Ray Ratto

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Ray Ratto

The immediate reaction to the Cleveland Browns’ reported interest in interviewing Condoleezza Rice for its head coaching job is, “Well, that’s nuts, so it must be the Browns.”

That would explain why the Browns denied the story within a couple of hours of its appearance via ESPN. Rice herself also downplayed the report.
But one of the best tests for an idea always has been, “What’s the idea here, and what’s the harm?” And that’s where the idea stops being all that crazy.
If one considers what Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, can provide -- ideas, concepts, ways of thinking and problem solving -- the idea is clear. And if one then thinks about the harm -- there is none, except to the old world order.
But the dismissive nature of the denial indicates the Browns either weren’t interested in Rice as a coaching candidate or didn’t want the traditionalist backlash. In short, there’s nothing to see here ... except maybe this.
Maybe you could think of it as an interview for a different job, a better and more influential job than head coach, a job unlike any other in the sport. Think of it as Consultant Without Portfolio.
Owner Jimmy Haslam, who seems to have left the footballing to general manager John Dorsey, is trying to make the Browns less, well, Brown-y, even though he is part of the reason for their Brownsiness, and without a firm idea of how to do it himself is opening the organization to the waft of different ideas. If a Rice interview happens, no matter how you term it, it would be evidence that Haslam and therefore Dorsey are willing to cast a wide search for those ideas.
Then the hard part would begin, namely, deciding what ideas are worth considering and to what extent. And there, the Browns’ track record has been almost uniformly poor. You don’t get to be this anti-functional without a series of errors in judgment that seemed like good ideas at the time.
Rice has been offered up by the rumor mill for other jobs in her time, including NFL commissioner, which is a phenomenally well-compensated lousy job in that the 32 bosses never can be made happy, no matter what. To be interviewed by the Browns is not much of a stretch.
But being interviewed specifically for the head coaching job currently held on an interim basis by Gregg Williams is what made heads snap, because by traditional standards, she has remarkably thin qualifications. As in, she’s never coached football at any level for even a moment.
So let’s calm everyone’s fevered brains and just say she might be interviewed by the Browns for a position of influence with the club. And to be honest, the way power is devolving away from the coach and toward the front office in all sports, being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns might in fact be beneath her skill set.
So while the headline is “Rice May Interview For Browns Coaching Job,” maybe it’s better that the Browns backed away from the idea before it got real traction. Maybe the headline is “Rice May Be Interviewed For Big-Deal Browns Job.” That way, we don’t have to distract ourselves with the tiresome and diversionary arguments about qualifications and gender roles. Maybe it’s interesting enough that she’s in line for an interview that might help reverse the Browns’ ongoing comedic turn.
That beats being the head coach every time.