Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Monday, December 20, 2010

Circumstances tough for embattled Mangini

I have made no secret of being on the Eric Mangini bandwagon.

Sure, he did a few things last season that made me waver but with how the team finished and how hard they played for him, I thought he deserved to return.

Mike Holmgren obviously agreed as he surprisingly kept the embattled Mangini on board and paired him with a talented general manager in Tom Heckert.

The Browns’ offseason moves were positive. The team with three new quarterbacks got off to a slow start. When the season seemed lost the Browns coaching staff found ways to beat New Orleans, New England and give the New York Jets all they could handle with rookie Colt McCoy at the helm.

After McCoy was injured, the season sputtered. A loss to Jacksonville that could have been a win was followed by two ugly wins that could have been losses and was topped off with back-to-back pathetic roads losses to teams with two of the worst records in the NFL.

The hot seat is on fire. The assumption is that Mangini will be fired and replaced by Jon Gruden or maybe even Holmgren himself.

My belief is Mangini is a good football coach and that he gets the most out of his talent. Most of the complaints about Mangini have centered on his perceived personality and his choice of offensive coordinators.

Mangini basically acted like a tyrant last season. He was given absolute power and it did not go well. He made a lot of public relations mistakes and many of his personnel decisions did not go well. However it seemed obvious he could coach.

This year Mangini has changed. Able to focus on coaching, his interactions with the media have been solid. He may play some games on naming a starting quarterback but a lot of the Belichick Jr. routine is gone.

As for Brian Daboll, I agree his playing calling has conservative at times and strange at others but you can’t make filet mignon out of bologna. I can’t blame Mangini for refusing to throw his coach under the bus — at least during the season. The team lacks playmakers at receiver and the once strong offensive line has played like crap the last few weeks.

On defense, Rob Ryan used some magic tricks early in the season to hide the defense’s flaws. With the injury to Scott Fujita, the defense lost their quarterback.

The Browns’ problem now is the same it was before the season started. They lack depth to withstand injuries and they lack playmakers that can change a game. The one game-changer they have is Joshua Cribbs and injuries have neutered his effectiveness.

I still think Mangini is a good football coach but I can’t really complain if Holmgren wants a change. I am tired of constantly changing coaches and systems. What the Browns need is stability. Constant and stable leadership is what all of the best franchises in the NFL have. I fear a new coach will have to start things completely over once again.

Jon Gruden seems to be the popular choice to be the new coach. He won with Tony Dungy’s players in Tampa Bay but he won’t be inheriting that kind of talent here. One draw is that he could help McCoy’s development and he has experience with a Peyton Hillis type of running back. But does Gruden really want to coach? If he doesn’t and Mangini is fired then what?

At least if Mangini is fired, the general manager and the scouts would remain and it would not be a complete switch like the last two failed Browns regimes.

Browns owner Randy Lerner has handed the keys to the franchise to Mike Holmgren. The Big Show has mostly stayed behind the scenes this season letting Mangini and Heckert do their jobs.

It has been hard season to evaluate. Many fans believe the Browns should be 9-5. They could easily also be 2-11. The truth is the Browns are what their record says they are — which is 5-9. A team that on their best days can compete with any team in the NFL and on their worst days can lose to anyone.

So it doesn’t matter what sports radio callers or I think, all that matters is who Mike Holmgren believes is the best choice to coach our beloved Browns.

As fans we have no choice but to trust in Holmgren’s pedigree and hope he finally builds in the Browns into a franchise we can be proud of once again.

Despite the past two turds, the future is still brighter than it was two years ago.