been dozens of names bandied about, but are all of them serious contenders, no. So it begins, the process of whittling down the list of HC suitors.

1) Holmgren is interviewing a lot of people…

It really does not matter how many people Holmgren is interviewing. I believe, just by common sense, it is a short list. Mike Holmgren, should look for some type of offensive star power and track record. If only to buy time before my fellow fans fickleness starts the pointing of their pitchforks at him. You know its bad when in a second season, after a roster sweep year, and in the midst of a season with 3 different QBs out with injuries, 5 total QB adjustments for the offense, and the coach still gets fired, public opinions are temperamental to say the least. Given the current state of Clevelanders, I think that anyone hired will need a marked degree of star power or at least track record of winning with either Holmgren or Heckert.

I actually believe that Holmgren would not have fired Eric Mangini if it wasn’t for public sentiment. To put it another way… If Holmgren had no association with the Browns and someone wanted to bet on Mangini’s ability, I think he would take it without a doubt. However, since the duty will ultimately reflect on him, he is opting for going with his own system and hires. Moreover, I believe that the firing was expedited by the PR situation. Holmgren can get rid of him now, buy more time for himself before the pointing of the proverbial pitchforks. Whereas if the Browns did not show marked improvement next year, fans would not just be calling for Daboll and Mangini in 2012. Therefore, the coaching change happens now to buy at least another year of “transistion” though there should not be much legitimate transitioning from a personnel perspective.

In the end, I think it is a short list of potential HCs. It is probably a combination of politics of not burning bridges, and ensuring that there is no future questions of due diligence. There is also probably something to be said for keeping options open if they are turned down by their top choices.

Coaches Eliminated

Ron Rivera- SD Def Coor- Has the star power, but unproven on offense. Not the right kind of star power.

Perry Fewell- NYG Def Coor- ”   ”

Pat Shurmur- On the fence with his elimination, perhaps better to call him a darkhorse candidate. He does have ties to Heckert in Philly as he held several positions under Reid before getting promoted to OC. Andy Reid was, of course, hired as HC of the Eagles off of Holmgren’s staff.

2) I have heard of the West Coast Offense (WCO), but how important of a role will it play?

A lot. The West Coast Offense as developed by Bill Walsh, not to be confused with the Air Coryell type like Bernie Kosar once did, will play a huge role. First let’s brush up on the general WCO theory.

In basic strategy, the WCO centers around short and intermediate passing, i.e. high efficiency throws. Essentially, these high percentage throws work like a running game, as a way of maintaining ball control, aiding in time of possession, long drives with  slow and steady rhythm passing,  and doing so with little risk. Then the passing game helps the running game as the defense has to account for the horizontal spread of where the passes occur. Theoretically, this means that the defense has to move personnel to be able to cover receivers utilizing all 53 feet of the width, as opposed to just a perimeter weapon, and that means pulling them away from the “box” which helps in the development of running lanes. These quick passes are also great for exploiting blitzes and beating the cover 2, which is designed to stop deeper throws.

It requires a high level of cohesiveness between the front office and coaching staff  to turn any football theory into practical application. Players each have their own personal skill sets, and schemes emphasize different types of skills. Therefore, the coaches must be on the same philosophical page as those in charge of acquiring personnel.

Players skills vary in football way more than other sports, and the schemes have to make the most of the players skills. The WCO places certain requirements that emphasize different skills than other systems.

QB-The QB has to be immensely accurate, that is the deal breaker of the system, and fit the ball into tighter windows with much less margin of error. A QB that can tuck the ball and run also has added value in the WCO, the pass designs are quick, so there is not a whole lot of options to bail out the QB if they are covered.

RB- Runningbacks who can catch the ball have added value, generally speaking, as a check down option in pass heavy offenses. Also, smaller speedier backs tend to do well because they are getting the ball in space with these passes, they can avoid bigger tacklers easier than on a handoff play.

WR- Great routes and toughness trump speed all day. You need receivers that are not going to shy away from contact, go over the middle, and be more concerned with catching the ball than the status of their ribs. Moreover they have to be in the same place at the same time, every time. For the WCO to work, it requires a heavy dose of synchronization between QB and wide out.

TE- Sort of whatever the coach deems necessary. Usually they are hybrid blockers and receivers depending on the circumstance. Although there is likely to be a continued emphasis because of the 3-4’s in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Line- Varies by coach. Those that seek to utilize the running ability of the QB tend to go with smallish lines that are more mobile, like Mike Shanahan does, then they utilize a mobile packet, a lot of zone play on the line, and the speedier linemen get in front of screens better.

Sidenote, I will be livid if they do this in Cleveland- Division is 3-4 heavy and we would need an overhaul of the line to pull this off, then exquisite zone play to be effective. I vote just to get the right side better. (pretending I have a vote)

Player Examples

Ken Anderson- The Bengals QB that helped Walsh’s ascension to fame. Not exactly the Sid Gillman style prototype of a quarterback, but he was successful in the scheme.

Johnny Unitas- The opposite of Anderson. He is down in history as one of the best of all time, but would not be in any West Coast coaches top 100 to be used in a WCO. He threw a heaving and wobbly ball, and was not remarkably accurate, he didn’t hit the tight windows over the middle or make the backshoulder throws that are vital to the success of the scheme.

Randy Moss (circa early 2000’s)- Nope… You have to go over the middle Randy.

Coaches Eliminated

Bill Cower

Mike Mularky

John Fox

Jim Harbaugh

Tom Cable

Josh McDandiels

Who’s Left, and my estimated odds…

Pat Shurmur- Offensive Coordinator St Louis Rams

The Darkhorse candidiate at 25:1 odds

…for all the reasons above under the star power section balanced with familiarity

Any Defensive oriented coach (Fewell, Rivera, et cetera)

20:1 odds

The thought could be to lock up someone on board with the offense for an OC position. The HC would then be versed in the situational philosophies of the game, and defer the practice time to the OC, and offensive personnel almost entirely to the front office.

John Gruden- Former Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders

10:1 odds

“Chucky” will have options. He just does not seem to be the type of guy to play second fiddle, although he is ideally suited. The one other knock is his temper, Holmgren insisted on Mangini changing his ways, and he did not seem nearly as bad as Gruden. Ultimately, like Homgren’s decision to get rid of Mangini, I think wherever Gruden goes, he will want to be in charge of more than will be available in Cleveland. His reputation, and therefore his decisions.

Mike Holmgren himself

5:1 odds

I think Mike Holmgren is dying to put a headset back on. So why doesn’t he just name himself HC? Because he was outvoted by the more important people… Their names are Kathy, Calla, Jenny, Emily, Gretchen, and his 6 grandchildren. A head coach devotes almost every second of his life to his job usually the best just burnout, and do not give their 17 hour days when they start to have troubles. That takes a toll on any family I’m sure. Interestingly, he is poised to do the job, but only if the other options shoot him down.

Marty Mornhinweg – Current OC of the Philidelphia Eagles.

2:1 odds

If there is anyone that Tom Heckert is going to be on the same page with, not named Andy Reid, it’s this guy. Moreover, they are all looking at the same type of talent, in the same type of system, and there will be one definitive leader of the franchise with the spotlight on Mike Holmgren. Basically, he does not have traditional star power, but he has a significant track record with a one of the most successful offenses in recent time. Moreover, it was successful based off the the same things that Holmgren and Heckert are very familiar with.

In the end, the decision to fire Mangini may to have had more to do with the mass exodus of fans at half time, than the blowout on the field itself. It is a business. Therefore, Holmgren’s duties, which include the money end, will lend to Morninweg even further. If Holmgren hires him, Holmgren will take full ownership of the situation, and be more involved on the media/PR end, but not in the Berea Headquarters 80 hours a week.

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§ 2 Responses to Now that Mangini is gone, it’s time for deductive reasoning.

  • Chris says:

    The thought of Mornhinweg terrifies me. Anyone who thinks taking the wind in overtime is a good idea should be immediately be disqualified from consideration.

    • probably, but I am willing to forgive it. I am one of those people who can over-think things from time to time. It’s usually for the best, but there is the occasional boneheaded decision in a given moment. I would rather chalk it up to an isolated instance, than general incompetence. At very least, I just have entirely too much faith in Andy Reid’s job of managing the coaching staff.

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