Now that the Cleveland Browns have put Chip Kelly and his tantalizing offense in their rearview mirror and seem to be speeding away just as fast as their battered, old jalopy will allow, it makes me wonder if this wasn't one of those torrid romances they ultimately will be glad to have ended.
Now that the Cleveland Browns have put Chip Kelly and his tantalizing offense in their rearview mirror and seem to be speeding away just as fast as their battered, old jalopy will allow, it makes me wonder if this wasn’t one of those torrid romances they ultimately will be glad to have ended.
The Oregon coach was definitely the looker of this NFL hiring season. He was a hot name in hiring circles, maybe the hot name, and the Browns, Eagles and Bills all rushed to court him, even though he had never a coached a down of pro football.
Of this group, the Browns seemed the most likely destination for him, in part because new owner Jimmy Haslam wants to show the world that the Browns are serious about winning and that he will do anything and everything to make it happen, including winning the best-looking coaching supermodel away from an Eagles team in a bigger market and with more recent success.
But all the while the Browns were intent on “winning” Kelly away from the others, my mind kept revisiting the lyrics of an old Shel Silverstein tune called The Winner, one where Bobby Bare sings about a brawler who “wins” a woman and ends up … well, let Shel tell it.
Now this broken back was the dyin’ act of a handsome Harry Clay , / That sticky Cincinnati night I stole his wife away . / But that woman she gets uglier and she gets meaner every day , / But I got her, boy, and that’s what makes me a winner.
This is good for a laugh and might be overstating the case a little. But there were a couple of reasons to think that a Kelly-Browns marriage wouldn’t have worked, so the simple act of winning him away from other suitors might have led to more serious losses down the road.
Whether he could have run his fast-paced college offense in the NFL is debatable, although if he is truly an offensive genius, then there’s a good chance he could have adapted it to fit new surroundings. But there are doubts that he would have had the personnel to make that happen, starting with quarterback Brandon Weeden, and the Browns likely would have had to give Kelly the power to make those decisions to win his services.
Had Kelly really done enough in four years as coach at Oregon to justify this kind of faith from a proud but flailing NFL franchise? As a colleague pointed out, only six years ago he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire.
Most Browns fans remember the excitement generated when the team hired Butch Davis from the University of Miami. Davis was coming off an 11-1 season with the No. 2-ranked Hurricanes in 2000 and had been an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys for six years between coaching jobs at Oklahoma State and Miami. Three-plus seasons later, the Browns fired him with a 24-34 record.
The popular choice isn’t always the best one. A Lovie Smith or a Ken Whisenhunt, each of whom coached teams to the Super Bowl, would seem a wiser choice than a guy who has never coached an NFL game.Although they don’t generate as much buzz as Kelly after being fired by the Bears (Smith) and the Cardinals (Whisenhunt), there is security in knowing that when they had the personnel, they were able to get their teams there.If the buzz is truly important to Haslam, he might take a run at Alabama coach Nick Saban now that last night’s national championship game is over. There’s always a chance Saban’s lack of interest in NFL jobs was more about the big game he had ahead of him, and he has at least been in the NFL as a coach and an assistant.
But that doesn’t change the fact that hiring a coach is not about the buzz, or at least it shouldn’t be. There are two kinds of winning, and the kind that Silverstein wrote about brings short-term happiness and long-term misery.
The Browns already have had more than enough of that.
Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.