The New Browns Coaching Staff Rounds Out

The Browns continue to hire coaches to fill out the staff of new head coach Pat Shurmur.

Dick Jauron will be the Browns’ new defensive coordinator.  Jauron is a two-time former NFL head coach as well as a two-time defensive coordinator, so he will bring a lot of experience to the table.  Unfortunately, Jauron’s status as a two-time ex-head coach means he was fired twice — from Buffalo and Detroit.  Jauron may be one of those coaches, like Dick LeBeau, who is just better suited to being a coordinator rather than a head coach.  He has coached some good defenses in his career, but his style is to play a more conservative 4-3 defense, which will be a significant change from the gambling, blitzing 3-4 approach used by former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.  Jauron will be joined on the defensive staff by Dwaine Board, as defensive line coach, and Bill Davis, as linebackers coach.  Both also have plenty of NFL coaching experience, and Davis is a former defensive coordinator with the Cardinals.

Shurmur, who was offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams before being tabbed by the Browns, says he will call the plays on offense.  I am not especially encouraged by that decision, which I think may show a lack of appreciation for the many competing demands of the head coaching position.  A successful head coach is supposed to have a broader perspective.  Still, some successful head coaches have called plays, and perhaps Shurmur can pull it off.  The fact that he will be paying special attention to the offense at least may reflect the understanding that the Browns really need to focus on getting points on the board.  He will be joined in coaching the offense by Mark Whipple as quarterbacks coach and Mike Wilson as wide receivers coach.  Both will have big jobs this coming season.  Colt McCoy is still raw, and Wilson will be challenged to produce a true, NFL-caliber receiver from the choices on the Browns roster.

It is looking more and more like the Browns will have to retool and realign their roster to play the new styles favored by their new coaches.  I hope I’m wrong, but that probably means another “rebuilding year” — i.e., another year of missing the playoffs.  So what else is new?  The more the coaches and players change, the more the Browns’ mediocrity stays the same.

Morning People Versus Evening People

A while ago the London Evening Standard ran an article about why “morning people” rule the world.  The article is careful to point out that both “morning people” and “evening people” have good qualities.  “Morning people” tend to be more optimistic, proactive and conscientious.  “Evening people,” on the other hand, are thought to be more creative, intelligent, humorous and extroverted. (Note that each of the “evening people” qualities could be influenced by alcohol consumption.  Your friends seem a lot more creative, intelligent, humorous, and extroverted after a night full of few adult beverages.)

Sounds like the funny, brilliant evening people are in good shape, right?  Unfortunately, the problem is that the world is geared to “morning people.”  School starts at 8 a.m., not 6 p.m.  And the business day ends before “evening people” hit their stride.  As a result of this, “morning people” get rewarded as the energetic, hard-working, bright-eyed high performers.  “Evening people,” on the other hand, are viewed as lazy, unmotivated slugs who drift aimlessly through the day.  In short, the article concludes, “evening people” are pretty much screwed because all of the societal cards are stacked against them.  (Those wondering whether there is any journalistic bias at play here would do well to remember that this article was published in the London Evening Standard — they have to appeal to their readership.)

Everyone knows there are differences between morning and evening people.  Here are a few ways to distinguish between them:

Favorite Beverage:   morning people — anything with caffeine; evening people — anything with alcohol

Appalling personality quirk:  morning people — excessive chipperness; evening people — excessive vomiting

TV show where you are most likely to make an appearance:  morning people — behind the window on The Today Show; evening people — Cops

You get the idea.

The Girl Who Got To Be Too Unbelievable

I just finished the last volume of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, and I have mixed feelings about them.  I thought the initial book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was excellent.  I liked the second volume, The Girl Who Played With Fire, although I thought it was not as strong as the first book.  I also thought the last volume — The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest — was the weakest of the three.

I liked the first volume because it was deliberate in its pace and different in its approach to storytelling.  It took a while to get into the story, and the author didn’t seem to care that he was taking his time introducing you to characters, major and minor, and giving you their back stories.  The character of Lisbeth Salander was fresh and different, the bit-by-bit relating of the horrible incidents and tragedies in her life was like finding successive clues on a treasure hunt, and the overarching tale of the redemption of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his discovery of the secrets of the Vanger family, with the eventual assistance of Salander, was an interesting plot line.  In the first book, although both Salander and Blomkvist have unique talents — as a computer hacker and reporter, respectively — their characters are believable and their actions and accomplishments are within the range of possibility.  And I liked how the telling of the engrossing story also helped me learn a bit about Sweden and its history and culture.

Unfortunately, as the story progressed through the second and third books it became increasingly unbelievable and, as a result, much less interesting.  Lisbeth Salander somehow acquires the skills of a master spy and action hero who survives being shot in the head and buried alive.  The middle-aged Blomkvist is revealed as a super-sleuth and awesome sexual athlete who apparently is irresistible to every woman he encounters and is able to fight off contract killers.  By the middle of the third book, the story has become a pretty standard trial drama where the outcome is foreordained and the only question is when and how, inevitably, Salander will confront and defeat her equally superhuman but evil half-brother.

I understand the buzz about Larsson’s books, and I applaud any series that has the mistreatment of women as one of its principal story lines.  I do find myself wishing, however, that Larsson had stopped writing after the first book.

“Anniversary Journalism” Is Lazy And Often Pointless

It seems like every day you hear news stories about the anniversaries of an event.  Recently, we were treated to stories about the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.  There have been countless others.

This kind of “anniversary journalism” is, in my view, lazy journalism.  The ingredients of these stories are always the same.  It has to be a round number anniversary — one year, 5 years, 10 years, 25 years.  If the news story is on radio or TV, you play a clip of the recording of the event, and then you interview people who give their recollections and perhaps add a few recollections of your own.  The stories are simple to prepare and simple to produce — and there are an enormous number of “round number” anniversaries of events to choose from.

In addition to being lazy journalism, I also think that, with rare exception, these stories are pointless because the events being remembered actually have no continuing cultural or historical significance.  John F. Kennedy gave a memorable inaugural address, but his challenge to “Ask not what your country can do for you . . . ” obviously did not prevent the creation of our current political atmosphere that is so rife with pork barrel spending, earmarks, and special interest lobbying.  Why is it important that we relive the Challenger disaster and see, again, the ugly photos of the mid-air explosion that took the lives of its crew?  With all due respect to the crew members and their families, the reality is that the Challenger explosion did not change the focus or approach of the U.S. space program or have any other lasting impact.  It was just a bad thing that happened 25 years ago that I would rather not remember.  It has no more relevance to today’s America than the burning of the Hindenburg or the sinking of the Titanic.

We would be better served if our news media stopped its resort to these “anniversary stories” and instead focused on reporting the news about what is going on, today, in our country and in our world.

Are You Kidding Me ?

One of the interesting things about the uprising in Egypt is the idea that a government can actually cutoff it’s citizens access to the internet. In the past there have been reports in the news of Google’s ongoing battle with China who wants to limit it’s citizens access to the internet, but to totally turn off the Internet, that seems almost hard to believe.

I stumbled across this article that I found quite interesting that asked and answered the question, could the same thing happen here in the United States and could the president actually shut off the internet ? Based on the article the answer right now is no, but there is a bill pending in the Senate called “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset”.

The intent of the bill is to give the president the ability to flip a switch which would slow or stall our Internet Service Providers operations in case there is a cyber-emergency. As the article points out free speech advocates have some concerns. I’m not sure that we really want to have one person to have that much power do we – I mean what happens if access to the switch gets into the wrong hands ?

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and the other founding fathers debating the issue ?

Veggie Wraps, Olive Pits, and Dumb Decisions

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has settled his dental injuries lawsuit.  Kucinich became the butt of jokes here and elsewhere for his decision to file a lawsuit seeking $150,000 for injuries allegedly caused by biting into a veggie wrap that included an olive pit.  He apparently concluded, wisely, that pursuing the lawsuit would only expose him to still more derision — and if there is one thing a politician just can’t stand, it is being the subject of ridicule.

Dennis Kucinich and his upper bridgework

Before Representative Kucinich could go quietly into the night, however, he had to explain why he decided to file his ill-advised lawsuit in the first place.  This was not a good decision.  Kucinich’s explanation, available on his campaign website, reminds me of the lengthy, overly detailed description you might get if you ask an elderly relative how they are feeling.  And you can imagine your side of the conversation, too.  “So your tooth actually split and you didn’t know it?”  “Yes, I can imagine that would hurt like crazy — it certainly was brave for you to go on working despite the excruciating pain.”  “I’m sure you were concerned that the anchor of your upper bridgework was affected.”  By the time you heard the part about the antibiotics causing an intestinal obstruction you would be surreptitiously checking your watch and looking for a way to hit the road.  Kucinich gives more detailed information about the health consequences of his chance encounter with the olive pit than President Reagan provided about surviving an assassination attempt.

Kucinich’s experience should teach every politician a lesson.  If you are smart, you won’t sue under any circumstances — and if you find yourself talking about your intestinal obstructions, you probably should shut up, already.

Walking a Fine Line

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Seeing what’s happening throughout the Muslim world recently and currently in Egypt I am reminded of the words by Imam Rauf (the man behind the community center near ground zero) in his book, What’s Right with America, What’s Right with Islam that I read earlier this year.

Imam Rauf pointed to key historical events that have caused the rise of Islamic Religious Fundamentalism, one of which was the fact that Muslims have a widely held perception that the United States has more often then not has supported undemocratic regimes in Muslim countries.

This I suspect is another one of those key historical events and we need to get it right this time. As Bob said in his blog “Find the Cost of (Egyptian) Freedom” the President is walking a fine line and you can listen to the president’s comments below.

The President numerous times spoke about the Egyptian people, their rights and the need for reforms both in the government and economically. Even Charles Krauthammer from Fox News an avid critic of the president said his comments were “perfectly fine”. I think we are doing the right thing as opposed to wholeheartedly supporting current President Mubarak as we have done in the past.

This protest is basically driven my young Arabians so let’s hope that this is in fact a moment of promise as the president said and that Egyptian people will in fact realize their dreams for a better life.