Now I think I have more insight into what happened in Cleveland three years ago.
On Dec. 27, 1988 two days after the Browns lost to Houston in the AFC Wild Card game Marty Schottenheimer announced his resignation as Cleveland head coach.
Schottenheimer may have been the most successful NFL head coach ever to step down. Few, if any, have ever taken a voluntary hike after posting three consecutive double-digit victory seasons.
That was the official line, anyway. . .that he resigned.
Browns owner-president Art Modell didn't beg Schottenheimer to remain, however. Modell had reportedly been peeved that Schottenheimer refused to hire an offensive co-ordinator, preferring to wear that hat himself.
AT THE same time, Modell had reportedly told Schottenheimer to make changes in his staff specifically to dispatch his younger brother Kurt, who was in charge of the special teams.
Rather than acquiesce on either count, Schottenheimer realized Cleveland would look much better in his rear view mirror as long as Modell owned the team.
What the heck? A fresh start is always invigorating, and with his track record, Schottenheimer wouldn't have the slightest difficulty finding another NFL head job.
Sure enough, less than a month later, he was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs, an NFL franchise floundering on the rocks for two decades because of silly drafting, inconsistent coaching and a timid front office.
In Kansas City, Schottenheimer did bow to one of Modell's complaints. He hired an offensive co-ordinator, or at least he gave the title to Joe Pendry who had been the Browns' running backs coach. Kurt Schottenheimer was part of the baggage, too. He became, to no one's surprise, the Chiefs' special teams coach.
NO ONE REALLY gave a hoot that the Chiefs' offense was a fax of the Browns' big-back, ball-control attack. Who cared as long as the Chiefs were winners? And in Schottenheimer's third season, fans flocked to Arrowhead Stadium in well over a decade.
In Schottenheimer's second season, the Chiefs had reached the playoffs only to drop a heart-breaking 17-16 decision to Miami. In his third season, the Chiefs climbed another rung, winning the wild card from the Raiders before bowing to Buffalo last Sunday.
Next year, of course, expectations will be even higher. . .just like they were in Cleveland prior to the 1988 season.
I don't know it happened in Cleveland, but I think it's a safe guess that when the Browns slipped a notch in '88 the second-guessers emerged in force. I say that because no coach is easier to second-guess than one committed to a conservative offense. Or in Schottenheimer's case, ultra-conservative.
A FORMER linebacker, Schottenheimer is a defense-oriented coach. He knows defense wins football games and he knows the less time a defensive platoon spends on the field the more efficient it will be.
Thus Schottenheimer's offense is predicated on keeping the defense off the field. On offense, that means running the ball and throwing short passes to consume the clock.
That also means dull and, in the NFL, you can be dull for only so long and then you'd better win the Super Bowl, or you'll need a flame-retardant suit to stay in the kitchen.
Given the current personnel and the prevailing philosophy, the Chiefs have gone about as far as they can go.