Emily has something to say for the morning edition. Nothing too witty. I'm too somber for that. But, it cuts to the heart of the matter on a three scores, Browns history-wise, Heckert-wise, and Banner-wise.
The revolving doors installed as permanent fixtures in front of the office doors inside the Berea complex have seen folks arrive with Super Bowl rings from San Francisco, Dallas, Baltimore, New England (twice), and Green Bay.
Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Butch Davis, Phil Savage, Romeo Crennel, George Kokonis, Eric Mangini, and Mike Holmgren all arrived with shiny rings.
All spun through the revolving doors and landed on the pavement outside.
Winning and success isn’t easy. Winning again somewhere else is harder. It’s a zero sum game, and for every winner there’s a loser.
The glare of past success reflected off of past Super Bowl rings or a billion dollars or so creates a wonderful mirage that looks like water from a distance.
Up close, it’s just sand.
Iconic coaches with control over both the roster and playbook such as Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi and Jimmy Johnson all failed to reproduce past success. Jimmy Johnson crowed at a news conference filled with NFL types when he took over the Dolphins that he was going to win that year. Everyone in the room knows it, Johnson said, and folks around the league know too.
The ego had landed. And that was about all.
Success is not driven by coaches who have complete control over the roster and the playbook. It’s a lousy model that has failed some of the biggest iconic names in the sport.
It works on rare occasion and worked for Jimmy Johnson in Dallas, and it’s worked for Bill Belichik and for Andy Reid.
It doesn’t transfer well, the glare of past success not withstanding. Joe Banner may be caught in his own glare in favoring a system that gives coaches control the roster.
Much like Mike Holmgren in hiring Pat Shurmur indicated he believed the system was important, and that he expected better than a 5-11 season lack of talent not withstanding. We just need to do things my way, and the way I know that works.
Joe Banner may not have looked around the league to catch success driven from org. charts with lines drawn differently or swiveled his head in the direction of iconic coaches that have failed to reproduce past success. Or lesser coaches that have failed spectacular amidst a need for greater control.
The Nick Saban’s of the world.
Some guy named Josh McDaniel whose name along with Mike Lombardi is circling around the Berea brick and mortar.
Josh McDaniel’s tenure in Denver reads like the burning of the Hindenburg, http://www.joshmcdanielssucks.com/timeline.
Browns fans witnessed spectacular failure in the name of Butch Davis, super bowl rings and walking in the shadow of Jimmy Johnson and the idea that head coaches coach best when they pick the players not withstanding.
It’s a good read for Joe Banner and sets the stage for an empty cupboard, and the arrival of a guy named Tom Heckert and some obvious comparisons.
Butch Davis drafted a guy named Gerard Warren at defensive tackle with the overall number three pick in his first draft. Davis touted Warren as the type of locker room leader players would gather around.
This was before Warren went to the bathroom in his pants while sitting on the bench during a game much to the disgust of his teammates and before a retired Warren Sapp idolized by Warren returned the favor by insulting Warren and his character. Browns players reportedly didn’t gather around his locker as Davis had imagined.
The next three picks after Gerard Warren were all Pro Bowlers including Hall of Famer Ladainian Thomlinson and another defensive tackle named Richard Seymour picked by New England.
Baltimore got Pro Bowlers Todd Heap, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs across three successive drafts as first round picks. Pittsburgh got Pro Bowlers Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu, and Ben Roethlisberger.
The Browns got nothing. Butch Davis got fired.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore went on to own all the NFL records for defense over the next decade. Pittsburgh and Baltimore also owned the Cleveland Browns when they played.
Browns ownership and fans challenged successive regimes to take the steep climb from nothing to next to nothing. All arrived with shiny Super Bowl rings and the glare of past success.
Browns fans responded with appropriate enthusiasm followed by even more appropriate dismay.
It’s a zero sum game. For every winner there’s a loser, and a few years of drafts gone awry goes a long ways in not winning.
And for a long time.
Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome gave the honest level set before the season that the Browns still have a ways to go while Heckert’s first three drafts compare favorably with the first three drafts of Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome and Pittsburgh’s Kevin Colbert. And also their last three drafts.
It’s not easy to make up ground against top teams that hit the ball year after year and stay on top while Bleacher Report’s recent regrade of this year’s draft handed Heckert an A+.
Call it luck or savvy or simply an eye opener for fans and a new regime bent on regime change.
It’s a mind bender, too, because things have started to gel, and if it’s all about winning it’s worth a long look as folks are headed up the stairs to the gallows.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and John Hughes looked like suspect picks on draft day amidst draftniks and league sources alike that held other higher rated players at their position on the board.
Mike Lombardi, a candidate to take over for Heckert called Gordon a wasted pick.
Heckert picked up Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft and has more yards than any other receiver out of this year’s draft, and Gordon may be the long sought after big and fast number one receiver across a very long line of second round picks at wide receiver that includes Kevin Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan, Brian Robiskie, and Mohamed Massaquoi. On film Gordon shows knee bend into his cuts and blows by defensive backs downfield when left in single coverage.
They were all wrong. And Heckert was right.
This year’s 2nd round pick Mitchell Schwartz rates as the second best rookie tackle behind number four overall pick Matt Kalil profootballfocus.com. When you draft at tackle and no other player selected after Schwartz plays better, you’ve drafted well. While Schwartz had a couple rocky starts earlier in the year, he otherwise grades out ahead of Kalil over the last eight games.
Defensive tackle John Hughes was rated as a mid round pick with questionable desire. Drafted as a run stopper, Hughes grades out ahead of Ahtyba Rubin and just behind Phil Taylor when rushing the passer.
Fifth round defensive tackle Billy Winn’s play against the run grades ahead of Ndamakung Suh and half the top 10 defensive defensive tackles.
Weeden finished his rookie year with a higher quarterback ranking than Bernie Kosar, Peyton Manning, and some guy named Donovan McNabb. As well as others. Both Little’s and Gordon’s improved play during the course of the season also coincides with an improved quarterback rating for Weeden over the last few games.
Trent Richardson’s strength coach at Alabama signaled Richardson had rare strength which helped label Richardson as the best back to enter the draft in the past 10 years, and Richardson was unstoppable at the goal line as he broke Jim Brown’s rookie season record. Rare strength at the goal line is a good option to have when a passing game is backed up against the endzone. Richardson played with injuries this past year while offensive coordinator Brad Childress signaled Richardson is the franchise back the Browns hoped he would be.
Heckert arrived with an empty cupboard and holes that needed to be filled immediately. A change from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defensive front added more holes and made for a daunting task while rebuilding the defensive front in two years and into a defense ranked with the 10th most sacks in the league while expending only a single first round and second round pick may be Heckert’s crowning achievement.
The Browns are also the only team in the top 10 without a double digit sack artist. The Browns top pass rusher is Jabaal Sheard on the left side with 15 1/2 sacks in the past two years. Selection of a top pass rusher to pair with Jabaal Sheard in a draft deep with pass rushers could fill an obvious need, prevent opposing teams from rolling protections to one side, and take the Browns pass rush and pass defense to another level.
The Browns could still use speed at linebacker and help in the secondary, and an offense with only two players with more than three years experience simply needs time to mature within a system.
The Browns are close. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And things to be excited about.
There is also Joe Banner who has arrived with a familiar story of success and a familiar and recognizable glare of success. Banner wants a coach to have control over the roster notwithstanding other organizational models more likely to generate success and not withstanding the glare of spectacular failures of coaches given too much responsibility.
And not withstanding what seems to be going right for the Browns Heckert wise and all.
Those of us who also run companies and are lifelong Browns fans and have done the field work called life’s experience may have alarm bells ringing circling adages from places like Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
“Understand before you seek to be understood”.
It may be two sides of the same coin between an ego that insists on doing things his way and a middle manager type that simply needs things lined up just the way they’re used to. Neither is good at recognizing success outside themselves. Other ways to do things. Or when something is going tremendously right and in a way that is best left alone and challenges us to think outside the box. Grow. And learn.
Other alarm bells are at work, as well. Banner was unsuccessful in working through a contract with good guy Sheldon Brown who has anchored a young Brown’s secondary, provided needed leadership to young players and has also graded higher than Joe Haden according to profootballfocus.com. Brown has been anything but an all about me contract player. Go figure what happened on Banner’s watch and why Banner couldn't apply an administrative skill that favors on field success.
This year’s implosion of the Eagles suggest talent and organizational problems and an architect who left the building right before the rafters fell from the ceiling.
Banner may have seen success in spite of himself. A good hire with Andy Reid and a good quarterback like Donovan McNabb can cover a lot of ills and may cover players that Banner couldn’t work with but left to have success elsewhere. Players like Lito Shepherd, Troy Vincent, Duce Staley, Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins.
On the flipside, Heckert looks like a brilliant problem solver across varying approaches. A guy who sorts through the obvious options in front of his nose and doesn't drift far afield into the land of Mike Junkin on top picks, a guy who thinks outside the box along the next tier of top picks and gets it right every time, and a guy who backfills through mid round picks and both veteran and undrafted free agents. This, is quietly a big deal.
I can’t see many players selected after Joe Haden in 2010 that bring as much to the table and a team that was 0-5 without Haden and 5-6 with him, and Haden grades out ahead of Eric Berry selected just ahead of him by the Chiefs.
A trade down in 2011 delivered two first round picks, a second round pick and two fourth round picks amidst a sudden change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive front that demanded immediate attention with lots of holes to fill and for a team that already had an empty cupboard. Heckert picked Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard who now form the nucleus of the Browns line with his top picks.
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s defenses have traditionally been strong up the middle, and it looks like Heckert is listening and got things right in picking Taylor and with this year’s mid round picks John Hughes and Billy Winn.
Heckert pressed the right buttons in veteran free agent acquisitions Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker and in undrafted free agent pickup’s Craig Robertson, L.J. Fort, and Tashuan Gipson.
Heckert is making good calls up and down the draft and outside the draft, and Mike Holmgren may be right when he recently stated Heckert is one of the best GM’s in the league.
It’s hard to overstate the obvious.
Success is connected to success, and Tom Heckert has done more to provide a foundation for success for the Browns than anyone else in generational memory. Heckert is a winner and the guy some smart executive will build an organization and winning team around.
Heckert's drafts looks good in comparison to longstanding division rivals with sustained success and is closing the gap amidst the honest level set from Ozzie Newsome that the Browns still have a ways to go.
Joe Banner can go through a lot of general manager candidates from winning organizations before he finds another general manager that will fire on all cylinders. Trust us, Joe. We know.
Banner’s insistence to work within his experience, comfort zone, and control provide greater odds and chance to get things wrong than right on any given throw, the glare of past success not withstanding.
It’s a zero sum game, Joe. For every winner there’s a loser.