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The only name that matters in coach search is Mayfield

By DAN LABBE • Updated Oct 31, 2018 at 8:40 PM

BEREA — Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager John Dorsey weren’t interested in talking about the long-term future on Monday afternoon, a few hours after firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

“Right now, we are focused on the next eight games and (interim head coach) Gregg (Williams) and his staff winning as many of those games that we can,” Haslam said.

Neither Haslam nor Dorsey would even entertain the thought of talking about a coaching search.

It’s a balancing act, for sure, with half a season left, to keep players engaged and try not to slow the development of a young roster. It’s also not the complete picture.

This is the reality: The NFL is about the quarterback. After that, it’s about pairing the right coach with that quarterback.

Look across the league. The Rams took Jared Goff No. 1 overall in 2016 and, after a year in the football desert with Jeff Fisher, rescued him when they hired Sean McVay. The Chiefs did it the other way around: they got aggressive in 2017 and traded up in the draft to land Patrick Mahomes to pair with Andy Reid. Mahomes’ skillset combined with Reid’s mind and the Chiefs’ weapons has created one of the NFL’s most potent offenses.

The Bears jettisoned John Fox after last season and dipped into the Reid coaching tree for Matt Nagy to try and find a partner for Mitchell Trubisky, the quarterback they traded up to select No. 2 overall in 2017.

Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, along with head coach Doug Pederson, helped mold Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate last season before Wentz tore his ACL and the two coaches departed Philadelphia for promotions elsewhere.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been a dynamic duo since 2001. The Texans chose Bill O’Brien last offseason to continue working alongside Deshaun Watson. The Buccaneers appear destined for a departure from Jameis Winston sooner rather than later, but their move to make Dirk Koetter their head coach in 2016 was with stability around the former No. 1 pick in mind.

You can bet that, sometime over the next few months, we’ll hear questions about whether Todd Bowles is the right coach for Sam Darnold; whether Steve Wilks is the man to pair with Josh Rosen; whether Sean McDermott and his staff can harness Josh Allen’s physical tools.

Sure, you can find a good coordinator if the head coach isn’t an offensive guy, but those coordinators, if successful, move on quickly.

So the next eight games or whatever.

What really matters is finding the right coach to pair with the outside-the-box quarterback the Browns selected last April. Baker Mayfield isn’t a cookie cutter. He’s a shade over six feet tall, picked for his accuracy, his arm strength and the chip on his shoulder bigger than the state in which he grew up.

The modern NFL is about passing, points and quarterbacks playing in systems built to make them successful. There is one question that matters as the Browns move forward and decide who to charge with leading them into the next decade: How does this coach make Baker Mayfield better?

Haslam and Dorsey were focused on the season’s final eight games and the present during Monday’s press conference. The next three months, however, must focus on finding a partner for their quarterback of the future.

 

Lindley is new RB coach

BEREA — The Browns named former Cardinals, Colts, Chargers and Patriots quarterback Ryan Lindley as their new running backs coach, the team announced on Wednesday. Lindley replaces Freddie Kitchens, who was named offensive coordinator Monday after the firings of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.

Lindley spent two seasons playing under Kitchens when Kitchens was the quarterbacks coach for the Cardinals.

The San Diego State product, selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, worked with quarterback prospects following his playing career, including Mitchell Trubisky, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. He joined the Aztecs coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2017.

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