BEREA: Accuracy could be the crux of the decision on whether the Browns pay whatever price is necessary to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
As new offensive coordinator Brad Childress said Wednesday, Browns president Mike Holmgren could deliver an hour or two tutorial on the importance of that skill in the West Coast offense.
“Putting the ball where the receiver can catch it and run because this offense is typically yards after the catch,” Childress said.
But adaptability will be just as important. If RG3 is their man in April’s draft, the Browns must be willing to bend the ideologies Holmgren learned from Bill Walsh in San Francisco and coach Pat Shurmur and Childress learned from Holmgren disciple Andy Reid in Philadelphia.
That’s the part that makes me skeptical. Are the Browns creative and flexible enough to tailor the scheme that they’ve been enamored with for years to feature the Heisman Trophy winner’s amazing athletic gifts?
Until Wednesday, I would have said absolutely not. Last season, they didn’t seem creative and flexible enough to do what Colt McCoy did best, which was operate out of the shotgun and/or run the no-huddle. They seemed to cling to their glorified — and perhaps even antiquated — version of the West Coast offense.
Even when the season’s fortunes had long been decided, Shurmur took few chances, although he still begs to differ.
“I think we tend to be creative sometimes,” Shurmur said. “The creativity is more talked about when things work well.”
But after listening to Childress answer questions for 40 minutes Wednesday, I came away with the feeling that he could be the missing piece that will make an RG3 and West Coast offense marriage work in Cleveland.
Perhaps it was because Childress clearly articulated the value of explosive players on offense, of which the Browns have none.
Perhaps it’s because he spent five years as coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Fired 10 games into the 2010 season despite having quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson on his roster, he might realize better than Shurmur the urgency of bringing in playmakers and maximizing what they do best before the hammer drops.
Perhaps it’s merely because I felt strongly that Shurmur needed help on offense. Childress didn’t hesitate to share his feelings on any subject, which presumably will carry over into the Browns’ meeting room.
In making his case for adding game-breaking players, Childress said when the Vikings drafted Peterson seventh overall in 2007, it was not a move born out of desperation. They’d signed free-agent back Chester Taylor in 2006, and he was coming off a 1,216-yard season. But when Peterson fell to the Vikings, they pounced.
“The whole mode was to get more explosive players,” Childress said. “When you say explosive, it’s people who are either throwing it, catching it or running it. Not that you don’t have to take care of your lines because it all starts up front. But somebody that could get you chunks of yardage because it’s very difficult to put a 12-, 13- or 14-play drive together. Somewhere you want those explosions.”
McCoy could be the Browns’ version of Chester Taylor.
As for picking a quarterback and fitting the offensive system to him, Childress said there must be a balance struck.
“I know Mike McCoy did a tremendous job with a different skill set with Tim Tebow in developing things around the quarterback,” Childress said of the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator. “Does your scheme have to change? You usually try to play to whatever somebody’s strengths are, as opposed to putting a round peg in a square hole — I think you make a mistake.
“There’s a scheme here in place and a philosophy in place that you’re going to kind of pick to, what kind of player are we looking for at right guard? What kind of player are we looking for at tight end? What kind of player are we looking at wide receiver? I don’t think you’re ever going to venture very far away from that.”
Although Childress made it sound like the Browns could go down the RG3 path in the first part of that answer, he sounded as intractable as Holmgren and Shumur in the second part.
Shurmur echoed that inflexiblility when asked about drafting a quarterback not schooled in the West Coast offense and the Browns’ willingness to cater to the player.
“So change?” Shurmur said, seemingly not thrilled at the thought. “I think what happens is the offenses tweak a little bit.”
As they left for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the Browns could still be struggling with whether they want to blow up a scheme they believe in to adapt to RG3. At this point, it doesn’t sound like they’re willing to make the leap NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said would be required.
“If Cleveland moves up to get this kid, they have to make this kid comfortable,” Mayock said during a Jan. 15 conference call. “He’s too explosive and too much of a playmaker to just sit there and read the triangle that the West Coast offense is. Brad Childress and that group of coaches is going to have to change some things to make this kid the playmaker that he is.”
But Shurmur and Childress said they have yet to meet Griffin. There’s still time for them to be smitten by RG3 and to be converted to being convertible.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://marla.ohio.com/. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.