Let’s Debate: Is The Vest Best for the Browns?

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Last updated: 12/14/2012 4:14 PM

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Let’s Debate: Is The Vest Best for the Browns?
By Brandon Castel and Michael Chung

It looks like Pat Shurmur’s days as the head coach in Cleveland could be numbered. ESPN recently discussed the possibility of Nick Saban leaving Alabama to become the next Browns’ next head coach.

The idea of Saban leaving his empire in Tuscaloosa seems a bit far-fetched, but would he even be the best choice for new Browns owner Jim Haslam?

Saban’s success in the NFL was limited at best. Could there be a better choice from the college ranks? Another possibility for the Browns could be the most intriguing name of all for Ohio football fans: James Patrick Tressel. Would he succeed in the NFL? Could he make it at the next level?

BCast and Michael Chung debate: Is the Vest best for the Browns?

Chung: Tressel is Ohio Football

When Tressel first was hired at Ohio State, people wondered if a Division 1-AA coach could be successful at the Division 1-A level, especially at a place like Ohio State. Although the Tressel era did not end well, his body of work showed that he was highly successful wherever he coached, at whatever level.

Former Head Coach Jim Tressel on the shoulders of the 2002 National Championship team.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jim Tressel

Why? This D1-AA coach dominated the Big Ten, dominated Michigan, went to three national championship games and won one title. How did he do it? It is because Jim Tressel coaches on principles, not systems. These principles are transferable for success at any level. We all know his principles—field position, defense, few mistakes on offense, great punter—won him many games at the collegiate level and should also translate into NFL success.

Tressel also knows how to adapt his style based on the given talent he possesses. The national championship year saw the birth of “Tresselball” where OSU would win games by a whisker, but once the spread became in vogue for college ball and Tressel possessed a quarterback who could run, coach sent his staff to other colleges familiar with the spread to learn it. Tress does not just have a system that he plugs people in, like Rich Rodriguez, he also knows how to adapt based on his talent.

Bob Hunter also believes Tressel can succeed in the NFL. He wrote in the Dispatch: “Although Tressel has no NFL experience, he is sharp and has had a lot of on-the-field success, in part because he is highly organized and good at managing details, coaching coaches and seeing the big picture, which is what head coaches do.”

He goes on to write regarding Tressel’s lack of NFL experience, “That doesn’t automatically mean that he would be successful in the NFL, but it does make you wonder why people would think that a guy who effectively ran the multimillion-dollar corporation we know as Ohio State football couldn’t run an NFL team.”

Another reason the NFL could use a coach like Jim Tressel is because he cares about his players.

A  March 23, 2009 Sports Illustrated story by Pablo S. Torre stated that “By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.”

It is clear NFL players do not have as easy of a life as the public thinks and they need help. NFL players need people around them who care and can teach them how to be real men. There is no one that epitomizes care for his players like Jim Tressel, though some would argue it was Tressel’s care for his players that got him into trouble with the NCAA to begin with.

BCast: I Just Can’t See It

Don’t get me wrong, most of what Michael said is absolutely true. Jim Tressel did prove he could have success at the highest level of college football, even when many doubted his methods would translate from Division 1-AA football.

He does build his program on principles, not systems or schemes, and he has a history of adapting his X’s and O’s to fit the personnel on the field (I still want to know where that offense came from in 2006).

Tressel is an excellent motivator because the kids he coached – both at Youngstown State and Ohio State – bought in to what he was preaching. They bought in to Jim Tressel, to the sweatervest and the morals he and his staff preached for 10 years in Columbus. They bought in because they could see Tressel really cared about them and their families, maybe to his own detriment.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to fly in the NFL. Michael’s whole idea of Tressel going to the next level to be a mentor and role model for players that still need one, even though they are making millions of dollars, is idealistic but misguided. Players in an NFL locker room are not looking for some soft-spoken 60-year old former Baldwin-Wallace quarterback to come in and tell them how to get their lives right.

Maybe some are. And Tressel does have a unique ability to get inside the minds and hearts of his players. There is a reason a bunch of grown men carried him off the field during that 2002 national championship celebration at the Horseshoe during the Michigan game.

That was genuine love and affection, along with respect for a guy who won five national titles at the college level. But as good as he was, Tressel was also greatly flawed. He continued to surround himself with coaches who were not qualified to handle the level of success Ohio State was accustomed to.

He was also committed to an archaic offensive system that seemed to shift and change with the winds, but rarely to something more effective. He relied on physical freaks like Maurice Clarett, Ted Ginn. Jr., Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor to overcome the conservative nature of his system.

Those guys are a dime a dozen at the next level. Certainly there are a few freaks out there – Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson come to mind – but Tressel has always been about the kids. He seems like a college coach all the way to his core, and I believe it’s more likely he ends up at a place like Baldwin-Wallace to finish out the twilight of his career than the spotlight of the NFL.

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