Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes Working On The Identical Championship Plan – Construct A Protection Simply Good Sufficient To Help The Offensive: Doug Lesmerises
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns and Ohio State Buckeyes are both using this March to prepare to win a championship this season, so they are both doing something to defend themselves.
On Friday they were talking about it at the same time Buckeyes defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs lamented his team’s defensive performance last season on one Zoom, while on another the Browns simultaneously featured two players committed to filling defensive holes, John Johnson III and Takk McKinley.
Both teams ended their season last season against offensive attacks by the elite. The Browns did better against Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs than the Buckeyes did against Mac Jones, Devonta Smith and the Crimson Tide. But the goals are similar. Nobody needs to win on defense unless Nick Chubb, TreVeyon Henderson, Odell Beckham, Chris Olave, Jarvis Landry, Garrett Wilson, Baker Mayfield and a 5-star starting QB are on the roster.
But both must raise their defense to a point where it will not lose them. That is possible. Happens. And that is enough.
“It makes you rethink the way you do things,” Coombs said on Friday of Ohio State’s 52:24 defeat in the January title game. “There’s no question that this entire off-season has been a great process for just that. We’ve been thinking about how we do things and how we’re going to do things in the future.”
Coombs was senior year defensive coordinator last season, as was Joe Woods of the Browns, who could express similar feelings. Coombs wants the Buckeyes to have more coverage of the press, which means the level of play at cornerback will be increased. Woods would love to use more three-security looks, which resulted in Johnson arriving as the main off-season signer.
Both coordinators were criticized at times over the past season, but neither could really do what they wanted. Grant Delpit’s injury last season distracted Woods ‘safety creativity, and a drop in secondary school recruitment during Coombs’ two seasons in the NFL meant the Buckeyes didn’t have the lockdown options Coombs was used to when he was off 2012-17 coached the corners of the state of Ohio.
According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which measures overall efficiency, the Browns were number 9 on offense and number 25 on defensive. For the FEI equivalent college metric, Ohio was number 3 on the offensive and number 47 on the defensive.
Both teams are led by offensive head coaches. That means the team’s DNA is offensive. That won’t change as long as Kevin Stefanski and Ryan Day are in charge. Defense is more like a hairstyle. The head coaches have defensive ideas, but the coordinators run the show. Over time, coordinators can change for good and bad reasons.
Woods and Coombs may get offers for head coaching. Perhaps over time they won’t cut it and will be replaced. But these two teams, as they are currently set up, will always be offended.
This is the right way.
Brian Flores interviewed when the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens and he would have been a good choice. He’s a great head coach in Miami. But he’s a defensive guy. Luke Fickell did a great job creating this version of Cincinnati football that will continue to win double-digit games every year, but as a potential OSU head coach, one day you can’t forget he’s a defensive guy.
Of course, great defensive head coaches win – hello Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. But if all things are the same now in this era, you’d take a head coach to take offense in both college and the NFL.
That must have an impact on how you view these two defenses.
This is not a best defense competition, just as football is not a best quarterback competition. Unit and player rankings are interesting, but it all serves the same winning goal and what matters is balance and how it all fits together.
“It is important to realize that we have won all but one game and have come further than last year,” said Coombs, putting the OSU performance correctly in context.
The Browns reached their most successful season in 26 years with a defense that was in the bottom quarter of the NFL.
Johnson came off a defense with the Los Angeles Rams in fourth place on the DVOA last season. Their offensive was # 10 and they advanced to the Browns in the playoffs.
“That’s why they brought me in to build a great defense that we have the foundation for,” said Johnson. “I believe with all my heart that we can take the next step.”
This move is a championship defense that – when you have an offensive line, running back tandem, quarterback, group of receivers and tight ends, and a game caller like the Browns – doesn’t mean a # 1 defense.
All four teams in last season’s championship games had higher level offenses than defenses. Offensively, Tampa, Kansas City, Buffalo and Green Bay finished in 3rd, 2nd, 5th and 1st place. Defensively, they finished in 5th, 22nd, 12th and 17th place.
If the Browns have a top 5 offense moving up from nine and a top 12 defense moving up from 25 this season, this could be a Super Bowl formula.
In college football, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Notre Dame made the playoffs, finishing 1st, 3rd, 11th and 17th on offense, finishing 20th, 47th, 3th and 24th on defense.
When LSU won the national title the year before, the Tigers were number 1 on the offensive and number 13 on the defensive.
So the Buckeyes’ defense for 2020 wasn’t good enough, an opportunity we’ve seen all season. But if the Buckeyes can jump from 47 on a 10-15 defense, they’ll be a legitimate title contender, provided their young quarterback gets through.
The Browns and Buckeyes will both hunt championships this fall. The defense doesn’t have to be elite to make this possible. Just better.
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