Cleveland Browns fans are fed up. Their team is like that guy who always has a hot new business idea but can never keep an actual job. Change for the sake of change is the theme in Cleveland these days. Really, it’s been the theme since the franchise’s resurrection in 1999.
With head coaches serving more like one-term senators (Chris Palmer ’99-’00, Butch Davis ’01-’04, Romeo Crennel ’05-’08), the Browns have averaged roughly a 5-11 annual record in their second act.
Perhaps this last change––the firing of Crennel––was necessary. Yes, the former Patriot defensive coordinator got this promising young team to 10-6 in ’07. But last year’s 4-12 disaster revealed an unsettling softness permeating throughout the club. The Browns were being guided by a grandfather figure when, what they needed, was an ironfisted patriarch. Insert Eric Mangini. Owner Randy Lerner interviewed the 38-year-old just one day after he was suddenly fired by the Jets.
The prompt hiring of Mangini was met in Ohio with stone silence. That’s because the new ironfisted patriarch has a reputation for being more like a mysterious uncle: cold and distant. The media abhors Mangini’s obfuscation of all information. The Jets locker room these days, now under the direction of affable head coach Rex Ryan, has the milieu of a liberated nation. And now life has become very business-like for the Browns. A popular story this past offseason was how the new head coach asked all the rookies to “volunteer” to bus 10 hours to his football camp in Connecticut in between what many suspect have been illicitly-long OTA’s. Mangini, by the way, flew to Connecticut (though he bussed back).
Mangini’s “screw you, I’m in charge” attitude––mastered by tutor Bill Belichick––is an attitude that works for head coaches with winning pedigrees. But not for coaches with a 23-26 career record. (Belichick, who coached this franchise from ’91-’95, learned this when he himself was fired by the Browns after a 36-42 record here.)
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