Chapter One – The End of the Beginning

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The horn sounds, and it’s official: another dismal season in Cleveland Football history. Not a whole lot went right this year for the lovable Browns. It all broke down to offensive line play, every starting lineman experienced an injury keeping them out for at least 3 weeks each. Brady Quinn, Jamal Lewis, and Braylon Edwards were able to stick it out all 16 games, and Massaquoi looked good stepping in this year. There were three main questions about our “big three” (if you could really call it that).

Was Brady Quinn the Profile QB that people thought he could be out of the draft?
How many years does Jamal have anyways?
Can Braylon grow into a dependable wide receiver?

The main question was Quinn. Lots of people look at him like a baseball scout might. The old adage of “If you have seen it once, it’s there” didn’t always seem to apply to this kid. Hell, it didn’t apply to many of the Browns. They brought me in the year Brady was drafted as the QB coach. They thought that because I had worked with him his entire college career, I’d be good for him in the pros. I was the assistant OC at Notre Dame and was looking for a scene change from South Bend. I love the Irish, but don’t get me started on the coaching regime there…

I left the field, went to the locker room, took part in our postgame ritual, and headed back home. When I got home I had a few messages on my voicemail, a few of my friends sent me some texts talking about how the game looked good, you know… consolations and stuff. I watched SportsCenter, I went to the bathroom during our game’s highlights. I called it a night. I would have to go into the office tomorrow to work on the offseason. Sitting at a 3-13 record, with the second pick, we’d have a lot of decisions to make.

Browns 2009 Statistics

Quinn: 71.8 Rating, 54% comp. 3166 yds, 21 TD, 19 INT
Lewis: 249 att for 1086 yds. 4 TD
Edwards: 76 rec for 1064 yds, 11 TD, 11 Drops
Massaquoi: 54 rec for 601 yds, 2 TD, 10 Drops
D. Jackson: 129 tack, 14 TFL, 1 Sack
K. Coleman: 8.5 Sacks, 35 tackles, 12 TFL
Dawson: 25/29 FGM/A, 55 long
Cribbs:
46 KR for 1,196 yds 1 TD
32 PR for 444 yds 1 TD

No Pro Bowlers

29th ranked Offense
26 Passing
18 Rushing
28 Scoring

22nd ranked Defense
19 Passing
25 Rushing
27 Scoring

Superbowl

(12-4) San Francisco 23
(14-2) New England 17

In the offseason in Cleveland, we don’t worry much about free agents. Maybe one or two will be fine, but other than that… we don’t get our hopes up. I was in my office looking at McShay and Kiper’s boards, something that most coaches shouldn’t do I suppose, but I liked their opinions. I got a call from Mr. Kokinis (General Manager) and was asked to come to his office. I certainly obliged and walked quickly to his office. This would be my first time one on one with him since I was hired three years ago. I could only wonder what he was wanting from me, because I knew just as well as anyone else that a lot of high-ups didn’t request much advice from me.

When I went into his office he was being accompanied by Mr. Lerner (Owner). They looked at me somewhat solemnly, trying to keep their facade. When I sat down it was quiet, I decided to break the silence. “You wanted to see me Mr. Kokinis?”

“Please, call me George. Jake, I’ve called you in here to deliver some bad news…”

At that exact moment, I wondered if Notre Dame would have me back. Surely they had a position open for Quarterbacks Coach, or something of the like. Clausen looked to be a good quarterback, I could definitely work with him. Charlie always seemed to be the kind of guy to look after his flock. I could at least get an assistant job.. maybe. Maybe I could be an Offensive Coordinator at some bum school like Marshall or a mid-major. The talent pool would definitely be..

“Jake, we called you in to tell you that Eric [Mangini] has been let go due to differences with management,” Lerner said to me, breaking my train of thought.

Sitting there, a little confused, I tried to think of something to say. “Oh… so… what does that mean for me?” I instantly felt a little selfish, and kind of rude.

” Well, we need to work on finding a new head coach. We’re currently fielding applications, but we definitely would like to hire internally.”

“Oh, well I’m sure either Bryan [Daboll, Offensive Coordinator] or Rob [Ryan, DC] would be great choices.” I threw that out there sort of hoping that they’d hire one of the two, knowing my job would be safe.

“Brian declined on the idea of it. And Rob left for New York to be the DCoordinator there. We brought you in, though, to ask if you were interested in the position? We’d love someone who knew the organization well. But know that this isn’t necessarily a guarantee.”

“Of course I would. I would love to take the position.”

The discussion went on for a little while longer, we said our good byes and I went home early. A little confused, nervous, and surprised, I sat on it and thought about the pros and cons of the idea.

About a month later, I signed my new contract to become the new Head Coach of Cleveland.

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