Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns finally getting defensive

The Browns finally made an addition to new coach Pat Shurmur’s staff, hiring Dick Jauron to take over for the departed Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator.

Shurmur has ties, naturally, to team president Mike Holmgren, having coached the defensive backs in Green Bay for three years under Holmgren.

Jauron has head coaching experience with Chicago (1999-2003) where he was 35-45, and in Buffalo (2006-09) where he was 24-33. Throw in his 1-4 record as interim coach in Detroit and he wasn’t very good as a head coach, as 60-82 career record indicates.

So while it’s good the Browns are not bringing him in to be the top man, Jauron should be able to offer Shurmur some guidance about being a head coach.

“He has a tremendous knowledge of the game and is an excellent teacher,” Shurmur told the Associated Press. “His experience in the NFL as a player, position coach, coordinator and head coach will be a huge asset to our staff.”

Cleveland fans should be familiar with Jauron from his time with the Bears, especially from the 2001 season when the Bears won back-to-back overtime games on interception returns, the second coming against, of course, the Browns.

“There were many elements of this job that were attractive for me,” Jauron said in published reports. “I have known Pat and his family for a long time, and in fact I played for and coached with his uncle Fritz. I believe with people like Pat Shurmur, Mike Holmgren and [GM] Tom Heckert in place, this organization is building a solid foundation. I can’t wait to get started with the Browns.”

So what are the Browns getting in Jauron?

In Buffalo, the Bills defense ranked 19th, 14th, 31st and 18th during Jauron’s tenure. In Detroit, his defenses were 20th and 22nd.

His best year came in 2001, as the Bears ranked first in the NFL in points allowed and second in rushing yards allowed.

Compare that to the Browns, who over the past seven years have seen their rush defense finish the season ranked 27th, 28th, 28th, 27th, 29th, 30th and 32nd. So if he brings anything to the table for the run defense, the Browns will be ahead of the game.

A former defensive back, and longtime secondary coach, Jauron should be able to accelerate the learning process of Joe Haden and T.J. Ward.

Just the news that the Browns were looking at Jauron set off a debate over his preferred 4-3 defense vs. the 3-4 defense the Browns have been trying to run for seemingly forever. Now that he is officially on board, the debate should only intensify.

In his excellent book, Take Your Eye off the Ball, Pat Kirwan says that, if a team is smart, it can convert from one system to the other in two years. He also brings up an interesting point:

When most of the NFL played a 4-3 scheme, a 3-4 team like the Steelers faced little competition for their kind of player. Once half the league started running a 3-4, with everyone looking for their own massive nose tackle, it became harder to land the best players for that system. Eventually, so many teams will be playing the 3-4 that teams who stick with the 4-3 will regain the advantage.

Think about that, the Browns may actually be gaining an advantage? How nice that would be for a change.

Kirwin also talks about what teams look for when building a defensive line for the 4-3, citing the Vikings as an example with Kevin Williams (311 pounds) and Pat Williams (317) eating up space at the tackle positions.

It’s pretty easy to see Ahtyba Rubin (330 pounds) and Shaun Rogers (350 pounds) in those roles.

But here’s the important part: it doesn’t matter what defense the team uses – 4-3, 3-4, 0-11 – if the coaches don’t know how to teach the system and if the team doesn’t have players who can excel in the system. And don’t forget, both the Saints and the Colts – last year’s Super Bowl teams – run the 4-3.

If GM Tom Heckert can get the players Jauron needs, and if Jauron can coach them in the proper way to run the defense, then the 4-3 is the perfect defense for the Browns. Sometimes it really is that simple.

While there may be some growing pains as the Browns refit the front seven to the new defense, that is much smaller in importance to getting the right coaches in place, picking one system and sticking with it. You can’t do it in one year; it’s a building process that grows year after year when done right.


Eric Mangini may be back on the sidelines in 2011, as he is reportedly a candidate to take over as defensive coordinator in Tennessee.


New Orleans fullback Heath Evans? Not a fan of Brian Daboll.


The Browns are playing both Tennessee and Miami at home next season.


We know we have money on the Steelers for Sunday’s game against the Jets. And while we bet with our heads, there is no scenario known that will allow us to root for the Steelers.

So … J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!

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