by Ryan Isley
One of my favorite acronyms is KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. And that is exactly what the Cleveland Browns should do with their head coaching search.
If the Browns would just follow that simple acronym, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith would have already been interviewed and possibly hired. While the Browns were busy interviewing Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone – and landing neither – the right fit for their head coaching position just might have been staring them in the face the entire time.
If this was high school, the Browns would be the guy who already went after the class flirt (Kelly) and the girl who is sneaky hot (Marrone) while completely ignoring the girl who was perfect relationship material (Smith).
In his nine years as head coach of the Bears, Lovie Smith had an overall record of 81-63 – a winning percentage of .563 – and led the Bears to the postseason three times. The Bears won nine or more games in five of his nine seasons and only finished worse than 7-9 once – Smith’s first season when they were 5-11.
To put that in perspective, the Browns are 47-97 in that same time period and have had one season with nine wins in those nine years and finished with five or less wins seven times. The best winning percentage of any head coach since the Browns returned in 1999 is .407 (24-35) by Butch Davis from 2001-2004. The Browns have failed to make the playoffs since 2002 – two seasons before Smith took over in Chicago.
While the Browns have seemingly been targeting offensive coaches for their head coaching vacancy, going with a defensive guy like Smith would still make sense. Instead of forcing the wrong guy into the position just because of what side of the ball he coaches, the Browns should consider all options available to them – especially when they make this much sense.
Smith became a head coach in the NFL after making his name on the defensive side of the ball and continued doing so as the head coach of the Bears.
In his last eight seasons as the head coach of the Bears, the team’s defense finished in the top-5 in both points allowed and yards allowed in three of those seasons and finished a combined 34-14 in those three seasons. That included this past season when the Bears finished 10-6 and finished third in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed per game. The Bears were also fourth in points allowed while ninth in yards allowed in 2010 and finished 13-3 that season.
One of the seasons in which the Bears were in the top-5 in both yards and points allowed – 2006 – they also made the Super Bowl, which they lost to the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning 29-17. Smith guided the Bears to two other postseason appearances as well, losing in the division round in 2005 and then to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. The Bears missed the playoffs by one games this season despite winning 10 games.
While you can look at the Bears offense – which the Bears front office did when firing Smith – it would be a mistake to formulate an opinion on him based on the struggles the Bears had offensively. After all, he was never an offensive coach. The reasons that Smith was fired were because of the offense and the personnel decisions the Bears made – neither of which were Smith’s main responsibility.
Obviously hiring Smith would not answer the problems with the Browns offense. That is where the front office and Smith would need to collaborate on a plan to hire an offensive coordinator who can take the offensive reins while Smith does his work on the defense. It would probably need to be a group decision because the one thing Smith can be blamed for with the offense in Chicago is that he was the person who promoted Mike Tice to offensive coordinator for this past season after Mike Martz left following two disappointing seasons.
But wouldn’t you rather hire a head coach with positive head coaching experience in the NFL regardless of what side of the ball he coaches and then find an assistant coach to handle the other side of the ball instead of just hiring a guy as the head coach because he coaches a certain side of the ball? I know I would.
It really doesn’t seem that difficult to me. As I said – Keep It Simple Stupid. But despite the new owner and front office, this is still the Browns – which means they will continue to try forcing a square peg into a round hole.
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