Following the Browns’ 5-11 season, most fans got what they wanted. Eric Mangini fired. Gone was the useless coach which freed up the organization to go after Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher and maybe even the walrus himself, Mike Holmgren would come downstairs and coach the team to the promised land.
Well, two weeks into the coaching search, those big name Head Coaches are yet to be found in Berea, OH. So where do we stand as of today with the search for the next Browns coach?
So far, Team President Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert have interviewed Falcons Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey and Rams Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Browns are interviewing Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell today (maybe even as we speak) and although they are rumored to be interested in Eagles Offensive Coordinator Mary Morningweg, the Eagles have stated that they have not yet received a request to interview him.
Where does all that leave us? I’ll give you a quick summary and update on each of the candidates to sort through the crap.
Mularkey was the 2nd candidate interviewed last week during the Falcons’ bye week.Mularkey has had great success as an offensive coordinator, and as you’ll notice, the recurring theme is that he is an offensive minded coach with ties to Holmgren and the West Coast Offense. The Falcons are one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and his abilities as a coordinator are not in question.
Mularkey was head coach in Buffalo from 2004-05 going 9-7 and 5-11 before resigning. Not great, not awful. There was no update on how the interview went or regarding the level of interest on either side.
Shurmur was interviewed last week in Berea and he has direct ties with GM Tom Heckert in Philadelphia. He runs the same version of the West Coast Offense that Holmgren perfected as Shurmur studied under Andy Reid (a Holmgren disciple).
Shurmur came into the interview with a strong recommendation from Reid for whom Holmgren and Heckert have enormous respect. Shurmur spent 9 seasons with the Eagles (7 as QB coach developing Donovan McNabb) and has received great praise for his work with Sam Bradford this season. Due to his strong ties with Holmgren and Heckert and his track record for developing young QB’s, Shurmur has emerged as the front-runner for the position.
I have my doubts about the legitimacy of this interview and not because I don’t think the Browns should seriously consider him. Fewell is a very good coach and he is poised to earn a head coaching job sooner than later. But Holmgren clearly wants an offensively minded coach with a West Coast background. I don’t believe Holmgren is giving serious consideration to Fewell, rather he is giving a good coach an interview (which gets his name out for other jobs) and satisfying the Rooney Rule which requires at least one minority candidate be interviewed for every Head Coaching vacancy.
Morningweg has obvious ties with the West Coast as well as with the Eagles which could make him a strong candidate. He has not been contacted and the Browns haven’t even sent in the paperwork to request an interview with him so I’m not sure how likely of a candidate he is. To me, he and Shurmur are fairly close to each other and if Shurmur blew their socks off like we’re hearing, why bother with Morningweg? Insiders still believe he will be interviewed by the Browns, but nothing has happened as of today.
That is the powerful list of coaching candidates that have been interviewed by the Browns as of today. So where are all the Super Bowl winning head coaches like Cowher and Gruden? Cowher has stated publicly that he won’t return to coaching until 2012 because he wants to spend time with his family. Gruden, at this time, doesn’t appear to be at all interested in coming back to the sidelines. Unless Holmgren can significantly persuade him, I doubt he even comes in for an interview.
So who’s the next best coach? Most believe the next best thing to a “Sexy Pick” is former Carolina Panthers Head Coach, John Fox. Fox is widely regarded as a very good NFL coach and although he has a defensive focus, he is highly regarded by Mike Holmgren. So far, no interview has been lined up, but if any of the big name head coaches are to come to Berea, I believe it will be Fox.
I don’t even mind that the Browns are staying away from the big time coaches that are out there whether it be there choice or the coach’s. I was never very high on Gruden and as we know Cowher is not coming back. And actually, the trend in the NFL is to get a good coordinator and take a chance on him as opposed to the retreads who have had previous Head Coaching experience. Look at Mike Tomlin, Raheem Morris, Mike Smith, Steve Spagnuolo, Todd Haley, Rex Ryan, Sean Payton, etc.
I still believe Eric Mangini is a good coach and he had the team on the right track, but he never stood a chance. Holmgren wanted someone from his tree, with the same philosophical beliefs and with the same focus. You can see exactly what Holmgren wants just from the initial pool of candidates. Mangini does not fit this profile and no matter what he did he was gone. I don’t agree with it, but if Holmgren had his mind made up, it’s better to cut ties now and bring in a guy you’re comfortable with for the next 5-10 years now than to waste any more time.
And hey, Shurmur fits the profile. Successful coordinator with a focus on offense and direct experience with the West Coast Offense. He’s young, appears to be smart, experienced, and Holmgren loves him. I know a lot of Browns fans will be disgusted if some guy they’ve never heard of, from the Rams with one of the worst offenses statistically gets the job when they were expecting Jon Gruden, but I love it. From what I can tell, I think he’d be a great fit. Obviously, I’m not privy to discussions with him to see how he can lead a team and all that, but he certainly fits the Holmgren profile more closely than anyone else.
I saw this story on Yahoo Sports and I can honestly say that ESPN has reached a new all-time low in integrity, professionalism, and basic human respect. In this clip, you’ll see anchor Hannah Storm and dwarf analyst, Adam Schefter openly celebrating the news of Eric Mangini’s firing on the air.
Take a look and tell me this isn’t one of the most disgusting and embarrassing displays you’ve ever seen by ESPN or any other network. Then I literally LOL’d when Hannah tried to cover it up at the end by saying that they weren’t meaning to make light of someone losing their job and having their whole family affected.
Maybe the ESPN executives should fire these two and we can sit around and cheer and have other network personalities high five and chest bump each other of pure enjoyment for someone else’s misery!
As the local media ratchets up their annual campaign to fire the Cleveland Browns Head Coach, and especially a local radio station which seems to have an inappropriate vendetta against Eric Mangini, I am going to make a case for why he should remain in place as the Browns Head Coach. Most fans have to rely on the professionalism and integrity of the media and assume what they see, hear, and read is accurate. Unfortunately, most media is incredibly biased and the truth takes a backseat to whatever agenda is on the forefront.
Honestly, if you listed to the local media in Cleveland, you would wonder why in the hell Mangini wasn’t fired last season. In fact, one local radio station did everything to lead listeners to believe that Mangini was assuredly going to be fired at the end of last season. But there are some realities that the local media will choose to ignore in order to push their agenda and vendetta.
So as a part of my case for Mangini, I’m going to debunk many of the media’s “platform arguments” that get repeated on nearly a daily basis.
One of the things I hear nearly every single day is that Mangini cannot be retained because he has an archaic and antiquated offensive philosophy that is in direct conflict with Mike Holmgren’s core beliefs. What people tend to forget, however, is that if a team that is severely deficient as far talent goes, tries to air it out like the Patriots or Saints, they will get blown out of the water on a weekly basis. Many will even point to Mangini’s idol, Bill Belichick and say that even the Hoody isn’t afraid to open up the offense and air it out. But did Belichick air it out before Tom Brady was Tom Brady? Did the Patriots have a high flying offense when they were in the building stages of their dynasty? Or even as they won 3 Super Bowls? No. Actually, the Patriots won their 3 Super Bowls based on running the football and playing stingy defense.
The Browns simply don’t have that much talent and while Colt McCoy has been promising, he’s not Tom Brady. Do you think the Browns could even stay close in a game with Jake Delhomme throwing 50 times? I don’t. For all the talk about this archaic & antiquated offensive system not being able to win in the NFL, one only needs to look to last season. Look at Mangini’s previous team, the New York Jets. Did they air it out 40 times a game? Did they even have an average passing game? Nope… but they played incredible defense and they ran the ball like crazy all the way to the AFC Championship game. People forget, but the Cincinnati Bengals swept the division and went to the playoffs last season because of an incredible running attack and great defense. Not because of Carson Palmer or Chad Ochocinco.
One of the biggest complaints last season was not just that the Browns lost, but the way in which they lost. The chief complaint was that they were not competitive and games were decided by halftime. Fast forward to this year, and the media has the same complaint. Not that the Browns are losing, but the WAY in which they are losing. Except this time, they’re complaining that they are losing close games. Nowhere is it even mentioned that they were so concerned with not being competitive last year and the Browns having a chance to win nearly every game at the end is completely ignored. That is revisionist history and is a key indicator for a vendetta.
But if the Browns threw it all across the yard without having the proper personnel and foundation in place, they would assuredly lose by 20 points a game. Instead, they played smart football that best fits the personnel that is currently in place and they were able to come extremely close to getting a few more wins against the likes of the New York Jets who are a playoff team.
Is Mangini or the coaching staff perfect? Of course not. Should they have performed better against some of the weaker teams like Buffalo and Cincinnati? Yes, but I don’t think people realize just how shallow this roster is. Ask any NFL coach how he would do if he lost his top 2 QB’s and had to rely on a 3rd string, rookie QB who wasn’t slated to play all season for a large part of the year. Ask a coach how he would do with an aging, injured, Jake Delhomme for the majority of the rest of the games. Ask a coach how he would do with literally one productive running back for an entire NFL season. Ask a coach how he would do without a #1 or even a #2 NFL WR on the roster for the entire season. Ask a coach how he would do with no true edge rushers or interior presence on defense.
People think Mangini refuses to move the ball through the air because he’s philosophically opposed to it. That is a flat out lie and people who say that are uninformed, stupid, or driving an agenda. Just look at how the Steelers and Ravens have evolved as their personnel has changed. Both were built on a power running game and great defense and both have evolved into efficient and dangerous aerial attacks. Why? Not a coaching change (yes, both had coaching changes, but the shift in paradigm began long before in Pittsburgh and after in Baltimore)… But personnel.
As the teams gained confidence in their young QB’s and surrounded them with weapons, the passing games evolved. It’s not rocket science, but the local media in Cleveland will lead you to believe that everything is static. That because Mangini believes that the best chance to win with the roster he has right now is to control the ball and keep the game close that it means that will always be the plan and that he is philosophically opposed to an aggressive, attacking offense. That’s asinine and completely false.
I don’t think people realize just how messed up this roster was when Mangini took it over from Romeo Crennel. For Romeo’s entire stint, the defensive roster was stuck half way between a 4-3 defense and half way between a 3-4 defense. Despite Romeo’s wishes, Phil Savage insisted on acquiring players best suited for a 4-3 defense. Mangini is STILL trying to solidify the identity of the roster on both sides of the ball as most of the offensive players from the previous regime aren’t even on the roster any longer.
The media will also gladly point to the disaster of a draft that was lead by Mangini in 2009. Yes, it was a complete disaster. They tend to forget, however, that they also agree that a coach should not have responsibilities over both the football team and the 53 man roster. Recent history shows us that even the best football minds simply cannot juggle the two responsibilities at the same time. So if we agree that Mangini should not have been put in charge of the entire draft that season to begin with, then it’s irrelevant. Was it awful? Yes! But it never should have happened and it will never happen again going forward so it shouldn’t be relevant in the analysis. Period.
The media has also pointed out several times that Browns fans shouldn’t be patient with the team or Mangini as there are other examples of quick turnarounds in the NFL. Yes there are, but none that are apples to apples. People want to point to Kansas City or St. Louis this season and wonder why it needs to take the Browns 3 seasons to improve. Well, if you take 2 seconds and use your brain, think about the divisions that these teams all play in. Do you think it’s easier to improve in the AFC & NFC West or in the AFC North against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati? The roster situations are also not equal in most examples as this again demonstrates that most people don’t realize how bad the Browns roster is from top to bottom. Sure, there are tons of bright spots, but the holes that do exist are huge and it’s amazing to me how well Eric Mangini has done in covering them up when you think about it.
There are other deficiencies in the coaching staff, sure. But most can be attributed the coaches trying to cover up for the holes in the roster. Last week the local media went crazy about the Browns clock management to end the first half. Mangini made it clear that he was trying to minimize the time remaining for the Ravens because he doesn’t trust his defense. The media will lead you to believe that this is how Mangini will always operate, regardless of talent.
No, Mangini made this decision because of the holes on the defenses. That was the best decision to keep his team in the game. Period. To even suggest, let alone state as fact that he is philosophically fixed toward these types of conservative decisions is disingenuous and incorrect. Mangini is charged with making the best decisions that give his team a chance to win. Look at the roster. Bill Belichick would coach this exact team much, much differently than he coaches his current Patriots roster. That’s just a fact and unfortunately, it’s a fact that most fans won’t realize because of the media agenda. If you don’t think Mangini would coach the team differently as he gets more talent, you’re probably not looking at it objectively.
If you have a personal dislike for Mangini, which many people do, that’s fine. But please don’t fall into the trap that the local media has set for 2 years now. Is Mangini perfect? Absolutely not. But he’s a damn good coach and he has tried to the right thing by building this team with a solid structure and foundation instead of mortgaging the team’s future in an attempt to win right away. In the long-term, the team will be better off on the course Mangini has set us on and I honestly hope he gets a chance to see it through. The Browns have had a new Head Coach literally every other year since their return to the NFL in 1999. Just look at the Steelers to see what stability, patience, and longevity can do for a franchise.
Is it possible that Mike Holmgren moves on Eric Mangini? Sure. But it won’t be because he doesn’t think Mangini will allow an effective offensive game. It won’t be because he thinks Mangini is too conservative. If there is a guy that Holmgren has a relationship with (i.e., Jon Gruden) and thinks that he just cannot pass up the chance to lock him up, then he might make a move and I can’t blame him for that. But I can guarantee you that he’s not going to make a change because he thinks Mangini will coach the team exactly the same way no matter what roster he has to work with. Eric Mangini is a good football coach and he’s an incredibly intelligent man. If given the requisite time, he will continue to build this team the right way alongside Mike Holmgren.
There is a rumor in Cleveland that Colin Cowherd, who I believe is an elitist, self-important douche, reported earlier this morning that he has “inside information” that Cleveland Browns Head Coach, Eric Mangini will be fired today. His “source” says that Mike Holmgren will announce the firing at 3:00 today in a press conference. I did not hear or see anything from Cowherd, but that’s the rumor that’s circulating.
I don’t think it’s accurate as I would be highly shocked if Mangini is fired during the season, but I will say that there is something going on in Berea today. I heard a rumor earlier that Mangini’s weekly presser was delayed from 10:30 AM to 3 PM and now to 4 PM which would indicate something is up.
There is no question that the Browns looked very bad yesterday in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as they wasted countless opportunities following 6 Jaguars’ turnovers.
The rumor states that Mike Holmgren is extremely displeased with the way the team responded to two marquee wins and he’s disgusted with the coaching. I would find it hard to believe that Holmgren isn’t extremely disappointed in the coaching and overall performance yesterday, but I’ll be shocked if Mangini is fired today.
With Rob Ryan quickly becoming a hot commodity due to his success and creativity as a Defensive Coordinator and due to his brother, Rex’s success as a Head Coach, it’s widely believed that IF the Browns were to cut ties with Mangini that Rob Ryan would take over on an interim basis.
Mike Holmgren has made it clear that he wants to coach again, which is also driving speculation around town. No one is sure if Holmgren desires to roam to the sidelines in Cleveland, wait out his current contract with the team, or coach somewhere else and leave before the expiration of his contract as President of the Browns.
The Browns went from one of the hottest teams in the NFL a couple weeks ago to now one of the more hectic as rumors are circulating about Eric Mangini and Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll who has taken as much heat as anyone for his play calling.
Ever since Colt McCoy busted onto the NFL scene earlier this season, all the talk has been about why Colt McCoy is a great fit and the possible savior for the Cleveland Browns. And after his first 4 starts in the NFL, rightfully so. McCoy has been outstanding and while he hasn’t, and won’t fill out the stat sheet any time soon, he has been incredible. In his first four games against some of the NFL’s top teams at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, and at home against the Patriots and Jets, McCoy has displayed incredible confidence, poise, and control of his team.
Many people expected Colt McCoy to demonstrate great leadership, work ethic and have a great understanding of the game and of the offense cerebrally. What I and most everyone else was concerned with, however, was the physical attributes. McCoy is listed at 6′ 1″, 215 lbs but I’m not sure he’s that big. Obviously there are some QB’s in the NFL who get away without being 6’6″ like Drew Brees and Mike Vick, but they are few and far between and they each have incredible physical tools. McCoy was not only facing height and durability issues, but his arm strength was in question as well.
From what I saw in the spread offense at Texas, McCoy was mostly limited to a short, controlled passing game. This helped him to have an incredible accuracy rating, but it also lead me to believe that the coaching staff was hiding Colt’s arm strength, or lack thereof. But from what I’ve seen so far in the first 4 games, his arm is just fine. He’s obviously not going to be confused with Mike Vick or Peyton Manning, or Jay Cutler in terms of arm strength, but he has made all the requisite throws with great success. He also threw the ball exceptionally well in a tough wind against the Patriots. The same wind that gave the “Golden Boy”, Tom Brady trouble.
But for all the benefit Colt McCoy has already provided to the Browns organization, I believe the Cleveland Browns are the perfect fit for both the short-term and long-term development and success of Colt McCoy.
5. Mike Holmgren:
Mike Holmgren has had great success in his career in identifying and developing QB’s. His career began under Bill Walsh with the historically great San Francisco 49ers and he has continually developed and modified the West Coast Offense to fit his current team. When Colt McCoy slipped out of the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, he was nearly an afterthought. Holmgren himself, thought that McCoy would be taken well before he had an opportunity to get him and was obviously pleasantly surprised to see him available in the 3rd round. When no one else believed in Colt, Holmgren saw something he loved and staked the future of the Browns’ franchise on his evaluation of the young QB.
Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, they have had one fringe NFL QB after another, most of whom went on to prove that they’re not legitimate NFL QB’s. But Mike Holmgren saw the future of the Cleveland Browns in Colt McCoy and so far he looks to be a genius, yet again.
Holmgren’s confidence and support of Colt McCoy not only brought him to Cleveland, but it will go a long way to reinforce Colt’s position and leadership role on the team. Aside from QB, the biggest other area the Browns have been missing is consistent and credible leadership in the front office. Holmgren obviously brings this and he sets the tone for the entire organization.
In addition, while Holmgren isn’t taking an active role in coaching or game planning (as of today), his offensive philosophies are certainly being absorbed by the Browns’ young coaching staff. Holmgren’s offensive system is proven and is a perfect match for McCoy’s skillset. Colt is mobile, accurate, and intelligent and that is a perfect fit for the West Coast Offense. It remains to be seen if Holmgren will leave the Browns for another Head Coaching job, complete his current contract and obligations to the Browns, or come down to the sidelines in Cleveland. But his presence and influence is a huge benefit to the development and success of Colt McCoy.
4. Mark Sanchez Effect:
Ok, WTF is the Mark Sanchez Effect, right? If you look at the way the Jets have developed Mark Sanchez, I believe they have actually stunted his growth. Sanchez was fortunate to land on a very good team that is stacked with talent. Unfortunately though, the Jets are so good that they’ve forced Sanchez to be nothing more than a game manager. They’ve put so much pressure on Sanchez to “not screw it up” that he hasn’t been able to develop. They have handcuffed him so much that he’s only slightly better than in his rookie year.
There are other QB’s who have the unfortunate luck of landing on horrible teams, with no talent, and little chance for success. The first Browns QB, Tim Couch, is one such instance. He was drafted by the Browns to be the face of the new franchise, but they forgot to put pieces around him. It remains unknown at this point, if Couch had the talent to play in the NFL or not. He had literally no offensive line, no weapons, and poor organizational structure.
To me, the best situation for a young QB to learn and develop is on a team somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and the Browns happen to be very close to exactly in the middle. They have a great leadership and knowledge structure in the front office with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert and despite some criticism, they have a very good, young coaching staff. Eric Mangini was oft criticized in New York and in his first year in Cleveland but seems to be getting better each week. We’ve often seen that Head Coaches learn from their first job and come back with great success on their second chance. I believe Mangini was trying to be TOO MUCH like his mentor, Bill Belichick in the past and he’s now, albeit slowly, starting to let his true style and personality take over.
With a good structure in the front office and in the coaching staff, the Browns have been able to slowly acquire a good foundation of talent on the field. The 2010 Draft, while too early to give a final grade, looks like a complete homerun at this point. Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Colt McCoy have been significant contributors and playmakers already in their rookie year and look to fit well with the team’s long-term plans. With just one or two more drafts like this, the Browns will be well positioned to compete in the AFC North.
A significant part to the good, young coaching staff I mentioned, is Defensive Coordinator, Rob Ryan. As we know, he is the son of defensive legend, Buddy Ryan and the brother of current defensive genius, Rex Ryan. Rob certainly has the pedigree and as he obtains better personnel, he is slowly beginning to put the league on notice.
The Browns defense has significant deficiencies, but they have shown great promise int he 2010 season. Rob Ryan has shown his creativity and scheming as he’s acquired personnel to fit his system. The Browns defense is still very weak in the secondary with Eric Wright being beaten, battered and abused on a weekly basis, but they have a great young foundation with Ward and Haden. The linebackers have great experience and leadership, but they’re lacking a young, difference making linebacker. If Rob Ryan ever gets a James Harrison type pass rushing linebacker, look out.
The defensive line is solid and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but they don’t make a lot of plays either. Despite having the once dominant, Shaun Rogers, the line isn’t all that disruptive. Rogers has had continual attitude problems and really hasn’t shown his true ability. The 3-4 defense Ryan employs doesn’t call for a lot of speed or require great production in terms of sacks from the D-Line, but it certainly calls for athleticism and disruptive plays. Something they currently lack.
Despite the deficiencies, the scheme and system that Ryan has implemented has lead to surprising success for the Browns. They forced Drew Brees into 4 INTs and forced Tom Brady to look like an average QB at best. They can be exposed, at times, due to the holes in the personnel and due to the high risk scheme, but this defense will only get better and, as we know, some of the best friends a young QB can have is a strong defense, and a good running game.
2. Peyton Hillis:
And that leads me to the next item, Peyton Hillis. The Browns acquired Peyton Hillis from the Denver Broncos in an off-season trade for Brady Quinn.
**Pause for laughter**
Mike Holmgren should be ashamed of himself for taking advantage of the clearly handicapped, Josh McDaniels. McDaniels has traded off his best players since arriving in Denver, shipping off Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Peyton Hillis. While there can be an arugment made for Marshall and Cutler as they both have some character issues, Peyton Hillis has been nothing but a model player for the Browns.
Hillis has quickly become a fan favorite and has received a lot of national attention for his production and punishing running style. Mangini has made it clear that he wants to utilize his solid offensive line and physical running backs to punish the defense and control the game and he has done just that. Hillis has been incredible all season with 726 yards and 8 TDs and he single handedly destroyed the Patriots with 184 yards rushing.
It’s been said before and it remains true; one of the best friends of a young QB is a good running back and a good running attack. Hillis is a young, and developing star in the NFL and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to perform for the Browns which will obviously help the development of Colt McCoy. The establishment and threat of a dominant running game will only play to the strength of McCoy who brings incredibly mobility and a great ability to pass with accuracy on the run. Hillis will help McCoy and the play-action passing game and McCoy’s ability to beat the best NFL defenses through the air will help Hillis as defenses won’t be able to completely stack the box as they did when Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace were under center.
This should be a great partnership for years to come and the two should help each other out tremendously over the coming years.
1. Offensive Line:
Even though it’s not sexy or popular, success in the NFL begins and ends in the trenches. And for a young QB, and for any offense in the NFL, success begins and ends with the offensive line. Is the Browns’ offensive line the best in the NFL? No. But it is a very good, young O-line that will only get better. The left side of the line is forged for years to come with perennial Pro-Bowl Left Tackle, Joe Thomas, solid LG, Eric Steinbach, and solid, young Center, Alex Mack. The Browns drafted a very good, young RG in Shawn Lauvao who, if not for injury, would be starting as a rookie. The weak link at this point is RT, and while they’ve gotten some solid play by committee, they will surely look to bring in another strong piece via free agency or through the draft.
The left side of the line has been able to play together for 2 years now and, it’s been shown that cohesiveness and experience of an offensive line as a unit is one of the keys to success. The best lines in the NFL are continually those with talent, and who play together on a regular basis. As we know, the offensive line has to work together as a true unit on pass protection schemes and run blocking schemes.
There is no reason to believe that the Browns won’t complete the offensive line with an addition to RT and the line should be able to develop and improve on their already strong play. Despite the holes and youth, the Browns O-Line has been one of its strongest units and it has, and should continue to play well for years to come.
There have been countless young QB’s who have failed in the NFL because of a weak offensive line. Colt McCoy, while missing some playmakers on offense, at least has a great foundation at offensive line. The line, obviously, has done a great job of protecting him and keeping him upright which has allowed him to trust his protection and focus on reading the defense and keeping his eyes down the field instead of on the rush.
McCoy has been able to utilize his very good line and running game to have early success despite lacking a legitimate #1 or maybe even #2 WR. McCoy has been forced to utilize his very good TE’s in Ben Watson and Evan Moore more than his WR’s. While the TE’s are another huge benefit for McCoy both short-term and long-term, there is no doubt that he needs some playmakers and difference makers on the outside if he’s going to take the steps that the Browns need him to take.
So while some QB’s have been placed in unfortunate positions with little to no talent in the most critical areas, and while some QB’s have landed on great teams but have been forced to slow down their development, Colt McCoy is in a great position in Cleveland. The team isn’t so bad that he will get beaten up and has absolutely zero help. The team isn’t so good that he will be forced to just hand the ball off and check it down all the time which doesn’t allow him to develop as a passer, a QB, and a leader. The team is just good enough that he has enough talent around him to develop and isn’t quite good enough that it really matters if he makes mistakes.
Even though the Browns have shaken up the NFL with some marquee wins over the past month, they’re not yet a playoff team. They dug far too deep of a hole in their division with great teams like the Steelers and Ravens and no matter what some local homers will say, they’re not a playoff team yet. So as long as Mangini has the confidence of Mike Holmgren to earn another year, McCoy can really develop with no fear of mistakes and no real consequences.
So far, he’s been able to learn on the job and actually perform and beat some very good teams. But there will undoubtedly be instances where he makes mistakes that hurt his team’s chances at a win. It’s natural for a rookie QB with limited weapons. But the important thing is that it won’t really hurt the Browns and they can continue to let him learn on the job and develop and next year when they (hopefully) acquire some more weapons for the kid, he and they, will be that much better off for the future.
The Cleveland Browns, long-time cellar dwellers have made national waves in the past few weeks after dominating the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. The Saints, of course, are the defending SuperBowl Champions and the Patriots at the time, were considered the best team in the NFL. So how did the Browns, who have been mostly a joke since their return to the NFL in 1999 turn their season around? It’s obviously not due to just one thing, but one big reason is Colt McCoy.
McCoy, Mike Holmgren‘s handpicked third round QB got his first start at Pittsburgh due to injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. McCoy immediately showed incredible poise, confidence, and accuracy and while the Browns lost to the Steelers, they were certainly in the game and McCoy gave the team reason for hope. Going into the SuperDome to face the Saints, McCoy was unspectacular, but again demonstrated incredible poise. And while the defense was the story, picking Drew Brees off 4 times and returning 2 for TD’s, McCoy’s presence gave the offense just enough and he managed the game effectively enough to escape with a great win.
Then, facing his third straight SuperBowl winning QB in Tom Brady, McCoy actually outplayed the Golden Boy as the Browns manhandled the Patriots. For the first time in years, there was a real buzz around northeast Ohio going into the game against the Jets. And with all the national attention, it honestly felt like a playoff game as we approached gameday.
Then you had more subplots than I recall in any single game. We had Mangini vs. his former team who fired him. We had several former Jets going against their former team, and you had a couple former Browns going against their former team. Specifically, Braylon Edwards who was shipped out of town last year due to his constant poor play, big mouth, and divisive behavior. Braylon was sure to stir things up after the Jets squeaked out a win last week in overtime against the Lions. Almost immediately following the game, Braylon tweeted (http://bit.ly/90TSDi) directly to Cleveland fans that he would be coming back and advised fans to “get their damn popcorn ready, I’m going to put on a show”.
Braylon always likes to talk, but it would have been nice if he could have at least come up with something original. Braylon kept it going all week as he told reporters how he hated Cleveland (http://bit.ly/adaAVY) and how he wanted to dance in Mangini’s office when he was told of the trade to New York. But as we know, we should’ve expected nothing less from Edwards.
Finally, and most entertaining, we had the Ryan brothers. Rex Ryan, the Jets Head Coach and Rob Ryan, the Browns Defensive Coordinator are twin brothers whose father is the defensive legend, Buddy Ryan. The two joked back and forth all week and the highlight included Rex dressing up like Rob (http://bit.ly/9oB4oe) and putting a “Bounty” on his brother’s head.
Going into the game, the Browns were yet again an underdog as they faced their 4th straight top level team, but it was evident early on that the Browns were not intimidated. From the beginning of the game, the Browns played physical, tough football and the Jets and the Browns traded blows as the Jets took a 17-14 lead into the half. Yet again, Peyton Hillis was spectacular in the first half and Colt McCoy played very good football against the incredible Jets defense.
One of the first half highlights, or lowlights depending on your perspective is when Braylon Edwards caught a short pass and was met by Sheldon Brown and then T.J. Ward and other Browns. Sheldon Brown injured his shoulder on the play and Braylon was apparently upset that he was tackled. As he got up he threw a semi-punch at Eric Wright and could be heard screaming at the injured Sheldon Brown to “Get yo ass up” (http://bit.ly/b39wKy).
Also of note, after the Browns opened up a 10-3 lead following a Peyton Hillis TD run, they tried to fool the Jets and attempted an onside kick. It appeared to catch everyone off-guard, including some of the Browns special teams players and it was ultimately unsuccessful.
The Jets received the ball to start the 3rd quarter and it was a LONG, ugly 3rd quarter for the Browns. The Jets drove the ball down the field, controlling the ball for 19 plays and what felt like 10 minutes. Fortunately for the Browns, however, Nick Folk missed the FG and the Jets walked away with no points to show for their efforts. Colt McCoy and the Browns then went 3 and out as the Jets made some 2nd half defensive adjustments and the Jets held the ball for a long, impressive drive yet again. The Jets would convert on a FG to bring the score to 20-13.
The Browns went 3 and out yet again, but were able to ultimately hold the Jets and get the ball back with just over 2 minutes to go. While the Browns had a chance, needing a TD with your rookie QB against the Jets defense was going to be a tall order. McCoy came through, however, driving the team down the field and eventually hooking up with Mohammed Massaquoi for a TD. During the drive McCoy made 2 incredibly gutsy throws. One where he fit a pass in between two Jets into Ben Watson. The second, McCoy went right after the great Darrelle Revis and threw a strike to Evan Moore, setting them up for the TD pass.
Both teams were content going into overtime and the Jets ran out the clock in regulation. The Jets won the coin toss and received the ball but were forced to punt. McCoy drove the Browns against the Jets defense and were on the edge of Phil Dawson‘s FG range. Just as McCoy hit Chansi Stuckey inside of FG range, Stuckey fought for extra yards and fumbled, squandering a golden opportunity.
The Browns defense played tough and came extremely close to sacking Sanchez as Shaun Rogers had a great shot at him, but he seemed to escape each and every time. Sanchez ultimately lead the Jets into FG range and gave his struggling kicker a 48 yard attempt to win the game. Folk, however, missed his 3rd FG of the day and the Browns, again, had life.
McCoy moved the ball and the Browns were yet again on the edge of FG range, but after JUST missing on a deep ball, the Browns were forced to punt it away. The Jets were backed up deep in their own territory and the Browns again just missed a sack on Sanchez. He somehow escaped almost EVERY time the Browns got a hand on him. He hit Ladanian Tomlinson for a 21 yard gain to get them out of trouble and then Sanchez connected on a pass over the middle to Dustin Keller bringing them out to midfield.
The Jets then committed a holding penalty as the clock ticked below 2 minutes. The overtime rules dictate that if there is not a winner at the end of the overtime period, the game will result in a tie. The two teams that have been so evenly matched all day, were still deadlocked and it appeared that there was a legitimate chance that it would result in a tie.
On 3rd & 14, Sanchez dropped back against a 2 man rush, threw it deep to Braylon Edwards and Joe Haden came away with an interception inside the 5. It was basically a 50/50 ball and had the same results as a great punt.
The Browns took over on their own 4 with 1:35 left. McCoy dropped back and just missed an open Ben Watson over the middle. Peyton Hillis carried the ball out over the 5 yard line on 2nd down as the clock ticked below 1 minute left. On 3rd and 8, the McCoy was forced to take their first timeout as the play didn’t make it in. As McCoy dropped back on 3rd down, he was nearly sacked by Jason Taylor which would’ve ended the game.
The Browns now needed to get off a punt out of their own endzone and stop the Jets from getting into FG range with 35 seconds left. Reggie Hodges got off a great punt, but the Jets were able to return it to the Browns 37 yard line. On the first play, Santonio Holmes beat the Browns cornerback and broke a quick slant for a touchdown with only 16 seconds left. Eric Wright, yet again, was completely dusted and this time it lead directly to a Browns loss.
It was a great effort and a hard fought game for the Browns, but I cannot comprehend why Rob Ryan had Eric Wright matched up on Santionio Holmes, the Jets best WR, all day. Wright has struggled mightily all season as he was absolutely abused by Anquan Boldin and just about every WR he faced this season. Holmes abused Wright earlier in the game as Wright was called for a pass interference play where he was beat badly. Now, with the game on the line, Wright lets Santonio Holmes waltz right into the endzone.
The Browns have made great strides over the past few weeks, but today’s game shows us that there are still some massive holes in the team. They are well coached, they’re a tough, physical team with a lot of talent, but they’re not quite good enough to make those type of mistakes and win. They had that game won a couple times and at the very least, they should’ve come away with a tie. And as bad as Eric Wright has been this year and today and on that play, I can’t put the loss entirely on his shoulders. The Browns had opportunities to win and Rob Ryan should never have put him in that position in the first place. Rob Ryan’s hand was forced, however, as Sheldon Brown was out with an injury and Brown would likely have been on Holmes if not for the injury.
I realize Ryan didn’t have his full arsenal, but after watching Eric Wright get beat like a mouthy hooker all year, you have to try something other than leaving him to cover a former SuperBowl MVP in Santonio Holmes.
Although Eric Mangini is up to his old tricks with the cloak and dagger QB selection, there is good news for Cleveland Browns fans heading into the much anticipated matchup with the New York Jets. For those familiar with Eric Mangini, he rarely, if ever, actually names a starting QB ahead of time as he thinks it provides some competitive advantage. No one actually believes that it does anything except irritate the media, fans, and probably his QB’s, but he insists on continuing this practice so he can meet his weekly quota of Belichick-style moves.
Mangini is taking full advantage of Seneca Wallace‘s return to practice this week following an ankle injury so he can drag out the decision to name a starting QB. The good news for Browns fans, however, is that he has done everything but name Colt McCoy the starter this week against the Jets. Colt McCoy has received the large majority of the reps at practice and Seneca Wallace has received the normal allotment typically given to the backup.
Colt McCoy has gained favor of the fans, media, and Browns players after 3 strong performances against the Steelers, Saints, and Patriots where he lead the Browns to victory in 2 out of 3 games (which happens to be twice the number of wins they had until Colt got the nod). Browns fans and probably some players were a bit nervous because no one really knows what Mangini will do on a weekly basis. It would take incredible nerve to bench Colt McCoy after 3 strong performances to go back to Seneca Wallace who has been average at best this season and is a career backup. But as Browns fans know…. you just never know with Mangini.
He refuses to say it, but Mangini has essentailly named McCoy as the unofficial, unconfirmed, double top secret starting QB for the game against the Jets. Mangini continues to give McCoy the starters’ share of the reps and he has indicated that he’s leaning towards starting McCoy on Sunday. This is about as strong as a statement as you’re ever going to get from Mangini regarding a starting QB. For Mangini, this is the equivalent of getting Colt McCoy’s face tattooed on his ASS!
We’ll see if Mangini continues to go with the rookie for the rest of the year and I think it’ll largely depend on his performance against the Jets. If McCoy is able to play at least solidly against the Jets vaunted defense, I don’t think there is any way Mangini can go back to Wallace or Delhomme. If he struggles and looks like a rookie, however, it’ll open up the discussions again and Mangini might be tempted to go back to his veterans.
Eric Mangini has had quite a roller coaster ride during his young NFL career. Mangini has been on SuperBowl winning teams in New England, he’s been the up and coming pupil to defensive genius Bill Belichick, and he’s been an NFL Head Coach for two different franchises. He has also experienced an incredible falling out with his mentor as the two now completely despise each other, he’s been forced to endure a horrible start to his coaching stint in Cleveland, and he has had his job security questioned for what seems like each week of his tenure with Cleveland.
After successfully leading Belichick’s defense and landing the Head Coaching job in New York, the young head coach was often dubbed the “Mangenius”. But after he began to struggle in New York, resulting in being fired and after an 0-11 start in Cleveland, he was quickly dubbed the “Mangina” by many fans. Of course, his Belichickian attitude with reporters and complete lack of personality didn’t help his cause in either NY or Cleveland. But how can a guy go from being widely considered to be a genius, someone Belichick trusted and believed in, to a complete moron? Easy, coach the Cleveland Browns!
We all know that the Browns have been an awful franchise for quite a long time. Well before Mangini arrived in replacement of Romeo Crennel. In all honestly, the man didn’t (and still doesn’t to some degree) have much to work with when he began in Cleveland. He inherited a roster full of players drafted to fit a previous regime’s system and strategic plan and one that had more holes than most teams in the NFL. I don’t think there was any question about his intelligence and abilities as it relates to X’s and O’s and strategy. The question in my mind, has always been whether or not he was solely meant to be a coordinator (and a good one at that), like Romeo Crennel. His personality and perceived mismanagement of certain players and situations drew some legitimate concerns about his ability to be a good NFL head coach.
It remains to be seen if he can build a legitimate contender in the NFC North and in the NFL in general, but after completely restructuring his roster to fit his scheme and long-term plan and thanks in part to some savvy front office moves by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, Mangini is well back on track to being considered the Mangenius again. It’s particularly amusing that the Browns have been completely written off and disrespected by the national media for years. Look, they’ve been awful so I understand it to some degree. But after a couple big wins against some of the NFL’s best, it’s amusing just how fast the ESPN’s of the world are jumping on the Browns’ bandwagon, literally slurping them all night last night and today.
Mangini most likely saved his job last year by finishing the season on a 5 game winning streak and after losing a couple games that the Browns could have won to start the 2010 season, his seat was immediately scalding hot. Now I’m not always right, but I’ve been saying all year that as a coach I think Mangini has been doing a good job with what he has and I love the direction and long-term plan for the franchise. It’s obviously going to take some time to rebuild this thing the right way after years of mismanagement and horrendous decisions. The team is quite honestly playing above anyone’s expectations and they’re actually ahead of the pace for turning the team around.
Obviously there are still some glaring holes and deficiencies on the team, but I think Mangini and his staff have done an incredible job minimizing the negative plays due to these holes and most importantly, they’ve established themselves as the more physical team in all but one football game this year. For all the rules changes helping the passing game and protecting offensive players, football still usually comes down to who can be the more physical team and who can just smack teams in the mouth. Browns fans saw the result of this style of play yesterday against the much more talented New England Patriots who were largely regarded as the best team in the NFL.
There is no question that this game meant a lot to Eric Mangini as he was facing his former team and his former mentor and friend who hates his guts now. Yesterday’s game might quite honestly have been Eric Mangini’s SuperBowl this season as it’s likely the most joy he’ll get out of any victory all season. For all the people who are now discussing Browns playoffs hopes, please stop. Look, the team is playing incredibly well beating the Saints and the Patriots in back to back games in deciding fashion. But the reality is, the team is 3-5 and dug far too deep of a hole given the division and conference they play in.
The AFC North is one of the better divisions in football and the Steelers and Ravens are not only great teams, but they got off to great starts. That essentially rules out any hopes of winning the division and we know whichever team doesn’t win the division, will take one of the two Wild Card spots. Then you just have to look at the AFC East, which is an incredibly deep and talented division as well with the Jets and Patriots getting off to incredible starts. Same logic holds here as whichever team doesn’t win will almost assuredly take the 2nd and last Wild Card spot. Even if the Browns get hot, they’re not going to be able to make up enough ground to knock out these teams. They would literally need to win at least 7 of their last 8 games to have a chance and while I’m ecstatic at their recent play, I can’t see that happening.
Who knows how the season will end up and if the Browns can continue this incredible run. Keep in mind that even in the games they lost, they were often the more physical team and were competitive in each game. There are going to be games they lose for a while just due to lack of talent and not related to lack of effort, scheme or coaching. It’s just going to take some time to build the roster appropriately and develop existing players. I just hope that Mangini has shown that he knows what he’s doing, his “system” is starting to pay dividends, and he can get these guys to play hard, fast and smart. I know Holmgren wants to coach, but Mangini has shown that he deserves a chance to continue to build this team and I can’t wait to see what he and his staff can do with the team as it acquires more talent and continues to develop some of the great young talent like McCoy, Hillis, Ward, Haden, etc.
Perception can change on a dime in the NFL for good or for bad, but I think Mangini has successfully moved away from the Mangina tag and back toward the Mangenius tag that he once held. If the Browns can continue to play this type of physical football, running the ball, playing incredible defense, and with smart QB play, they will be a tough team to beat for the rest of the year. If they’re able to add just a couple of key pieces in the off-season, they should continue to grow as a team and they could be a force for years to come much sooner than we all thought.
The “Big Show”, Mike Holmgren
Yesterday in Berea, Browns President of Football Operations, Mike Holmgren held a press conference that felt very much like a mid-season State of the Browns address. While Holmgren touched on many areas, there are a handful in particular that noteworthy.
When asked about the team’s decision regarding which QB to start going forward, Holmgren quickly deferred to Mangini saying that it was a coaching decision and he would not be involved. He went on, however, to praise Colt McCoy‘s efforts in his first 2 NFL games, said that he was “proud” of him and was very pleased with his poise and ability to handle the pressure and lead the team. Keep in mind that McCoy was handpicked by Mike Holmgren in the draft and Holmgren has made a living working with and developing young QB’s (Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck). While it is my belief that Mangini will go back to Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme when healthy, listening to Holmgren gave me the impression that he would rather see McCoy get some work for the rest of the season.
Holmgren was asked about the Browns’ interest in acquiring Randy Moss and he quickly, but politely shut down any possibility of the notion. This really shouldn’t be a surprise given the team’s recent actions in parting ways with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow as well as the fact that while Moss would certainly be the team’s best WR, they’re not going to make the playoffs so what is really the point of putting up with the circus and paying the roughly $3M in salary for the rest of the season. Holmgren said specifically that “the team would continue to focus on developing it’s young receivers”. The same young receivers that have been mostly, and in some instances, totally disappointing. In the 2009 draft, Eric Mangini made the decision to select Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie in the second round (both were considered reaches). While Massaquoi has at least been on the field and made SOME plays, Robiskie has been largely absent and irrelevant in Cleveland. Holmgren also defended these WR’s citing the team’s different scheme and philosophy in focusing most of its passing game in the middle of the field to the TE’s and RB’s as opposed to outside the numbers to its WR’s. Now I have tremendous respect for Holmgren, but this is BS. Say what you want…. these two are just not getting it done. It’s also my belief that the reduced targets outside the numbers are more a result of not having playmakers at WR than just solely scheme differences. Yes, Mangini certainly wants to run the ball and utilize his TE’s, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t want to take advantages of mismatches on the outside (if he had any).
Holmgren was also asked about Eric Mangini’s and the team’s performance to date in the 2010 NFL season. While Holmgren provided his typical “coach-speak” answer indicating that he wouldn’t make any evaluations or determinations until after the season, it certainly seemed to me that he is frustrated with the team’s performance. When asked about the most promising and most frustrating parts of the season, he cited the same answer for both which was the team’s ability to be competitive in every game but only coming through with a victory in two games. Holmgren certainly didn’t give any clear indications on his true feelings about Mangini, but it’s my opinion that he’s lukewarm at best on the Coach. We know they have certain philosophical differences in terms of style of offense and defense and it would seem based on the 09 draft as compared to the ’10 draft that they have the same differences in the types of players they want. Obviously the scheme and system will to direct to some extent what type of player is selected, but even in addition to that, there seems to be some variance.
Let me say that I by no means believe Mangini should be fired. I think he’s done a pretty good job in turning around the culture of the team in terms of physicality, toughness, and finding an identity. There are some tactical decisions that I don’t think have been handled correctly, but overall, I think he’s done fairly well with what he has to work with. But I get the impression that Holmgren isn’t all that pleased and it wouldn’t take that much to sway him into making a coaching change in the off-season. I don’t think there is any way Mangini doesn’t finish the year, but if he struggles and ends up with less than 5 wins (which is entirely possible), it will start to get very interesting. If Mangini keeps the team competitive and they squeak out another marquee win or two against teams they shouldn’t beat, the finish to the season as well as the pending lockout might be enough to keep him in place. If he struggles at all, however, Holmgren may look to make a move. I don’t know at this point what move, if any Holmgren would make but one that would make Browns fans extremely happy is Jon Gruden. The two are linked together from previous jobs in Green Bay and they are both “West Coast Offense” gurus. I’m not sure Holmgren would want a big name coach here and I’m not Gruden would be interested in Cleveland, but it’s certainly interesting.
The last item of note from yesterday’s address is Holmgren’s feeling on coaching in the NFL again. When asked, he indicated that he still feels the urge to coach and to teach but that he has an obligation to Randy Lerner and he wants to see that through. Some will say that the two are not mutually exclusive as Holmgren could certainly come down to the sidelines in Cleveland as well as oversee football operations. I wouldn’t mind the idea, but keep in mind that Holmgren failed in Seattle when he was trying to wear too many hats (Coach, GM, President). I actually can’t think of one person who has been able to successfully act as coach and GM/President so it might not be the best long-term solution for the Browns. There is no doubt in my mind that Holmgren wants to coach again, it’s just a question of when and where. For me, as much as I’d like to see him on the sidelines, I honestly value his long-term strategic leadership in the President role more than just as a coach. For a more stable organization my opinion would be different, but the Browns were so terribly mismanaged since their return in 1999 that his knowledge and leadership is absolutely necessary. At least for foreseeable future…..