A ray of hope.

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The Cookeville, TN Waffle House is where the Browns survival can be assured.

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.


“Lucky Jimmy.”

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.


(They’re wearing gold blazers because they’re Hall of Famers.)

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.

2.  Integrity.

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…

3.  Stability.

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.

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Five of these coaches would have been fired after their first year by Banner/Haslam.

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.


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.


  1. 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]
  2. 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]
  3. 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]
  4. 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]
  • actovegin1armstrong

    On the subject of our gang of loser lovers hashing this out before the Browns’ draft day superbowl, I really hope the current regime does not draft a QB early. They can get a gem in Connor Shaw late in the draft. Connor Shaw does an excellent job of surveying the field in a hurry and he is not afraid to pull the ball back down rather than throw an interception. He needs some development, but I would really like to see him in a Browns uniform. He is like Kosar, but with coordination.

    • CleveLandThatILove

      Sounds good to me. Maybe their “find a diamond in the rough” philosophy will go beyond the coaching search to the draft board.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        How do people become talent evaluators? It amazes me to see how many teams make huge mistakes with their draft picks. To use a baseball analogy it appears that many teams swing for the fences rather than taking a solid double that will benefit their team for a decade.

        • yup. was checking out something else* and noticed rookie larry warford graded out as 4th best guard this year. that’s shaping up like a locked down position for the lions for the next decade. for the price of a third round pick.

          same thing, i’m afraid, applies to coaching picks. trying to hit homeruns with OCs. you know where i’m at with the oline importance so you know i’m still hoping for munchak.

          o-line play ain’t sexy, but owning the LOS is how you win at football.
          *i was researching what kind of a UFA guard couldve been got for the price of davon bess. (answer: matt slausen. 1070 snaps for the bears, graded as 6th best guard.)

        • CleveLandThatILove

          There’s got to be some luck involved, no magic formulas probably. That applies to almost all people, you can only evaluate what they’ve done to that point. No telling where they’ll go moving forward given the right circumstances.

  • bupalos

    Just because this last iteration of the coaching search has put the bee in my bonnet, does anyone have any insight on why the
    Panthers would go for it on 4th down on the goal line the first time and
    not the second? I mean, it’s right or it’s wrong. (It’s right BTW)

  • CleveLandThatILove

    I give you guys credit – where do you summon the energy to hash this stuff out yet again, so soon?

    • coaching searches are our playoffs and the draft is our super bowl.

      • CleveLandThatILove

        Builds character, not a total loss.

        (It’s official, I’ve become my mother.)

  • humboldt

    That Waffle House photo at the top is like something out of a Cohen Brothers film…which I guess is quite appropriate for the franchise

    • funny you mention that.
      here’s joe and jimmy waiting for munchak in the waffle house parking lot.

  • bupalos

    I’ve kind of lost count but with Caldwell going to Detroit are we now the only open job?

    I guess I’m OK with Muchak, he seems solid at least, but boy howdy do I hope whoever comes in grows a modern approach to covering the details of gameday, including some quant assistants and just someone to sit and watch the game and buzz in when they see freaky stuff going against us. I find it scandalous that in this fifty billion dollar industry things still happen every week in every game, and the more I watch the more insane I become. I’m fresh off the Denver game and there were like 40 yards of official’s mistakes that someone needed to be on, from Peyton very visibly bobbing his head and shoulders to get 4 encroachments, to the officials spotting the ball at the 18 after a 10 yard block in the back penalty that happened on the 21, to 2 instances of 12-men in the huddle on Den that went uncalled (reviewable), to more of the random clock-winding/clock-stopping that happens every single game….

    • i worry that browns fans are prone looking for a magical coaching innovator almost as much as a savior qb. is there really anything truly NEW?

      “A lot of things that are being done with the Wildcat formation was the single-wing formation run way back when. Dick Kazmaier won the Heisman Trophy at Princeton [in 1951] running the single-wing offense. He would have been a good zone-read quarterback.” —chip kelly.

      go to 1:35 in the jim brown clip below. we really don’t whether a pulling guard selling out to lead a sweep like schafrath would work today since no has tried it in 30 years. i mean maybe having an o-line not peopled with 340 lb men is something to look at.

      but you give a coach an eleven month window and you’ll never find out. a lot safer to fail conventionally.

      • geez.. down voted on my own blog.
        are the WFNY comment-sissies coming here now?

        • Petefranklin

          I was wondering about those down votes. Truth hurts I guess…stay true!

        • actovegin1armstrong

          Please rejoice in the ignorance of your detractors.
          I am always more concerned that my opinion is incorrect when their is a consensus in my favor. Please remember that people are stupid. I should know, I am a prime example of this adage.

      • bupalos

        I’m the first one to say that there are no silver bullets in coaching, especially not nowadays where everyone has practically unlimited resources to sit and pick apart what everyone else is doing. The scheme stuff is vastly overrated. This is one reason I find some fault with your “big cornerbacks” hangup. Yeah, that’s one way of doing things. It has it’s advantages and it’s drawbacks, and the fact that it’s working very well for Seattle right now (especially when they get the home-cooking from refs on what becomes a never-ending series of judgement calls when you play “big” in the defensive backfield) isn’t dispositive for Cleveland or Cincinatti or New York.

        The coach I want is one that sets the tone of covering every base and doing his job to the end and to the minutest detail. That’s why the timing stuff and special teams stuff and missing 12 men in the huddle drives me nuts. This stuff provides a marginal direct benefit (might steal you a game a year), but more importantly I think it sets an example that bleeds over to the players. Both Bellichick and JiHarbaugh exemplify this for me, and I wish there was more attention to this aspect of their success.

        • i readily admit the big cornerback problem didn’t hurt the browns but i do still think it’s also true that no OC tried to exploit it. (i find the jon-gruden-wunderkind narrative wholly laughable.)

          i checked the titan’s on penalties and it’s just middle-of-the-pack.* i would think that a guy who runs zone-blocking schemes is a detail guy and munchak looks that part but can’t tell.

          *(pats were best in penalties in both offense and defense.) (info i might have checked prior to my colts essay.)

  • actovegin1armstrong

    I wholeheartedly agree on building a team with a strong defense and an aggressive, top caliber offensive line. (Please see, NEVER draft a running back or quarterback in the first round tirades.)

    Two small concerns, “It’s a unanimous panning painted with carefully chosen hyperbole.” Who chooses their hyperbole carefully?

    And, JAKE MATTHEWS with the 4th pick!!
    Jason Verrett with the late 1st round pick if he is available, if not then the other Matthews, Jordan Matthews.

    • 1. yes.
      2. i searched hard for just the right fukushima jpg but then either forgot to put it or adjudged it too soon. but i was careful.
      3. yes. if the plan is too build stability and o-line i suppose draft a prospective 15 year HOF-er is a terrif move.
      4. i’ll see your don’t draft QB/RBs in first round bias and raise with my on short d-backs. we find consensus on jordan matthews.

      • actovegin1armstrong


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  • Tron

    I like it. I hope this happens. The most distressing part about the Browns current situation is the fact that they have a guy who has never played football having final say over talent evaluation. I don’t know how Jimmy, or any owner, could not realize that this is a problem. I do think Banners shrewdness and business savvy can be an asset, but only within its proper role. This is the balance Jimmy needs to address.

    As for Munchak, I don’t know a lot and he doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the type of coach that they seem to want (offensive innovator), but character and stability are exactly what we are lacking. But will that lead to on-field success? Not sure.

    • i’m a fan of zigging when everyone is zagging. the more the consensus is that it’s a passing league, the more i think there’s an opportunity to build a run game.

      [cue my favorite jim brown youtube.]

  • zarathustra

    I come in peace. Well sort of at least. I have never disagreed with you emphasis of the o line so will basically agree with your prescription there. Moreover, I totally agree on the running backs listed–although I don’t think duke Johnson is eligible, but let’s replace home with storm johnson or even a few others not named Carlos Hyde. And even though I think the Chud firing can be justified I don’t think it was particularly fair as I generally agree with you on firing first year coaches. And most of the coaches you listed indeed would not have made it to a second year based on record alone (fwiw I don’t think the record was in any way the definitive reason for firing Chud, but whatever.) Most of those coaches however did show something after three years. More than mike munchak did with the titans.
    It is of course doubtful that he will be the head coach here or anywhere else next year, but maybe he can join the organization in another capacity. But I suspect there are other potential hires out there you would be happy with, which leads to a sincere question: if memory serves you were pretty smitten with schiano this past summer, what say you on the possibility he ends up the guy?

    • you’re right about duke johnson (not in draft) and he’s a bit of a fumbler anyway.

      as far as munchak’s plan.. i would say he only got levitre and warmack this year and everything gets blown up when you’re juggling qbs. i wonder whether kendall wright was his pick and whether he wouldn’t have rather taken decastro and whether having been proven (kinda) right, that enabled him to go wild on the line with levitre and warmack this year. in any case, the browns’ line only has one glaring hole (if mack stays) and i think the best line in the league would be a terrific goal and reach-able. it’d be great for browns football to have any identity, but to have the identity of best o-line in the nfl would be really awesome… i think it’s reach-able.

      schiano? i liked what the bucs were doing in beefing up their secondary size (golden, revis, banks plus mark barron in first round last year) but that was more domenik’s work. i liked his act at rutgers but boy a lot of bucs fans got down on him fast. not just random bucs fans, but i think all three of our tampa cheddars (usfcollin, chuckyc, peter) are down on him so that would have me leaning against. otoh, beggars cant be too choosy.

      • bupalos

        I watched that PBurg line pretty carefully this year, Decastro especially because he was my choice over the execrable Mr. Weeden. He really hasn’t shown a thing. Looks like maybe an average 3-5th round talent, don’t know if the injury plays into that.

        • yeah he hasnt been a standout. this may or may not prove/support two active working theories of mine:
          1. the symbiotic relationship of guards to tackles/centers. just as i suspect covering for lauvao has resulted in schwartz’ meh performances, so too i wonder how losing pouncey and playing next mike adams affects decastro. and..
          2. the majority pre-draft web experts (national ones in partic) know less than nfl talent evaluators. decastro is example 1A here. im quite sure he was the variously the safest pick in the draft, the surest all-pro, and the best guard to come out in ten years. got me on his bandwagon, that’s for sure. if i had an infinite store of time and a much higher boredom threshold, i’d do a ‘grading the draft wonks’ piece. but alas..

          • mgbode

            well, we will find out what happens when Munchak coaches him now.

  • Sunday129

    Mr. Kanicki – spot on with this one. Your analysis of this Browns mess has been nothing short of excellent. I say that having read your analysis of Banner punting the season many months ago. As a 25 year season ticket holder, I sure hope Haslam is not too proud to admit his mistakes, though I am guessing he is, and he should immediately fire Mike Lombardi and reorg Banner to aspects of the business that he is proven to be very good at. Furthermore, I hope Haslam realizes that he can bring in all the whiz kid marketing types that money can buy, but if the end football product is not a good one, he is merely hemmorhaging cash through layers of his organization with these hires. Mr. Haslam you have a football problem and it requires strong football people to fix it. Munchack immediately restores credibility in the locker room, with fans, and throughout the organization.

    • first thanks and man, 25 years. must have great seats.

      i know i’ve been down on berea but i’m actually willing to give lombardi a chance with player eval and my issues with banner are more with what i perceive as poor management. ie, fostering a fear of failure culture with all decisions flowing through himself. this is how leon mcfadden gets picked over so many stronger players in the third round; how draft picks get traded away; why brent grimes signs with miami. there is risk in every personnel move and banner’s browns went ‘safe’ in every case.

      i cant tell if it’s haslam or banner that have built it, but i know haslam can fix it and i do think it’s fixable. the football ops need to be separated from biz ops. a hall of famer riding into town (with another hall of famer) would seem to provide enough football gravitas to act as counter weight to banner’s dominating personality.

      the implementing and abandoning of a plan within the span of eleven months is prima facie evidence of management failure and calls for a demotion. continue with the stadium stuff joe, but for the football we’re going to buy into munchak’s building plan and give him -say- three years before changing course.

      the question becomes: who’s rebuild plan do you like? i, of course, love the hell out of munchak’s obvious bias toward building from the o-line out. that bit where munchak/matthews are working with the o-line described above.. it can’t not succeed.

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