A ray of hope.
So Mike Munchak is meeting with the Browns today. Sometimes you just get lucky and the trick is knowing when. Jimmy Haslam surely is nothing if not lucky. And over the weekend at HOF lineman with a decent NFL head coaching record and impeccable integrity became available to coach your team.
That’s good luck.
But when this person is less than three hours drive away, it’s “this is why you’re a billionaire” level luck. All you have to do is sit down with him, stroke a check, and agree to stay out of his way. The luck continues because there’s a Waffle House in Cookeville that is perfectly convenient for both of you.
Don’t miss this Jimmy.
Because the more I look at this: Munchak is more than a coaching hire. He is a franchise saver. Here’s why.
1. Mr. Offensive Line.
Munchak is all-in on the importance of the offensive line. Last year he went broke the bank for Andy Levitre AND THEN followed up by taking Chance Warmack at #10 in the draft. These are not sexy moves and they can get you fired if the whole organization isn’t on the same page. The fruits of a great o-line are realized only after a couple years.1 But as the Three Studs Rule proves conclusively: there is no surer way to build a winner than to build your o-line.23
Given Munchak’s bias in this direction, he can be got. You just have to let Munchak stock his o-line with top talent. That means keeping Alex Mack. That means acquiring a top guard to replace Lauvao (my preference is to draft Gabe Jackson from Mississippi State at the top of the second round).
1a. Save The Mack.
I’d be surprised if Alex Mack isn’t already gone. But if there is any chance to keep him, Munchak is it. A Berkeley grad like Mack surely knows his market value and he surely can discern whether a team is on a positive or negative trajectory. Hire Munchak = positive trajectory, particularly if you play on the o-line. Hire anyone else and why wouldn’t he go back to the Bay and play for the Niners?
1b. Bruce Matthews too?
Munchak’s long time friend Bruce Matthews was one of the assistants the Titans wanted Munchak to fire. Munchak wouldn’t do it (and we’re going to circle back to the importance of loyalty and integrity in particular as pertains to Berea). So picture this: Bruce Matthews and Mike Munchak coaching zone block schemes to Thomas + Greco/Pinkston + Mack + Jackson + Schwartz. Cripes now draft Tre Mason (or Kadeem Carey or Bishop Sankey or Duke Johnson or James Wilder) and “Who’s the QB” becomes incidental. Well…, it becomes closer to not all-important anyway.
As noted in the Three Studs post, THREE is the magic number of studs required. Munchak and Bruce Matthews never got their third stud on the line to play with them and those ‘good’ Oilers teams never got to ‘great.’ Never got past the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Perhaps that always chafed and perhaps his purpose in life now is to help other HOF lineman from suffering a similar fate. Perhaps Munchak and Matthews are on this earth to make sure Joe Thomas doesn’t lose Alex Mack and gets another stud on the line with him.
Here’s the article from the Tennessean that includes the money quote about being willing to sacrifice his job on a point of honor.
“For me to maintain a job and a lot of guys lose jobs on a plan I didn’t think was right, I couldn’t do that. I’ll make tough decisions, but not if they’re not right.”
A person with such strength of character may seem an unlikely match for the current team in Berea. But it’s exactly the type of person who is needed to restore any faith in the people running the show. The Chud firing was shabby and it’s part of a pattern of shabby management practices that have been in play since Haslam/Banner came to town. Hiring Munchak would be a small step toward…
Here’s the Munchak coaching record. We can talk about the win-loss record, but that’s a moot point. Berea is the NFL’s Fukushima. You’re not luring Pete Carroll here.
But what jumps off the page in Munchak’s record for me is the 20 years coaching with one organization which was preceded by twelve years playing for the same organization. A lot of people talk about stability; here’s a guy who does stability.
PROTIP: Firing first year coaches and staff one year after stocking new systems with personnel acquired specifically for new systems is the exact opposite of stability.
In order to gain stability, you have to reduce the influence of de-stabilizing elements. This is science. For example:
Here’s the list of multiple Super Bowl winners. All but two of the coaches who inherited a losing team had losing records in their first year.4 The Banner/Haslam team would have fired Noll (1-13), Walsh (2-14), Johnson (1-15), Landry (0-11-1), and Parcells (3-12-1). Belichick (6-10) and Coughlin (4-12) are on the hot seat.
Back to the Browns, back to Jimmy’s legacy: he can’t want to go down in history as the Chuck Noll fire-er. In order to avoid this he needs to create distance from the primary destabilizer. This leads inevitably to…
4. The end of Joe Banner’s tyranny.
There is no way Haslam could have expected this level of blow back from the Chud firing. It’s not just Browns season ticket holders and twitter and me. It’s a unanimous panning painted with carefully chosen hyperbole.
You get the increasing feeling, talking to people around the league, that the Browns job is seen as radioactive. Tough spot for them.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 12, 2014
To quote every person on twitter and sport talk radio: No one in their right mind will work take the Browns.
But I don’t think that’s entirely true. I would phrase it: no one in their right mind will work for the Browns as currently organized. There’s nothing to stop Haslam from re-organizing his management. No better time to do so than here and now while you’re at rock bottom.
Jimmy acted fast to get rid of his execs in the wake of the cost-plussing scandal. I doubt we’ll see Joe Banner fired, but cripes, Jimmy has to be wondering whether he wants to be shackled this tightly to Joe Banner. Let Joe go make scoreboards and choose inspirational quotations for office walls. But Jimmy: Banner is killing your team and taking you down with it.
Munchak is your lifeboat. Jump into it.
- The current Niners demonstrate that patient investment of high draft picks in the o-line will be re-paid. They have three first round picks on the o-line (Anthony Davis, Iupati, Staley); four if you count Vernon Davis. And they actually took TWO lineman in the 2010 draft. [back]
- Let’s do a quick refresher on the three studs rule which states this: If you assemble an offensive line with three or more pro-bowlers, you’re likely going to a Super Bowl and probably more than one. The following teams had three or more studs on the offensive line: Lombardi Packers, Griese Dolphins, Staubach Cowboys, Tarkenton Vikings, 70s Rams, Madden Raiders, Theisman Redskins, Simms Giants, Kelly Bills, Aikman Cowboys, Young Niners, 90s Broncos, Brady Pats. The worst that can happen with three studs on your o-line is that you become the Gabriel Rams, Coryell Cardinals, RR88 Browns, 90s Vikings, or Vermeil Chiefs. I assume we’d accept the records of those teams. [back]
- The outlier is the Bradshaw Steelers, but I submit that Kolb and Mullin were actually ProBowl level players but since those teams already had like nine ProBowlers, voters cut them off the list. [back]
- Joe Gibbs improved the 6-10 Redskins to 8-8 in 1981; Vince Lombardi coached the 1-10-1 1958 Packers to 7-5. Gibbs and Lombardi aren’t walking through the door. [back]