Should Mangini Return?

Much talk has been made about the future of the Browns given what we have seen on the field so far this season.  Despite the Browns record of 5-8 there is no doubt that the product on the field has been much more entertaining than what we have witnessed in recent years.  A lot of this is due in part to the emergence of certain players in different positions, Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis, Joe Haden etc.  The overwhelming question remaining despite all of this improvement is, “Will Eric Mangini be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2011?”

It’s definitely an interesting topic for debate.  One could argue that the Browns have not made the type of significant strides that warrant a third year for the Eric Mangini era.  On the flip side, you can also argue that given the massive overhaul being carried out by Mangini, there is a huge skill and talent disparity between the Browns and their opponents each week.  Both statements hold merit.  I could make a strong case for either side of the coin and quite frankly I have formulated my own opinion on the subject after listening to all of the back and forth on the local talk shows and in the papers.  But before I get into what I think here are both of the arguments, at least how I see them.

The Case for Mangini to get the Axe:

Mangini has not produced a winner, plain and simple.  In two seasons with the Browns, Mangini has not produced a winning record and at times the team has looked dreadful.  In fact, at times the Browns have looked as if they are regressing rather than progressing.  Another issue surrounding the Eric Mangini edition of the Cleveland Browns is their inability to win games they should win.  In other words, the Browns over the past two years have gained a reputation for playing down to their opposition.  That’s unacceptable.  If you’re going to be a legitimate contender in the NFL you have to beat the teams your supposed to beat.  This year alone the Browns have lost games against the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Jaguars, and Bills.  Granted the Bucs, Chiefs, and Jags are all in competition for playoff spots they aren’t exactly world beaters.  The Browns very well could have beaten all three of these teams and were in position to do just that late in each game.  Then there’s the Buffalo game.  Don’t even get me started on the Buffalo game.

Those in support of Mangini argue that Mangini just hasn’t had the players necessary to compete with the elite teams in the NFL.  But if you’ve paid any amount of attention to the rest of the NFL, you’ve noticed any number of teams go from worst to first in any given year.  The Browns haven’t had this happen at all since they’ve been back and definitely haven’t been close under Eric Mangini.  Why?  Why are the Browns unable to get a turn around in the same way that other teams around the league have been able to?  People need to be held accountable and if that’s the case then the responsibility needs to fall squarely on the shoulders of Mangini.  There is also the issue regarding Mangini’s shadow of secrecy and his inability to make adjustments.  While we have seen McCoy, Hillis, and Haden emerge as potential stars, you can also argue the only reason they’re playing is because injuries forced Mangini’s hand.  On top of all of that, there are rumors of a lack of trust with the players.

Taking all of that In and looking at it objectively then the Browns have no choice but to end the Eric Mangini era.  They cannot continue on with the wannabe Bill Belichickian way of running things.  The players haven’t responded, the results on the field are lacking, and the fans are growing restless.  Things cannot continue on this track and if a coach is available with a proven track record of success that other teams would kill to have, then you have to make that change.

The Case to Keep Mangini:

Talent.  It’s essential to compete at a high level in the NFL.  Each and every Sunday it is obvious that the Browns are lacking in the talent department.  However, significant strides are being made in that department.  When Mangini arrived two years ago, there was an abundance of talent on this team and along with it more egos than you could shake a stick at.  What Mangini has done is try to implement a system and philosophy similar to that of the New England Patriots.  In order to do this Mangini had to clean house and get the type of players he wanted.  This meant saying adios to Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Jamal Lewis to name a few.  Unfortunately, stripping the team of talent like this led to losses and yet another rebuilding project.

Looking at things objectively, you can see progress is being made.  Rather than building this team instantly by trying to sign high-priced free agents and trading for high-profile guys, Mangini has built this team around character.  As many have pointed out, it’s a process and it needs to be given a chance to work.  It needs time.

While we’ve lost big talent guys over the past two years, look at what we’ve gained.  In the draft we’ve found players like McCoy, Haden, and Ward.  We’ve acquired players like Peyton Hillis through trades.  None of the moves stand out and wow you initially, but over time each move the Browns have made under Eric Mangini is beginning to look better and better.  We’re even beginning to see results.  The Browns, despite the “lack of talent” have been in each and every game this year.  With three games left they have already equaled their win total from last year.  While unlikely, the Browns could finish at 8-8.  With another year of his system and his players, couldn’t we expect the same type of continued improvement? 

The Browns also look like a team for the first time in a long time.  The players appear to enjoy playing with one another.  The lack of egos has helped establish what looks like a solid group in the locker room.  Rumors are swirling that there is a lack of trust between players and the coach.  Would players that don’t trust their coach douse him with Gatorade?  Wouldn’t there be quotes in the papers rather than off the record, no names please kind of rumors?  I don’t buy into the idea that there are issues between the players and the coach.  I don’t see any evidence of it.

For years Browns fans have had to endure the craptastic coaching of the likes of Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, and Romeo Crennel.  There is finally a coach in place who is looking to instill a culture and not just a system.  Why are we so quick to give up on that?  Given what we’ve seen out of Bill Belichick don’t we owe it to ourselves to give this another year?  Mangini looks like he’s beginning to figure things out.  Given another offseason, another draft, and more player acquisitions couldn’t this Browns team make another huge stride in 2011?

The Verdict:

Given the two arguments above I tend to side with the latter.  While the Browns have missed the playoffs again this year it’s impossible to ignore the changes we’ve seen on the field.  The Browns are competitive again for the first time in a long time.  If a few bounces had gone our way in even just a few of the Browns losses, we might be looking at a team that’s 9-4 or even 10-3.  Of course hindsight is 20/20.  I just don’t think the negatives can outweigh the positives over the past two years.  Yes there have been some very low low’s but it seems like things are starting to get higher and higher.  My opinion is to give Mangini another year and see what happens in 2011.  Three years is more than enough time to properly evaluate a coach and a team’s performance.  If the Brown’s falter again in 2011 then a change can be made, but for now they should hold on to Mangini.

Of course we have no idea how any of this will unfold.  In an ironic twist, Mangini’s future and his shadow of secrecy are shrouded in a shadow of secrecy.  Only in Cleveland.

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