Browns would be wise to retain LB coach Jason Tarver

The Cleveland Browns are experiencing a good bit of turnover in their defensive coaching staff. After the hiring of Jim Schwartz as the new defensive coordinator last month, two staffers have since departed for other gigs as Jeff Howard has taken the linebackers coaching job with the Los Angeles Chargers and Chris Kiffin is taking over the linebacker coaching job with the Houston Texans. As they look to replace their openings, openings that were more than likely created intentionally as the Browns granted these guys the opportunity to interview elsewhere while under contract, Schwartz would be wise to retain linebackers coach Jason Tarver.

Jason Tarver was put in an impossible situation and the group still produced

Browns Jim Schwartz Jason Tarver
Browns Jim Schwartz Jason Tarver

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When was the last time a single position group on a single roster had five different starters suffer season-ending injuries? And when was the last time that unit then inserted undrafted free agents, late-round picks, and practice squad players into the lineup as replacements with little dropoff?

That is exactly what happened to the Browns this season as all of Anthony Walker Jr., Jacob Phillips, Sione Takitaki, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Jordan Kunaszyk all ended up on Injured Reserve in 2022. Yet Tarver’s unit saw production from day-three pick Tony Fields II and practice squad players Reggie Ragland and Jermaine Carter Jr.

Even before their injuries as well, Walker Jr. and Takitaki were playing high-level football for the Browns in contract years. This is not a normal amount of turnover, nor a normal amount of output from unsung heroes. The man behind the curtain in Tarver deserves a load of credit for instilling a “next man up” mentality at the second level of the Cleveland defense.

His resume speaks for itself

Browns Jason Tarver Jim Schwartz
Browns Jason Tarver Jim Schwartz

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Unlike Howard and Kiffin, Tarver came to the Browns with a depth of experience to his name already, and that has been on display in the way he has handled his business with the linebackers. He is entering his 20th year in the NFL, has spent three seasons as a defensive coordinator, and even spent 13 years with the same team.

There is a reason teams keep this guy around. And there is a reason why we have not heard rumors about him interviewing elsewhere. Turnover for the sake of turnover is not a good thing. Continuity for the sake of continuity is not a good thing. However, continuity with guys who have continuously earned their keep every step of the way is the sweet spot.

Tarver is not afraid to challenge his best players

Browns Jim Schwartz Jason Tarver
Browns Jim Schwartz Jason Tarver

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Needed in Cleveland, Tarver is not afraid to hold his best players accountable and challenge them to continue to work on their craft. This is just what he did with explosive linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at the end of the 2022 season. He started by explaining his grading process:

“The linebackers will tell you that I am one of if not the hardest grader because we want it that way. Everything is either a check, which means you did your job; a plus means you did something great but those are hard to get and you have to make a play; and then it is a minus. If you are a little bit off in your gap, that is a minus. Now you can turn minuses into checks and pluses. You can be aligned a little [off], and do something great, that works.”

He went on to praise Owusu-Koramoah’s development from a technical perspective, but ended by challenging the linebacker as he enters his third season in the NFL:

“In the offseason this year, it is going to be building his body to handle the 17 weeks. I do like where he went by football progression and what he did the last week. Now, it is going to be a process of really mastering the offseason.”

This is the kind of accountability the Browns need to keep in their locker room and on their staff.

Final thoughts on Jim Schwartz, the Browns, and Tarver

Browns Jim Schwartz Jason Tarver
Browns Jim Schwartz Jason Tarver

(AP Photo/David Richard)

The good news is that there have been no other interview rumors surrounding Tarver the way there were with Howard and Kiffin. This likely means that the Browns told the two who departed to look for other gigs while giving Tarver a good amount of assurance as Jim Schwartz takes over.

However, until a press release officially solidifies Tarver onto Schwartz’s staff in 2023, there are reasons for speculation. Tarver is the only defensive positional coach with a long list of experience, the only one who has called a defense at the NFL level, and the only one who got production out of his unit a year ago.

Tarver has earned his keep in Cleveland.

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire