AFC North: Adam Gase

The Cleveland Browns might not be able to win on an issue related to their coaching search.

They’re criticized for the length of time they took to hire a coach and now they’re questioned because they didn’t wait longer.

That’s because the first guy they interviewed -- Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn -- went on to win the Super Bowl. Which conveniently ignores the fact that the offensive coordinator the Browns asked about before they talked to Quinn lost the Super Bowl.

No matter.

The immediate reaction is that the Browns waited a long time, then didn’t wait for a second interview with a Super Bowl winning coordinator and hired one whose team went 6-10.

[+] EnlargeDan Quinn
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiWaiting for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn might have led to the Browns missing out on their top two choices.
Quinn told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the Seahawks had kicked sand in Peyton Manning’s face Sunday night that he was definitely intrigued by the Browns job.

“I certainly would have been interested,“ Quinn told Mary Kay Cabot. “I mean, it’s a big-time place. It’s the Cleveland Browns.”

Quinn could have interviewed in the week after the NFC Championship Game, but he declined, preferring to focus on the Super Bowl. He simply wanted to wait until after the game out of respect for his players.

The Browns chose to go ahead and hire former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

CEO Joe Banner called the decision not to interview Quinn for a second time “the toughest decision” in the search. He addressed the issue on Jan. 23, the day Pettine was hired.

“I think we felt that we knew [Quinn] well enough to make the comparison,” Banner said.

He had nothing but praise for Quinn, calling him “an outstanding guy, an outstanding coach.”

“If we had felt that he would be likely to prevail, we would not have liked to wait, we would not have liked to take 10 more days of pummeling, but we would have,” Banner said.

Pettine made the story a little more complicated by saying the day he was hired that if the Browns' search had dragged out a little longer -- Rob Chudzinski was fired Dec. 29 and Pettine was hired Jan. 23 -- he would have withdrawn.

Pettine felt he couldn’t keep the Bills waiting any longer.

If the Browns knew that -- and it would be shocking if they didn’t -- they were looking at either ...

  • Hiring Pettine immediately. Which was the right move if they felt he was the guy.
  • Waiting for Quinn and risk losing Pettine -- who would have withdrawn -- without being certain if Quinn would have taken the job.

That could have left the Browns without both coaches and the Super Bowl over, which would have led to even more criticism.

They went with the sure thing, a guy they liked while knowing they were turning down a guy they liked.

“That was probably the toughest decision because there’s no doubt we were very impressed with [Quinn] and there’s no doubt he’s going to be a head coach, an outstanding head coach,” Banner said. “There are a lot of people around the league that think very highly of him. But in the end we decided to move forward.”

The Browns simply can’t win in this situation, and in many ways questioning this is classic second-guessing.

The first coach the Browns sought permission to interview was Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

His offense looked bad in the Super Bowl against Quinn’s defense. Which led many of the same folks who were clamoring for Gase to be thankful the Browns didn’t get him.

One game doesn’t define a coach, good or bad. It does create reactions.

Because Quinn won, questions come up about why the Browns didn’t wait.

The questions are fair, but the answers don’t guarantee Quinn or Pettine will be the better head coach.
Adam Gase’s decision not to interview to be the Cleveland Browns coach was a matter of timing and was not affected by the perceptions of the Browns.

That’s the word from Gase, who spoke in New Jersey at Super Bowl interviews, with transcripts provided by the NFL.

“My decision was strictly because we went (to) the playoffs,” Gase told the assembled media at the Super Bowl. “It would have been hard for me to change gears that fast, especially once we beat San Diego (in the Division Round).”

Gase was one of the first people the Browns asked to interview. He initially put off interviews until the Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs, then decided not to interview as the Broncos advanced.

He said the external noise and criticism did not affect his thinking.

“I can’t speak for everybody else, what their thoughts were,” Gase told the assembled media. “That wasn’t what I was thinking.”

Gase pointed out that the timing in hiring a staff and coordinating draft and scouting would have been difficult had he waited until early February.

“After this game, we’re like two weeks from the combine,” he said. “The turnaround is going to be unbelievable.”

It’s admirable. Gase simply wanted to concentrate on his team, his players.

“My mindset was on what we wanted to do to get to this point here to try and finish this off,” he said. “I just remember how I felt last year after we lost that Baltimore game. Me personally, I would not have been able to forgive myself if something would have happened that first playoff game. I felt like I didn’t spend enough time doing what God needed me to do to fulfill my role.”

Browns back to being methodical

January, 21, 2014
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Adam Gase will not interview to be the Cleveland Browns' head coach.

Gase, the Broncos' offensive coordinator, withdrew Tuesday, according to the Denver Post and ESPN's Adam Schefter. Naturally soon after, the Browns put out the word they were moving on regardless.

So ... the purposefully methodical search marches on.

Gase was the first person the Browns sought permission to interview. They waited this long just to talk to him, but Gase evidently feels he’s in too good a spot and wants to focus on the Super Bowl.

That leaves candidates like Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and Cowboys special teams coach Ron Bisaccia still available.

The names of Quinn and Pettine continue to circulate -- to the point that Pettine will be given a second interview. Bisaccia’s name has hardly been mentioned since his interview on Saturday. Munchak has interviewed to be the Steelers offensive line coach, but his name also has not been mentioned often with the Browns since his interview. A surprise candidate is always a possibility, though the chances seem slim at this point.

Schefter indicated the Browns will also consider other coaches, which might imply a coach off the 49ers' staff.

Whatever happens, the impression from outside is the Browns have followed a wayward path to find their coach. They never got to interview Bill O’Brien, Josh McDaniels pulled out early, James Franklin stayed in college and Ken Whisenhunt chose to coach in Tennessee. Others interviewed and pulled out, or went elsewhere. Twitter jokes abound.

Fan unrest and national criticism got to such a point that owner Jimmy Haslam released a letter saying the team was being purposefully methodical and asked for patience, which of course the Browns did not give former coach Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after one season.

Now the team can turn to Pettine, wait on Quinn or find another coach.

Methodically marching.

Seems there’s a Stephen Stills song in there somewhere.
Our most recent poll on who you’d like to see the Browns hire as head coach drew twice as many voters as any of our previous polls.

More than 4,100 voted, and the statement made was clear and strong: The people want Jim Tressel.

Even if they’re not going to get him.

Fifty percent of the vote went to Tressel even though the Browns have shown no interest in talking to the former Ohio State coach (unless they’re doing it secretly).

For one person to garner 50 percent of the vote in a five-person vote is significant. It means Tressel had as many votes as the other four combined.

Methinks the fans are serious about this.

If it were an electoral college, Tressel would have run away with the vote: Only six states did not vote for him: Maine, Vermont, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Alaska (?). Yes, the great state of Alaska, with its majestic mountains and gnarly grizzlies, cast its two votes for the man with the vest from the great state of Ohio, Jim Tressel.

What’s equally as interesting is that none of the other four names listed garnered more than 15 percent of the vote.

Adam Gase, whom the Browns have waited patiently to interview, drew 15 percent, but didn’t even win in Colorado, where he coaches a guy named Manning.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn received 14 percent, former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak 14 percent and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn just seven percent.

The poll was posted before Mike Pettine (Bills DC) and Rich Bisaccia (Cowboys special teams) interviewed, but it doesn’t seem those two names would have chipped away at Tressel’s 50 percent.

It’s clear the man they call “the Vest” remains popular, liked and respected in the state of Ohio.
Some words from Freddie Mercury seem strangely appropriate at this point: Another one bites the dust.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles informed the Cleveland Browns Tuesday that he was removing his name from consideration to be the team's head coach. Bowles interviewed Jan. 2, and simply did not want the job, according to a source close to Bowles.

The reason: The situation with the Browns is not perceived as a strong one, in part because of the team's constant flux and in part because Rob Chudzinski was fired after one season. The Browns insisted they could find a strong candidate -- and they still may -- but the perception is things are not going swimmingly.

Bowles had coached in Cleveland before, and he's a good coach. But he, like Josh McDaniels of New England, withdrew.

The team is being patient, and insists it is not flailing -- a picture painted by many.

But at this point, the team's coaching searches the past two years have hardly been smooth. Nick Saban and Chip Kelly turned the Browns down a year ago, and Kelly went to Philadelphia where he led the Eagles to the playoffs. The Browns were negotiating with Ken Whisenhunt a year ago when those talks fell apart; this offseason Whisenhunt interviewed with the Browns and Lions before taking the job with Tennessee. The Browns also could not lure McDaniels and now Bowles has withdrawn. Bob Stoops did not interview -- though it's not known if the Browns interest was serious in Stoops. Jim Tressel also has not been contacted. It all follows the decision to hire Rob Chudzinski, then fire him less than one year later.

The Browns still seem focused on Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, 35, the first person they requested permission to interview. He is expected to talk with the Browns once Denver is out of the playoffs, but with the Broncos in the Super Bowl that interview might wait three weeks. Also, Gase is not believed to be itching to get out of Denver, where he works with Peyton Manning and where his stature should only improve next season.

Other candidates interviewed include former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak, Green Bay quarterback coach Ben McAdoo and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. None of the remaining names have generated much buzz and excitement in Cleveland.

In a separate matter, the Browns have given former defensive coordinator Ray Horton permission to pursue other jobs. Normally a coach would have to take a promotion to leave, but the Browns have given permission for Horton to pursue any job. That information comes from ESPN Insider Adam Schefter.

Which of course means the team will have a new defensive coordinator, and most likely a new system, in 2014. Again.

When they hire a coach. Any coach.

Weeeee are the champions, my friend.
Another coach goes by the wayside for the Cleveland Browns.

It’s impossible to know how seriously Ken Whisenhunt was considering the Browns or how serious a candidate he was in the team’s eyes, but the bottom line is he accepted the Tennessee Titans job. The Browns either did not offer him the job, he did not take it or he didn’t think it was worth waiting to see what happened.

A lot of signs seem to be pointing to the team badly wanting to talk to Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase. They’ve interviewed several folks, are putting the word out they will be patient and Gase was the first person they requested permission to interview.

Gase has put off all interview decisions until Denver is out of the playoffs, and the Broncos play in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. Even then, there’s no certainty he’ll interview. Gase’s stock won’t sink as long as he has Peyton Manning throwing passes.

Gase is 35 and has spent one year as a coordinator. His hiring is a risk, but at this point any hire would be a risk.

In the Browns coaching search Josh McDaniels has withdrawn from consideration and now Whisenhunt -- the most viable candidate with experience -- has chosen Tennessee. (The ripple effect from Whisenhunt’s hiring could be that defensive coordinator Ray Horton joins him in Tennessee, although Whisenhunt could take another run at prying Keith Butler out of Pittsburgh.)

The Browns did interview Mike Munchak on Monday, and he is a take-charge kind of leader. But he had a mediocre record in Tennessee, and if the Browns choose to hire him they’d be hiring the guy Whisenhunt replaced.

Yes, the NFL world turns oddly sometimes.

Nobody has flat out turned the Browns down (that we know of). Gus Malzahn’s name won’t go away, Bob Stoops chose to stay at Oklahoma. Jim Tressel is sitting in Akron sounding like he’d love a chance.

Where does this leave the Browns as they search for a coach?

Same place they’ve been since the day the 2013 season ended: Looking.

Fumbles have been Denver's 'kryptonite'

November, 26, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It is what drains the superpowers out of the Denver Broncos' offense. It brings it to its knees. It is the fumble. Rather, not just "a" fumble, but a slew of them. No team in the league has put the ball on the ground and lost more fumbles than the Broncos have this season.

The total is now 16 lost fumbles after three more got away in the Broncos' overtime loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night. This puts the Broncos well in front of the New York Giants' 12 fumbles and the 10 by the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsMontee Ball has had three lost fumbles this season.
"Kryptonite, it's been kryptonite so far," Broncos interim head coach Jack Del Rio said. "I watched 'Man of Steel' on the ride home [from New England]. That's an issue and we've got to correct it. We've got to be better there. That's the one area that regardless of how good you are, that's the kind of thing that can really cripple you and we've got to protect the football better. We are preaching it."

While quarterbacks routinely lead their respective teams in lost fumbles because of blindside hits in the pocket -- Peyton Manning is no exception with a team-leading six lost fumbles this season -- it is the propensity for the ball to end up on the ground in the return game and from the team's running backs that have been most troubling.

And after offensive coordinator Adam Gase said he hoped to dial back running back Knowshon Moreno's workload a bit, Moreno has carried the ball 64 times combined in the past two games because he seems to be the only one who can hold on to it.

Before the Kansas City Chiefs arrived in Denver two Sundays ago, Moreno had carried the ball more than 25 times just once in 53 regular-season games, and that was a 32-carry effort last season against the Oakland Raiders. But in the last two weeks, he has had 27 carries against the Chiefs for 79 yards to go with 37 carries against the Patriots on Sunday for a career-best 224 yards.

Yes, the Broncos want to spell a player who had ACL surgery in 2011 to go with another knee procedure this past offseason. Yes, the Broncos would like one of their young running backs to be the guy to do it.

But it hasn't happened because of, at least in part, what Gase refers to as the "trust factor."

And it's really two factors: it's blocking in the passing game and it's still having the ball in your hands when the running play ends. It's why, until Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman consistently meets those two standards -- Ball and Anderson each fumbled Sunday night -- the Broncos will be inclined to keep handing the ball to Moreno and hope for the best in terms of Moreno's durability.

But after a career night, Moreno left Gillette Stadium with a walking boot on his right foot because of what Del Rio called a bone bruise. But Del Rio added Moreno's workload against the Patriots was part of a concerted effort for the Broncos to run the ball better, and Moreno has produced the best results.

"I think it was the hot hand [Sunday] night," Del Rio said. "I think we played the hot hand. [Moreno] really was exceptional. ... He ran tough, had passion. They were doing their best to rattle him, do different things to try and get the ball off of him -- and it wasn't even close. So no, it was a really gritty, tough performance. We thought he was the hot hand. We rolled that hot hand. He had a great night. We have that in the back of our mind. We don't have him on a pitch count. We're not protecting a pitcher and going to make sure that he's going to be good 10 years from now. We'd like to win now. We're working the guys we have, the best of our ability, recognizing there is a season to play. But [Sunday] night, I think it was just right.”

Just right, perhaps, but it was just the second game of Moreno's career in which he's had more than 30 carries. Del Rio said Moreno could return to practice at some point this week, but the time has come for the other backs to show they can hang on to the ball. And the one who earns the most trust will be the one who gets the carries, most likely Ball at the moment.

Or as Ball has put it: "We know it's important to keep the ball, it's the priority, that and making sure you protect Peyton. It's pretty clear."

But the Broncos have tried to deal with the problem as well. They have talked about fumbling -- "over and over again,'' Gase said -- about how the ball should be carried drill after drill in practice when the defensive players have been asked to make it as difficult as possible for the ball carriers to hang on to the ball.

"We dedicate more [time] than you might think," Del Rio said. "We drill it, rip at it. We have different drills that our guys are being put through all the time. So we are definitely not only stressing it and talking about it, but we are coaching it and drilling it. Look, I'm an optimistic guy. I believe that we're giving it the proper attention. I believe that is something that we can fix ourselves. We control that. And so I believe, as we do that, that we take away the one thing that has kind of been our kryptonite and hopefully it gets a lot better."

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