A year ago, after they went just 1-15 for the season, the Cleveland Browns saw fit to clean house on the defensive side of the ball. The team brought back Ray Horton as defensive coordinator, who had previously served a stint in that role, but they let him go after one season, along with other members of the defensive coaching staff, replacing him with what they hoped to be a bigger name.
Now, following the conclusion of the 2017 season, during which they went 01-6, the Browns have cleaned house among the offensive coaching staff, with nearly everybody being shown the door. Among those now seeking gainful employment is running backs coach Kirby Wilson, whose name should ring a bell.
Wilson has a long history of coaching the position at the NFL level, originally breaking in with the Patriots in 1999. But he took over for Dick Hoak when he retired for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007, coming in with Mike Tomlin’s initial staff, and he remained with the team through the 2013 season.
The running backs coach was believed to be the choice for successor at offensive coordinator when Bruce Arians was unceremoniously let go, but he suffered serious burns in a house fire in January of 2012. It took him some time to recover, and the Steelers in the interim brought in Todd Haley, who has remained in that post since then.
Wilson sought other opportunities after that, taking the same position with the Vikings in 2014, spending two years there, and then the past two with the Browns. Where to next for the 56-year-old remains to be seen, but a return to Pittsburgh is highlight unlikely with James Saxon in place for several years now.
One signing of note, which I have talked about recently, is Ken Zampese. Zampese was the quarterback coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from the early 2000s until 2016, when he was promoted to offensive coordinator following Hue Jackson’s departure, taking the Browns’ head coaching position.
He was fired, however, two games into his second season in that post, and remained unemployed for the rest of this past season. But now he rejoins Jackson, with whom he has worked well in the past, and he is returning to the role of quarterbacks coach.
Zampese worked well in helping to develop not just Andy Dalton, but Carson Palmer before him. Given that the Browns’ primary task this offseason is to find and begin developing a quarterback—having the first pick in the draft helps with that—the move makes sense with the prior success and familiarity in mind.