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What’s the next move Mike?

We probably shouldn’t be surprised at the news that Eric Mangini has been fired as coach of the Browns, but in some ways we are.

While we expected some kind of news to come out of Berea following the team’s 5-11 record this season, we thought it would be more along the lines of the team hiring an experienced, competent offensive coordinator. We expected Mangini to return for a third year, especially with the progress the team showed this year with the new front office structure of Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Mangini.

Of course, we also thought LeBron was going to resign with the Cavs, so there you go.

“I’ve said all along and I’ve tried to be true to what I’ve told you, and certainly what I’ve told Eric all along is that this season I would make any decision I had to make once the season was concluded,” Holmgren said in his press conference announcing the firing. “Let the dust settle, let me think about it. That’s how I make decisions. That’s how I made the decision to keep Eric. And then come to some sort of conclusion. I didn’t sleep very well last night. I was up a fair amount of the night thinking about this, thinking what I might have to do and then finally trying to make the correct decision. Look, it’s difficult. I’ve never had to do this before. I like the man a lot. He is a hard working, bright, caring guy. Unfortunately this business at times and even though it wasn’t the only factor, I want to win here. We want to win here in Cleveland and we did not win enough games this year.”

In November, Holmgren said his decision would not be based solely on wins and losses. But it seems from his comments that is what he did.

“I don’t know if you can separate the two (making progress vs. winning games),” Holmgren said. “I think if you look at our season it had tremendous highs and lows for me. I think when we beat New England and New Orleans, I don’t think anybody in this room could leave this room without a smile on their face. It was really something, something very special. Then as good as we finished last year, a year ago, we finished as poor this year. If you’re talking about direction or how I felt the team was going, the finish wasn’t a feel good finish. What I tried to do is not base my decision on any one game, any one play, any two games, any stretch but the body of work. As I told the players when I met with them today after Eric had talked to them I went in and talked to them briefly. I have high expectations and I’m not going to settle, I’m just not going to settle.”

So Holmgren believes the Browns should have finished with, what … 7 or 8 wins? Apparently he believes the Browns are closer to the team that beat the Patriots and Saints, rather than the one that lost to the Bengals and Bills. It’s great that he doesn’t want to settle for the same old same, but is it realistic?

Much like when Dan Gilbert fired Mike Brown, the easy part is over for Holmgren. He must get this hiring correct because, if he doesn’t, it will be on him, not on Mangini. The good thing is Holmgren isn’t going into this alone and it sounds like he’s not in a rush to make a decision.

“I don’t want to do this again,” he said. “I think historically if you look at teams that don’t have to do this very much, they’ve been successful. They’ve been successful it’s just like which came first the chicken or the egg? Are they successful because they haven’t done it? You go through some bumps in the road if you think you have the right guy and the right system and all those things. That’s part of it. It’s very, very important that we get this right.”

One of the more interesting points Holmgren made was how people outside of Cleveland view the team, versus the way the long-suffering fanbase does.

“You guys have been here a long time, most of you and you’ve lived through the really tough things,” he said. “I think you have a tendency to view things just a little differently than perhaps I did when I came in or someone from outside coming in and looking at it. This is one of the great jobs. There are 32 jobs, this is one of the great jobs in the country. You’re a head coach in the National Football League, if you are a football coach that’s what you want to be. Another part of that is I would use the same technique that I used with Tom Heckert, Bryan Wiedmeier, Mark Schiefelbein, Jim Ross, Matt Thomas, all the guys now that are manning the offices upstairs that came from great football places but they came here to be with me to try and get something special done that hadn’t been done. There’s a challenge there that I think appeals to men in this business. That’s what I’ll be talking to the person about.”

The best part, perhaps, was Holmgren saying he won’t force a particular system on his new coach.

“I don’t think I can do that,” Holmgren said. “In what I tried to do with Eric (Mangini) this year and we talked about it this morning. I said, ‘I wish I could have helped you out more,’ and we had one of those things where we were kind of talking to each other that way. If I hire a coach, I’m hiring a coach. He’s going to run what he runs, what he’s comfortable with, what he knows. Now will it be part of the consideration in the process? Absolutely, but I am not going to interfere that way as a president. I did not do it this year, I’m not going to do it next year and I’m not going to do it ever. That’s not fair. Is it a consideration in this process? I think it is though. Maybe not the ‘system’ exactly but certainly something that I think allows the quarterback in this case in one of our quarterbacks to be successful.”

As for Mangini, on some level its hard to argue that the Browns should have kept a coach who was 10-22 with the team, and is 33-47 in five years as a head coach. After making the playoffs in his first year as Jets coach with Herm Edwards’ players, Mangini was only 23-41 in his next four years. Those numbers are hard to overlook.

And if we were told the four-game winning streak to end the 2009 season was a sign of progress, what should we make of this year’s four-game season-ending losing streak?

Having said that, we just can’t shake the feeling that another year of Mangini working with Holmgren and Heckert would have been a positive for the team. The team played hard this year; unfortunately the lasting memory will be the final loss against Pittsburgh.

Despite his record, Mangini is the best coach the Browns have had since returning in 1999. We know that’s not saying much, but it’s saying something. He’s probably the fourth-best coach we’ve seen since becoming a Browns’ fan, which dates back to the days of Forrest Gregg as coach.

“The experience coaching the Cleveland Browns the past two years has been tremendous,” Mangini said in a statement. “I appreciate the opportunity that the Lerner family gave me. I have a deep respect for the players that I have coached the past two years and how they have made a profound difference in changing the culture — a tougher, smarter, more competitive, selfless team that never gave up.

“Our goal was to build a team for long-term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal, and have provided a strong identity for this football team and have helped to create a positive foundation upon which the organization can continue to build.”

A new coach won’t make the defensive line younger or improve the linebackers. A new coach will still be looking at a team without a single wide receiver who would start for any other team in the league and a right side of the offensive line that is a mess.

But the new coach will be coming to a team with the No. 6 pick in the upcoming draft, young talent in Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis. Plus the new coach better be able to continue the tough, competitive nature of the team that Mangini put in over the past two years.

One additional thing we have going for us is, unlike the past coaching changes, this one doesn’t involve a complete overhaul of the front office as well. While Mangini is gone, Holmgren and Heckert remain. So the team, for once, isn’t really starting over from scratch.

But this is probably Holmgren’s one and only chance to get it right when it comes to hiring a coach.

Let’s hope he knows what his next move is.


No surprise that there is plenty of talk about Holmgren’s decision:

Mike Holmgren talks about Eric Mangini: Waiting for Next Year

Mike Holmgren, Eric Mangini and a Question with No Good Answers: Cleveland Frowns

And the Circle of Suck Continues: Two One Six Sports

Don’t Coach Mike
: Terry Pluto

Mike Holmgren did the right thing: Bud Shaw

Holmgren needs younger version of himself: Marla Ridenour

ESPN celebrates Eric Mangini’s firing: Cleveland Leader

Mike Holmgren is best choice for Browns: James Walker

Browns go out with a whimper

The Browns ended the 2010 season on Sunday in much the same way they have ended several seasons in the past decade – getting abused at the hands of the opponent.

It really isn’t a surprise the Browns lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday – the Steelers are better and healthier – but more the way they lost in the 41-9 debacle.

A Browns team that has been competitive all year long seemed to have the fight go out in them early, as Colt McCoy was intercepted on a tipped pass on the first possession and, before you knew it, the Steelers were up 14-0.

Maybe the players were following the lead of the coaching staff. After falling behind 14-0, McCoy drove the Browns 85 yards to the Pittsburgh two-yard-line. The Browns targeted Robert Royal twice in the end zone (the guy who came into the game with 5 receptions and 4 drops on the year) but both passes were incomplete.

Facing fourth down the Browns opted to kick a field goal, just like the did early in the Buffalo game. Why is anyone’s guess. Maybe coach Eric Mangini wanted to spotlight kicker Phil Dawson in what could have been his last game in a Cleveland uniform.

You are 5-10, you are on the other team’s two-yard-line, why not go for it? There is nothing to lose there. At least when they faced the Bills they were going against one of the worst defenses in the league and could expect more scoring opportunities. That clearly is not the case against the Steelers.

Obviously when you give up 41 points those lost points don’t really make a difference, but if the Browns would have punched it in who knows how things would have played out the rest of the half?

The defense had a horrible day. Coming into the game the Browns were the only team in the league that had not given up 30 points this season. The Steelers took care of that in the first half as they took a 31-3 lead into the locker room.

Pittsburgh scored on its first five possessions and rolled up 418 yards in offense.

Perhaps defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who will reportedly interview for the head coaching job in Carolina, was already making dinner plans for The Pit and couldn’t be bothered to put together a solid defensive game plan.

“I thought we got beat in all three phases,” Mangini said in published reports. “They had a better plan than we did and when that happens against a team like this, you have a day like today. It’s difficult to feel any positives in the wake of what happened.”

We certainly echo that sentiment.

So in a season where the Browns were once 5-7 and dreaming of a .500 finish, the Browns instead finish 5-11 for the second year in a row and are now 2-10 under Mangini in the division.

Unfortunately the team had its worst performance by far in the last game of the season. Right or wrong, the memory of today’s game will linger with people more than the wins earlier in the year against New Orleans and New England.

And if the four-game winning streak to end last season was supposed to be a sign of progress under Mangini, what are we to make of the four-game losing streak to end this season? Was the losing streak a function of a tougher schedule – much like last year’s was built against teams with nothing to play for? Should one weigh more heavily than the other in determining the fate of Mangini and the coaching staff?

“I’m sure everybody thinks there is a possibility [of a coaching change],” left tackle Joe Thomas told The Plain Dealer. “We knew that was the way it was going to be coming into the season, so I don’t think anything was different.”

We’ve all seen this before. Chris Palmer’s final game was a 24-0 loss to the Titans in 2000, the last in a five-game losing streak. Romeo Crennel finished his final season with a six-game losing streak in 2008 that ended with a 31-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

As discouraging and disappointing as today’s game was, we really don’t relish the thought of starting over again with a new coach. A lot of what was wrong with this season can be fixed with improved talent and by bringing in an experienced coordinator on offense.

Just look at the Chiefs this year as an example: they brought in Charlie Weiss as offensive coordinator and the team improved from 25th to 9th in offense. Romeo took over the 30th ranked defense and improved them to 11th this year.

There’s little reason to believe the same can’t happen here in Cleveland with another strong draft, a little patience and more experience in the offensive coordinator position.

Here’s hoping Mike Holmgren sees things the same way.

We may find out soon enough.

Browns vs. Steelers – Week 17

Sixteen weeks after they lined-up for the season opener in Tampa, the Browns close out the regular season today against Pittsburgh.

The Opposition

Pittsburgh: 11-4
Offensive rank: 15th overall/16th passing/9th rushing
Defensive rank: 2nd overall/14th passing/1st rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 61-56, but lead the series 35-22 at home. The Browns broke an eight-game home losing streak to the Steelers with last year’s 13-6 win.
The line: Browns +5.5

What to Watch For

How Colt McCoy looks in his second chance against the Steelers. In the first game in Week 6, McCoy threw for 281 yards and had a QB rating of 80.5. Now that he knows what to expect from the Pittsburgh defense.

Of course, the Steelers have tape on McCoy as well and, as well as McCoy played the first time, he did throw two interceptions and was sacked six times.

And that was with a healthy Peyton Hillis in the backfield. Hillis may be out – or limited – today with a rib injury, which would put Mike Bell (oh boy) and a (hopefully healthy) Josh Cribbs as the focus of the running game against Pittsburgh’s top-rated rush defense.

Defensively the Browns need to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. After sacking Roethlisberger eight times in their win last season, the Browns couldn’t get to him this year in Pittsburgh.

The Best Browns vs. Steelers Game I’ve Seen

There have been a lot to choose from: Turkey Jones stuffing Terry Bradshaw, David Mays coming off the bench to beat the Steelers, the overtime win in 1986. But the one that stands out is the 1983 game, Brian Sipe’s last in a Cleveland uniform, which the Browns won 30-17 in the season’s final game.

Video clips are here, here, here, here, here and here. No surprise that in the clips the Steelers are called for multiple personal fouls. The more things change …

The Plain Dealer‘s game story is here.

The Prediction

Once again, it’s hard to see the Browns winning today. The Steelers need this game to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs and the Browns are too injured to realistically expect an upset.

Sadly, after a long season of marked improvement, the Browns will end the year with the same record as last year, but will enter the off-season with a four-game losing streak, rather than a winning streak.

And tomorrow morning the jackals will descend on Berea hoping to pick over Eric Mangini’s carcass. Will Mike Holmgren leave them disappointed?

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 3-11-1.

Final Thoughts on the Browns-Ravens

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

It’s Stupid Time in Cleveland Sports

We don’t know if it is the cold weather or the piles of snow that have driven some people to the edge, but it is apparently stupid time in Cleveland sports.

First off was the report from WKNR* “contributor” Sabrina Parr (she’s not listed on the station’s website so we’re not sure what she does) that Browns coach Eric Mangini is done after the season regardless of how the team performs in its final three games. The station’s Chris Fedor, who is listed on the WKNR website as a producer, also claimed that the Browns can’t find a new offensive coordinator because no one is willing to work with Mangini.

Wait a minute, if there are coaches out there who don’t want to work with Mangini, why would it matter since the Browns are going to fire him anyway? Doesn’t the presumed removal of Mangini make the alleged reluctance of someone to work with him a moot point?

More importantly, if any of this were actually true, doesn’t it seem likely that one of the beat writers or columnists who cover this team on a daily basis would have come up with this news?

And doesn’t all this speculation actually run counter to what team president Mike Holmgren, the only person (other than owner Randy Lerner) who actually has a say in all this, said all along, that “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.”

Moving on.

The Plain Dealer‘s Tony Grossi and Bill Livingston must be dizzy from riding the quarterback carousel if their recent stories are any indication.

First off Grossi tries to sell us that the evolving Browns quarterback situation is somehow a case of the same old Browns:

“It’s Week 14 for the Browns and we’re still asking who’s the quarterback. Isn’t that the perfect metaphor for another Browns’ playoff-less season?”

In a follow-up article Grossi then painted the necessary quarterback switches as some kind of flaw on Mangini’s part:

“Naming Colt McCoy the Browns’ starting quarterback for the remainder of the season might not be a bombshell announcement. But it truly was out of character for Eric Mangini to commit to anybody at the position for longer than one game.”

Livingston tries to hang it on Mangini as if the coach has been switching players at the position just for fun:

“All that aside, the Browns, now out of playoff consideration, have had an unstable quarterback situation this year, which has been coach Eric Mangini’s norm.”

So let’s review: Jake Delhomme was the starter coming out of training camp, Seneca Wallace was the backup and Colt McCoy was No. 3. No mystery, no questions.

When Delhomme was injured Wallace took over as starter. When Wallace was injured McCoy took over as starter. There’s little reason to doubt that McCoy would still be the starter if hadn’t been injured. Just as there was little reason to rush him back before he was fully healed.

This hasn’t been a case of switching quarterbacks because they are not playing well; the Browns have a clear picture of the depth chart and acted accordingly when injuries hit.

Is that so hard to see?


We were going to include this gem from The PD’s Greg Kozarik, but it would be hard to top what the good folks at Two One Six Sports put together. Give it a read, you won’t be disappointed.


More on the silliness that is currently blowing through Cleveland sports can be found at Cleveland Frowns, and Waiting for Next Year.


*Full disclosure: Sirius is Red Right 88’s preferred official radio source. We haven’t listened to local sports talk in six years. Hearing that these are the types of “breaking news” stories the local stations put out just solidifies our position.

Seven is just a random number

As kids, Schoolhouse Rock taught us that “three is a magic number.”

But there are some in Brownstown who would have us believe that seven is the real magic number – as in “Eric Mangini needs seven wins to keep his job.”

We’ve been through this before
. Cleveland Frowns has covered this. Pretty much anyone who has watched the Browns play this year got the memo that the team has improved and there’s little reason to believe a different coach would have produced more wins. Consider that:

  • The Browns have started three different quarterbacks this season – one that probably shouldn’t be a starter in the NFL anymore, one a career backup and one a rookie.
  • They have no NFL-caliber wide receivers on the team.
  • They have only one viable option at running back, Peyton Hillis.
  • They continue to start John St. Clair at right tackle.
  • They start two rookies in the secondary.
  • And, oh yeah, they’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.

Apparently that doesn’t matter to some. We get that, before the season, writers covering the team and the league have to come up with projections and predictions about how the Browns will do.

But once the season starts, shouldn’t people adjust their expectations to fit the reality that is happening on the field? Maybe grasp that a team that beat New England and New Orleans, and was competitive in a stretch of tough mid-season games is improving?

Herm Edwards taught us that “you play to win the game,” and wins and losses are an important measuring tool, but you have to take into account everything that goes on with a team during a season.

Luckily the one person who’s opinion counts in this situation, team president Mike Holmgren, understands what is going on. Let’s remember what he said in a press conference following the Browns bye week in November (the important stuff is in bold):

“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, I 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. The crummy part of our business is that most of the time, it is the main one. I thought my least year in Seattle, 4-12 on the surface they should have fired me. Based on record, 4-12 is my worst record of all time. It may have been my best coaching job because we were playing with young people that gave me everything they had, but they just weren’t good enough, we got so injured. If that taught me anything, it taught me that now in my position, there’s more to look at.”

Holmgren’s thought process couldn’t be any more transparent: “wins and losses are not the only criteria.” “There’s more to look at.”

Is that not clear? Holmgren will look at the big picture, weigh everything that went on this season and make a determination.

And when Holmgren holds his season-ending press conference and the question “Will Eric Mangini be coaching the Browns in 2011” is asked, we’re willing to bet the answer will be:

“Of course, why would we make a change?”


As this is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, it’s worth the time to check out ESPN’s Outside the Lines piece on how the news of Lennon’s death broke on Monday Night Football.

We were familiar with the story, but never knew the behind-the-scenes story of how ABC came up with the scoop.

And it’s interesting to look back at how news was spread just 30 years ago. Cable TV and ESPN were in their infancy, no Twitter or Internet, no cell phones, no 24-hour news channel. How different things would be if something like this happened today.

Rest in peace, John.

Building the Perfect Browns Coach

With the Browns 0-2 (again) and people busy monitoring the temperature of the office chairs in Berea (again, some more), reader jimkanicki asked where we at Red Right 88 stand on coach Eric Mangini.

I kind of talked around the answer, eventually pointing him to this post. It’s a tough question to answer, because I don’t think this is an either/or situation. In some ways it is still hard to evaluate Mangini, even 18 games into his tenure as coach as coach of the Browns and carrying the weight of a 28-38 career record.

I think either explicitly, by locking GM George Kokinis in an equipment shed last season so he couldn’t make any decisions; or implicitly, by Randy Lerner not telling him no, Mangini ran the show last season. And that just doesn’t work.

When he was a coach, Bill Parcells would talk about how if he was “cooking the dinner” then he should be the one “buying the groceries.” But when he took over as the top guy in Miami, he didn’t let the coach pick the players. It’s just too much for one person to handle.

Just like coaches have to put players in a position to succeed, the GM has to put the coach in a position to succeed, the president has to do the same for the GM and the owner for the president. That’s only fair.

Now that the Browns have the proper structure in place, Mangini has the framework around him to maximize his potential to succeed. If he fails, it won’t be because he was distracted from doing his primary job. If the structure had been in place when he was hired last season, we would be able to evaluate him better at this stage.

All this got me to thinking, who would be the perfect coach for the Browns? Who would finally satisfy the fans?

So, armed with the knowledge of 30+ years of watching Browns football, plus countless hours reading books, news sites and other blogs on the Browns, as well as fan comments, we entered the Red Right 88 laboratory to build the perfect Browns coach.

First, you need someone who will win. The coach doesn’t have to go 16-0 every year, 14-2 will be fine; just don’t ever lose a division game. And they have to win the Super Bowl, not every year, just three out of ever four.

When the Browns were looking for a coach after firing Romeo Crennel, the call went up for Bill Cowher. After all, he won a Super Bowl with the help of an incompetent officiating crew. But what about those four AFC title game losses at home? That would never work here in Cleveland.

The coach also has to oversee an offensive attack that would make the famed Air Coryell offense in San Diego look like a Pop Warner team running the single wing, while getting the starting quarterback and his backup an equal amount of playing time.

The defense must be a combination of the Steel Curtain, the ’86 Bears, the Fearsome Foursome and Dallas’ Doomsday. And don’t give up more than 10 points a game; and never give up any points against a division opponent.

He should also make sure the every draft pick and free agent performs at an All Pro level.

Finally, he must handle the media flawlessly, providing quotes worthy of Shakespeare.

We think that sums up the expectations placed on the coach of the Browns. And despite working tirelessly to build someone to fill the role, we were unable to pull it off.

So, for now, we’ll ride with Mangini as coach and keep our pitchforks and torches in storage.

But we’ll keep our matches close at hand.

A Step in the Right Direction

Browns coach Eric Mangini may be on to something here as the team prepares for its first division game of the season, this Sunday in Baltimore.

In his Monday press conference, Mangini said the Browns should have used Josh Cribbs in the Wildcat more against KC:

“I feel like I would have used it more yesterday looking back. That’s something I would have done more of in retrospect. I think that whether they’re catching up or not catching up giving Josh (Cribbs) a few more chances to carry the ball sometimes they have caught up and he changes things.”

On getting Cribbs more opportunities:

“Yes, just to get Josh more touches. I think with him, they may load the box, they may do a lot of different things. He’s got a chance on any play.”

And why haven’t they used the Wildcat very much so far:

“You’re going through the course of the game and there’s a lot of things that, when you have a chance to sit in your offense and analyze, you think of. There are some decisions that you’d like to have back, but you don’t get to it at that point. I think every coach in the league goes through that process on Monday morning, win or lose. ‘I wish we had done this, I wish we had done more of that.’ When you have the benefit of time and reflection and you’ve seen how the game has unfolded, you always go through that process. Good and bad.”

This is good stuff. The first step to becoming more effective at work is awareness. If you don’t know a problem exists, you can’t fix it. Without feedback, most people believe they are doing just fine. It seems as if the feedback is starting to get through.


In a city with more than 10,000 taxi cabs running 24 hours a day, you would think it wouldn’t be that hard to avoid being arrested for drunk driving. The Alumni Office at the University of Michigan must be so proud.


A very solid article at the Orange & Brown Report on the early results of the Mike Holmgren era.

Recalibrating on Eric Mangini

As we slowly move through the month of August*, the Browns are winding their way through training camp, the first exhibition game sits on the horizon and the opening of the season is a month away.

Things are quite a bit different in Browns training camp. At this time last year, we were dealing with controversial bus rides, a ridiculous quarterback “competition” and contract promises from the “previous regime.” Most importantly, we were all wondering what we had in coach Eric Mangini.

Contrast that to this year: no contract issues, a clear pecking order for the quarterbacks and overall peace and quiet. In fact, it’s Randy Lerner’s other team that finds itself dealing with coaching issues just days before the start of the season.

As we move toward the start of Year 2 of the Mangini Era, I’ve been re-evaluating my opinion of Mangini as a coach.

One of the biggest frustrations from last year was the way he handled the quarterback duties between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Clearly, neither quarterback was going to be a Pro Bowler, but Mangini made the situation worse by not naming a starter at the outset of training camp and letting that person get as much work as possible as the team installed a new offensive system.

Instead, the QBs were bounced in and out during the preseason, with neither playing the final game. What followed during the regular season was historically bad play at the position.

Mangini deserved a large part of the blame because he was unable to create a situation where either quarterback could succeed. And that’s one of the key responsibilities of a coach: you have to be able to put your players in position to succeed. For example, if you want to run an offensive based on a short passing game, you don’t turn the team over to Derek Anderson.

Which brings us to this year. To be fair, if the coaches are responsible for helping the players to succeed, then management (Lerner and Mike Holmgren) are responsible for putting together the framework for the coaches to succeed.

That framework wasn’t in place last year, as Mangini had free reign to do what he wanted, especially after running GM George Kokinis out of town, and it proved too much for him to handle. Now, with Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert firmly in place, Mangini, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and the rest of the coaching staff can do the jobs they were hired for – nothing else.

With the national media continuing to beat the drum that Mangini is on the coaching “hot seat,” creating an atmosphere for the coaching staff to succeed is vitally important. Having Holmgren as another set of eyes is only going to help as well. While he’s not going to walk out at practice and contradict Mangini, if Holmgren spots a flaw in the way a player is performing – especially at quarterback – and corrects it, then everyone wins.

Holmgren also brought in Gil Haskell, his former offensive coordinator, to observe and offer suggestions to Daboll. The ability for Haskell to sit down with Daboll and talk to him about his game plans, why he called a certain play in a certain situation, and offer suggestions and support, can only make Daboll – and by extension the offense – better this year.

I’m still not 100 percent sold on Mangini as head coach. He has a losing record in his career, made one playoff appearance as Jets coach with Herm Edwards players, and his only success in the NFL came in a supporting role to Bill Belichick.

But with the way the team is progressing and being rebuilt from top to bottom, I feel a whole lot better than I did at this time last year. The picture is starting to fill in around the edges and Browns fans once again have something to be optimistic about.

*Isn’t August really one of the worst months of the year? If you’re a kid, the start of school is just around the corner, it’s ridiculously hot, the Indians are generally out of the playoff race, the big family vacation is over, even the pool doesn’t hold the same appeal as it did in June and July. Thankfully the Premier League starts this weekend.

What’s the Next Move Dan?

“It’s a mess, ain’t it?

“If it ain’t, it will do until the mess gets here.

Now that Dan Gilbert has taken the easy path and fired Mike Brown, sacrificing him to appease the hoople heads, we’re left hoping that the next mess doesn’t arrive.

As we explained last week, firing a coach is the easy part. Terry Pluto made the same, correct point in today’s PD. Zydrunas and Mo Williams also agree.

Now Gilbert has to find the answer to the question: who are you going to hire? And if he can’t find someone who will produce better results than Brown, then what was the point, exactly? Brown was not only the most successful coach in franchise history, he was the sixth winningest coach in NBA history, percentage wise.

Read that sentence again. Only five other coaches in NBA history have had a better winning percentage than Brown. Think that will be easy to replace?

Brian Windhorst ran down a list of possible replacements in today’s PD: Other than Phil Jackson, who’s not coming to Cleveland, the list shouldn’t inspire confidence or excitement among the fan base. Consider the “accomplishments” of some of the names on that list:

  • Byron Scott, .498 winning percentage, only eight playoff wins in his last seven years as coach.
  • Dwayne Casey, .434, no playoff wins.
  • Maurice Cheeks, .498, five playoff wins.
  • Lawrence Frank, .483, no playoff wins in his last three years as coach.
  • Mike Fratello (please, no), 20-42 career playoff record, only two playoff wins in his last 10 years as a coach.
  • Sam Mitchell, .452, three playoff wins.
  • Terry Porter, .460, one playoff win.

You really want one of them running the team for the next three years – because, let’s face it, that’s about how long one of them would last if they were hired. Is there anyone on this list that gives fans any reason to hope that they will be the ones to lead the team to a championship?

And let’s not even go down the road that would end in disaster if the Cavs hired a college coach.

But I guess it’s not all bad. We still have Manny Acta (.385 career winning percentage) and Eric Mangini (.438) in the Cleveland coaching fraternity. That will put an extra hop in your step.

So now the search is on and Dan Gilbert faces the latest in a seemingly never-ending list of “most important decisions” facing the franchise.

“The expectations of this organization are very high,” Gilbert said Monday in published reports. “Although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment. This is one of those times.”

We have to all hope that Gilbert is correct. Who knows, maybe he is the owner that can break the championship drought that has hung over Cleveland for almost 46 years.

If not, there’s no telling what kind of mess the Cavs will find themselves in.

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