Future Talk: The End of the Expansion Era

You’ve heard the news by now. And since this has never been a breaking news site, allow me to just say that the Browns have taken a bold step into this century by hiring perhaps college football’s most innovative Head Coach in Chip Kelly.

While clearly there are still many details that must unfold over the coming months – personnel, schemes, etc. – the macroscopic view of what the Browns just did is monumental, especially when compared to the hires of everyone else during the expansion era. Instead of fruitlessly throwing money in some half-hearted attempt to emulate another team (49ers, Cowboys, Ravens, Patriots, Packers, Eagles), the Browns have finally found what could be a unique vision – something that is possibly ahead of the curve.

And again, we’re dealing very much in the ideal at the moment. There are layers to be revealed regarding Kelly and his eventual transition into a league where speed advantages are negated and the value of draft picks is not comparable with the number of scholarships. And as the mouthbreathers and others who are missing the point will again drudge up a Post Modern McCoy vs. Weeden, there are certainly concerns with Kelly adapting the current Browns’ roster – just like there would be with any team he took over.

However, all of these items will be addressed in time.

Although I can’t help to toss just one thought out – one belonging to Smart Football’s Chris Brown:

Chip Kelly's top run plays -- inside zone, outside zone, and power (guard pull) -- are same Trent Richardson ran at Alabama
Smart Football

The important thing is that today – at least when it becomes official – the Browns have targeted a talented Head Coach and went and got him. Not allowing Kelly to interview with any other team shows the change in how the new Browns’ front office – a seemingly competent, willing and decisive body – now operates. Beyond Kelly, gone are the days of Randy Lerner’s middling attempts to prove he was anything more than a disinterested caretaker.

And again, who knows what Kelly will actually deliver. But in terms of sheer action, the new Browns have already proven to be a badly needed departure from the malaise of the prior decade-plus. In fact – and if you can bear with my occasional idealistic leaps – it’s quite possible that in some figurative manner, the Browns’ expansion era has officially ended.

None of us know where all of this will lead, but finally it appears that the Browns are at least back in the game. At least now this team actually has a chance.


That is, at least IF the Browns actually sign Kelly. According to late Friday reports, Kelly will still meet with both the Bills and Eagles. However, if the crunch of time and Kelly’s prior comments about moving quickly are any indication, there is a still a strong sense that Haslam and Banner have landed their man.


And with all this Kelly excitement, who knew that there was actually football to be played today?

For the record, I wrapped up Week Seventeen with a strong 10-6 showing, which brings my overall season record to 132-121.

And how about some playoff picks?

At Houston (-4.5) over Cincinnati
I was reading something on how part of Jay Gruden’s Bengals’ success lies in only making Andy Dalton read half of the field. And then I remembered that Marvin Lewis has never won a playoff game. Despite the Texans’ reeling of late, I like a win here.

At Green Bay (-7.5) over Minnesota
Minnesota has been a great story this year and truly is some manifestation of what an Eric Mangini-led Browns’ team could have become. However, the Packers are the league’s best team when given a good matchup and among the most pedestrian when not. Here, the Packers come alive.

Indianapolis (+7) over At Baltimore
On one hand, you have the feel good story of the year in Chuck Pagano returning to lead his young Colts. On the other, a very fortunate not to be in jail Ray Lewis plays his last home game. I like the karma of the former, at least enough to cover – which I’m sure is what most cancer survivors really care about.

At Washington (+3) over Seattle
To maintain tradition, I will yet again pick against the Seahawks, who I still see as overrated away from their Northwest home. Despite a sometimes sloppy effort against the Cowboys last week, the Redskins are still playing excellent physical team football. Look for a low-scoring win.

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Comments (20)

  1. I am doing my best not to have a “whoa is me” chicken little response to going out to see a flick tonight, coming back, and seeing chip kelly is interviewing with the eagles tomorrow. Dear sweet jebus, let haslam close this deal.

    • I did the same thing. I checked for updates during Django Unchained, which was sacrilegious. I think the best sign is that they interviewed for seven hours. It’s being characterized as Kelly “honoring” his prior interview requests. Just in comparing teams, the Browns have more to offer than the Bills and the Eagles are in a bit of a lull after a decade plus of Andy Reid.

    • fubar

      Relax, guys – the Browns have got it in the bag. Why? Schwartz, Mack, and Thomas. Chip Kelly is a football fundamentals fanatic, which is why he quite correctly views the offensive line as the most important unit on offense.

      While the Browns might have to upgrade to more athletic guards, overall, the Browns have better offensive line personnel than the Eagles, Bills, or Padres. Kelly knows this, and will look to build upon an already in-place and better offensive line over running backs, tight ends, receivers, and quarterback.

      I know, it sounds weird, but this is how Chip Kelly thinks. But we love him because he thinks outside the box, right?

  2. Bill Adams

    It’s like when my Wife suggests in the morning that we go to a steakhouse, then on the way home from work she asks if salmon patties sounds good for dinner.

  3. No question, a rational person looks at this and says “oh, he is just doing his due diligence, that is what i would do if i were making a gigantic decision like this. no need to worry, haslam seems like he wants his guy, and haslam seems like the type of guy that gets what he wants. the browns are the de facto leader, and he just spent a whole day interviewing with them. Plus, he only interviewed with Buffalo for a short time. The signs point to the Browns.”

    But that is a rational person, and, when it comes to the Cleveland sports, that goes out the window for me! Instead I think of Lebron, Boozer, Tom Izzo, Reggie White, Byner fumble, etc. All those things that seemed like they were in the bag, but then fell completely to pieces.

    The D is silent.

    • I know that feeling, but I like to think that most of it left with Zlrrner. I don’t know about the Indians, nor do I care and the NBA team building process involves being really bad at just the right time. I just think the Browns have landed a legitimate owner who if nothing else won’t allow a decade of futility to occur. Things are looking up and those who wallow in the familiar woe is me and McCoy/Weeden/Hardesty mentality need to get over it. (And I don’t mean Zack. I wish more Browns fans were forward thinking like he is.)

    • fubar

      José Mesa! Don’t forget José Mesa and the 7th Game.

      Yeah, I get where ya comin’ from Zack. Cleveland sports fans always dread the other shoe dropping. We’ve come to expect disaster as the normal course of things. Our built-up hopes have been bitterly destroyed so very times.

      Be of good cheer. Hope is all that we have left. Might as well embrace it.

  4. I am doing my best fellas. Just dealing with decades of a cycle of hope closely followed by being totally crushed. I should have tamped down those expectations until CK had signed on the dotted line.

    Fingers crossed today that JH and JB are able to get this thing done.

  5. In the “trying to think positively” department -

    If we hire Chip Kelly, we will never, ever, EVER again say things like “Greg Little seems like he could be a weapon, we just aren’t using him right.” or “Man, Cribbs seems like our most talented guy, why can’t we figure out how to get him the ball more often in space so he can make things happen?” or “We have Trent Freaking Richardson on the team, why did he only have 7 carries?”.

    • BUT the mouthbreathers will instead be complaining about the following things:

      1. Going for two before there are less than 15 minutes left in game.
      2. Going for it on fourth and four from our own side of the field .
      3. Trying an onsides kick in a situation where it was not obvious it was coming.

      Obviously, all of these complaints will be about the OUTCOME of the decision, not the decision itself. :-)

      • fubar

        Mouthbreathers can’t do math. In every scenario you detailed above, Zack, statistical analysis has overwhelmingly demonstrated those are the correct decisions. And it isn’t even close.

        Chip Kelly might actually be the first coach to bring logically valid and mathematically smart football decisions to the NFL. And doing all this “crazy” stuff over the course of a season is actually worth a couple points a game. That can be the difference between going to the playoffs and sitting at home. Bring it on!

        • I think we learned in 2012 how valuable both coaching and a couple points per game are. That could be the difference between the Browns and Rams or Vikings.

      • That’s a great way to look at it. Similar to how Hardesty benefitted from TRich wearing down defenses, gets better numbers so he should be the starter. (Also referring to Jeff Schudel here).

  6. Bill Adams

    Another long day and night searching #browns on twitter. We look like a bunch of chumps again.

  7. rodofdisaster

    The Browns don’t seem as “in control” of all of that as they want us to believe. I read this from an Eagles fan:

    Cleveland fans, you are now learning first-hand what a PR mess Joey Nickels Banner really is. Case in point:

    1) Banner proclaims that he is all-in on Chip Kelly, even trying to butter up his agent that Colt McCoy has a future with the franchise
    2) The Eagles decide to back-off upon hearing reports that the Browns are signing Kelly to a deal, only to find out that Kelly still wants to interview
    3) Kelly leaves the Browns interview without a deal
    4) Eagles have a “lunch” meeting that turns into dinner and a 4th meal
    5) Browns leak out that they are trying to “decide” between Kelly and Marrone
    6) VERY shortly later, Marrone accepts a deal in Buffalo, clearly showing that Banner was trying to feign interest in Kelly in case he lost him to the Eagles

    What will bring this all together oh-so-nicely is if Kelly goes back to Oregon or signs in Philly, showing all of Cleveland how Joey Nickels Banner outsmarts himself once again.

    • rodofdisaster

      Bad html’ing. What follows the italics is also his commentary.

    • All good points but I think the impact of David Dunn is understated here. Kelly’s agent has done a masterful job of creating more competition for his client. Whoever lands Kelly will have to pay a LOT of money.

      • Particularly now that the two primary fallback candidates (O’Brien and Marrone, if we can believe media reports) are gone.

        This is a brutal experience/reminder of what it is always like to be Browns fan – oddly naive hope followed by soul-crushing cruel outcome.

        We are masters of the “stomach punch” front office move lately. First RG3, now this.

        Trying to stay positive, but finding it challenging. Just seems like writing is on the wall that Kelly goes to Philly. This is just so effing familiar.

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