The unfortunate inevitability that was an abrupt end to Hue Jackson’s tenure as Browns coach became a reality Monday. Ironically, and perhaps not so insignificantly, Jackson became the sixth consecutive Cleveland coach to be fired after the team’s second Pittsburgh game.
Jackson, who went 3-36-1 in 40 games as the Browns’ coach over the last two-plus seasons, had this year and next remaining on his contract, but few expected the 53-year-old to last much longer through a season in which Cleveland started 2-5-1.
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Such is life in the NFL. The likability factor and offensive acumen Jackson provided the Browns as coach was overshadowed by the bottom line. Three wins in three seasons — a win-loss percentage of .088 — will get a coach canned every time.
As for the franchise and its management, Monday’s move marks an official page-turn to 2019. The next step for general manager John Dorsey, who reportedly was the driving force behind Jackson’s firing despite team owner Jimmy Haslam’s resistance, is using the next couple months to pin a new coach.
Dorsey, of course, has already started the process of constructing a roster capable of winning more than a couple games in a given season. The presence of the biggest piece to that puzzle, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, will be the key to the coaching search.
When one ponders the type of coach Dorsey might seek, the first word that comes to mind is offense. Keep in mind the GM’s history as an executive. In Green Bay, he worked with Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy (more on the latter in a bit). In Kansas City, he worked with Andy Reid.
So who’s next?
Vikings offensive coordinator
A return to Cleveland would be fitting for the 40-year-old from Youngstown, Ohio, who served as the Browns’ OC in 2015. His career work as a brilliant QB coach culminated last season, when he served as the Eagles’ QB coach and helped Carson Wentz (and then Nick Foles) lead Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl.
DeFilippo parlayed that success into his current role with Minnesota, where his offense is averaging 298.6 passing yards per game and where Kirk Cousins is managing a career-best QB rating of 102.5.
Titans offensive coordinator
LaFleur interviewed for Tennessee’s head-coaching job last year before Mike Vrabel got the gig. He left his OC job with the Rams in part so he could assume play-calling duties for the Titans; head coach Sean McVay calls the plays in LA.
But that McVay connection is also what makes LaFleur, 38, such an intriguing option. The Browns could look at McVay’s work with Jared Goff and dream of similar results from a LaFleur-Mayfield pairing. Helping LaFleur’s case, too, is the fact that he has served under respected 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan twice — he was the QB coach for Shanahan, then a coordinator, in both Washington (2010-13) and Atlanta (2015-16).
Chiefs special teams coordinator
Toub is the first candidate on this list who does not have an offensive coaching background; his history is more about defense and special teams. The 56-year-old has been in his current role with Kansas City since 2013, and Andy Reid added the title of assistant head coach to Toub’s bio before this season.
This candidacy is all about the Dorsey connection, as the GM’s managerial tenure with the Chiefs also started in 2013. Toub is well respected around the league and considered overdue for his chance to be a head coach.
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Cowboys passing game coordinator/DBs coach
Richard, 38, is gaining a reputation as a defensive mastermind when it comes to Xs and Os. After he was hired in Dallas before this season, he quickly earned the trust of longtime coordinator Rod Marinelli — so much so that Marinelli gave him play-calling duties for the defense.
The result? Dallas ranks second in the league defensively with 17.6 points allowed per game. Yes, Cleveland needs development on offense, but it has some pretty damn good young pieces on defense, too. The man who helped facilitate the rise of the “Legion of Boom” in Seattle a few years ago would be a helpful addition for the Browns.
Oklahoma Sooners head coach
Many assume Riley, 35, is set in Norman and not interested in jumping to the pro ranks after just his second year as the Sooners’ coach. But a report from NFL.com suggests Riley would indeed “listen” if an NFL team came calling. One would think a reunion with the QB who won the Heisman Trophy under Riley at Oklahoma would sweeten the deal.
This is a long shot, of course, but Riley’s name is worth keeping in mind when it comes to Cleveland’s search. The Browns would be silly not to at least gauge the offensive master’s interest.
Packers head coach
OK, this one’s just for fun … kind of.
This is another Dorsey connection, as he and McCarthy won a Super Bowl together when the former was the director of college scouting and the latter was a fifth-year head coach with the Packers back in 2010. McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay could be getting sour, depending on who you ask. Never say never.
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