After a day of reflection, we feel a bit better about the Browns even after their latest loss to the Ravens.
Disappointed? Of course. Discouraged? Not really.
In some ways, beating New Orleans and New England earlier in the year hurt the Browns. Those wins made it hard for some fans to understand the team is still in a rebuilding process; those fans struggled with the idea that the Browns could beat two of the best teams in the NFL, but also lose to the Bills and the Bengals.
While we would certainly like it if the record was reversed, the reality is this team doesn’t yet have the talent to win consistently, especially when they turn the ball over four times against a team that will probably end the season at 12-4. But what they can do is compete, which they have done every week.
”I’ve seen [teams] get beat by 20 and 30 points, and that’s losing bad,” fullback Lawrence Vickers told The Beacon-Journal. ”A loss is a loss, but the way you lose sometimes plays a part in it. . . .The way we lost this year, not saying it was good, but three points here, a touchdown there. . . .That tells you something: that we’re on the verge of doing something great. I can feel it even with whatever’s going on. We [went through] three quarterbacks and kept ticking and kept fighting. That just tells you what kind of group we are.”
What the Browns are building toward, and what is hard for some fans to see, is a team that enters each season with a realistic chance to win 10+ games each season, not rollercoaster up and down depending on the yearly schedule (think 2007 Browns).
“I think what you have to do, philosophically, when you’re discussing it, it’s how do you want to build the winner? You can look at it from a short-term perspective where you are going to do everything that you can to just win that year, or you’re going to look to build a team and an organization that can compete year in and year out, and that’s what I believe in,” coach Eric Mangini said in his Monday press conference. “I’ve been a part of that and there are a lot of things that go into that. Ideally what you have is you create something that each year is at a high level, like a lot of teams in our division are.”
Specifically Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The biggest hurdle the Browns have to get over is being in the same division as the Steelers and the Ravens because that means there are no easy games on the schedule.
Look at Kansas City for example. The Chiefs are getting a lot of love this year from the media, but what happens next year when they play a tougher schedule? They won’t have teams like Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco on the schedule next year; instead they will get Indy, New England and Pittsburgh, among others, thanks to their first-place finish. You don’t think that will impact on their record?
Thankfully the players understand what’s going on.
“I think we’ve had a big improvement from this year to last,” center Alex Mack told The Plain Dealer. “I think we’ve been a lot closer in a lot of games and I think we’ve played a lot better. We have a lot of great guys on this team. It’s sad to see the season go.”
“To me, there’s a sense of community in this team and there’s a sense of purpose in this team,” Mangini said. “That doesn’t happen by accident. We all want to win every single week and there’s tremendous respect for each other from the players and the coaches and you can’t share this long period of time of working together and having the positives and negatives throughout the course of the season and the emotional highs and lows throughout the course of the season without forming that bond. That’s going to continue to be here and it’s going to continue to propel us forward. It’s meaningful when players say that because I think it’s indicative of the mutual respect and feelings that we have for each other.”
We’re confident that team president Mike Holmgren will weigh what the players say, and what he has seen this year, more heavily than what the media manufactures as they busy themselves with the temperature of the office furniture in Berea. And there is certainly a lot of hoo-haa flying around.
”People are digging, trying to find a reason for us not having success this year,” cornerback Sheldon Brown told The Beacon-Journal. “And at the end of the day, it’s us as players not making enough plays. That’s what the story is.”
The latest anti-Mangini argument centers on the premise that Holmgren absolutely must have the Browns run a West Coast offense. Of course, Holmgren has never said this; but why let that get in the way?
First off is The PD‘s Bill Livingston, who writes that because Colt McCoy may actually be an NFL-caliber quarterback, then Mangini must go:
“A clash seemed inevitable over time between the defensive-minded philosophy of Mangini and the offense-oriented approach of Browns president Mike Holmgren. McCoy’s rise accelerates it.”
And Bud Shaw:
“How could Mike Holmgren think this head coach and this manage-the-game-and-keep-it-close offensive philosophy is the best available custodian for McCoy’s development, let alone offer fertile ground for McCoy’s West Coast skills to blossom?”
And Peter King:
“Eric Mangini had to be great this year to survive the shotgun marriage with Mike Holmgren, but a three-game losing streak puts him on the firing line — if Holmgren can get one of his type of guys (Jon Gruden, maybe Marty Mornhinweg) to coach.”
And ESPN’s James Walker:
“What was Holmgren thinking as he watched rookie Colt McCoy — Holmgren’s personal choice at quarterback — run a porous offense with questionable play calling? … Mangini had to demonstrate progress after last season’s 5-11 record. But despite wins against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on the road and the heavily favored New England Patriots at home, the Browns have not shown enough improvement in 2010.”
So with everyone speculating about what Mike Holmgren is thinking and plans to do, let’s review what he has actually said this year about the team and the coaching staff:
- Does he want to coach again?: “No, I’m doing okay. Does it sound like I want to coach? No, I’m doing okay. The challenge of this is really something for me and I’m enjoying the challenge. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say I get fired up watching the games, I mean I did that for too long not to react sometimes the way I do, but I also recognize what I was hired to do and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
- How will he evaluate the coaching staff?: “The important point there I think is any coach, any staff where I am in the position I’m in, will be judged at the end of the season. It will take thoughtful thinking and I’ve said this before and I said it when I first came here, it think it’s important that you take some of the emotion out of it if you can. At the end of the year, everyone catches their breath a little bit, think about it and hopefully make an intelligent decision. I also said this, wins and losses are not the only criteria.”
- Will he force the Browns to run the West Coast offense?: “Any coach that thinks he has the only way to do something is nuts. I feel very strongly on how I did things. I believed for me and my staff and my personality, that was the exact way to do it. But heck, there are a lot of ways to do it. I watch and I give that speech to myself on occasion. I think it’s the right thing to do though. I kind of knew that, whether it was Eric or anyone else. They are going to do things differently than the way I did it. I had better be prepared to handle that or I shouldn’t have taken the job.”
If we can see things clearly, why can’t everyone else?
Also check out:
Mangini, Truth Death and Taxes at Waiting for Next Year
Monday Morning Browns Derpfest at Two One Six Sports
Too Careful, Not Careful Enough at Cleveland Frowns