Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Take your MartyBall and go home. That's what the Chargers told former head coach Marty Schottenheimer a couple days ago. It's what the Cleveland Browns should tell their once and hopefully not future head coach as well.
Cleveland sports fans do nothing quite so well as live in the past. We cried for years over the trade of Rocky Colavito, until The Rock came back (and led us nowhere). Twenty years after he retired, people still thought Jim Brown could suit up and be as good as he ever was. There were people who didn't get mad at Art Modell for moving the Browns after the 1994 season because they were STILL mad at him for firing Paul Brown 30 years prior. We're constantly asking the Indians' front office to bring back Manny Ramirez or bring back Jim Thome every time either of them comes available, even though it will cost more than a Manhattan penthouse. And if only the Browns would add Bernie Kosar to the front office, things would be so much different.
Now Marty Schottenheimer is free again. And the idea of him returning to the Browns, either immediately or by 2008, is floating around. He's got to be better than Romeo Crennel, they say. He's fifth all-time in wins, they say. One of his San Diego assistants is already here, they say. He's familiar with the 3-4 defense the Browns use, they say.
First of all, Marty is no spring chicken. He'll turn 64 in September. He's a year away and a half away from drawing Social Security checks in an era where NFL coaches are getting younger and younger. Second, his teams always find devastating ways to lose. Four times Marty's teams have posted the AFC's best record and lost a home playoff game: 1986 Browns, 1995 Chiefs, 1997 Chiefs, and the Chargers this past season. Third, Marty has coached in 327 games and never advanced to the Super Bowl. He's 5-13 in playoff games and hasn't won one since 1993.
But he's better than Romeo Crennel, they say!
Instead of embracing the past, it's time for a Cleveland team to embrace the future. You don't want Romeo around anymore? Fine. But look to someone new. The New Orleans Saints did it with Sean Payton, a 44-year-old who worked his way up through the coaching ranks before leading his team to the NFC Championship in his rookie year. The San Francisco 49ers look to be on the right track with Mike Nolan, a 48-year-old whose father was a 49ers coach and who worked his way up through the coaching ranks. The New York Jets did it with Eric Mangini, a 36-year-old who blossomed on the Bill Belichick coaching tree and led his team to the playoffs in his rookie season.
But in Cleveland, we immediately look to something that felt good years ago, something that wasn't even all that good to begin with. It's like looking back on a high-school relationship because nothing's going right in your life right now. Get back together and you're just inviting disaster. It's not going to be how it was, and while you're figuring that out you're messing up the present.
Time to stop living in the past, Cleveland fans. There's not much to root for in the present, but until you let go of the past you won't make it to the future anyway.