Thursday, January 8, 2009

...And There Was Much Yawning

So, the Cleveland Browns have announced their new Head Coach - Eric Mangini, the recently deposed head coach of the New York Jets.

And we collectively shrugged.

And I don’t get it. The apathy, that is. I understand that most fans were holding out for a ‘big splash’ hire like Marty Schottenheimer, or the whale of a catch in Bill Cowher. Neither materialized, and in retrospect, they were not going to happen – those were the wet dreams of the fans, but not the wishes of the guy who pays the bills, owner Randy Lerner.

But ponder for a moment what the hiring of Mangini brings to Cleveland, and that is this: A head coach with experience at being a head coach. Yeah I know, you’re yawning again. But for the Browns, this is an accomplishment. The last EIGHT head coaches of the Browns came to the job with zero experience at being a head coach. We have to go all the way back to Nick Skorich to identify the last Browns coach that had such experience when he took the job, and further, the list of such coaches ends there. Eric Mangini and Nick Skorich – the only coaches in Browns HISTORY to bring experience to the head coaching position.

Insanity is defined as repeating behavior expecting different results. And I would have placed the hiring of yet another assistant coach to head the Browns squarely in the insanity category. That is not to say that assistants cannot flourish in their first gig – Sam Rutigliano and Marty Schottenheimer are two examples. But for every Riverboat Sam we had a Forrest Gregg and Butch Davis. For every Marty we had Chris Palmer and Romeo Crennel.

So why is Browns Nation unimpressed with the Mangini hire? Some point to his dour persona and lack of sideline or press conference animation. Seems I remember people describing Paul Brown the same way. Some point to Mangini being part of the ‘Belichick Tree’ of coaches, and here in Cleveland, that is not considered a positive thing since our personal experience with Mumbles was not necessarily a positive one. But love or hate him, he has produced three Super Bowl victories, and the byproduct of that is a tree is planted & his assistants go on to head coaching gigs. We could certainly do worse.

Some think we should have hired a General Manager first, and then let that GM do the hiring of a Head Coach. Sort of like Phil Savage selecting Romeo Crennel. ‘nuff said there. Hiring one before the other guarantees nothing, so get over that.

What I really think is happening is that Browns optimism is at a low ebb. I think it is a defense mechanism us Browns fans have cultivated through the years of Butch Davis mismanagement and Romeo Crennel cluelessness. We don’t want to get excited until we are given a reason to. And hiring another head coach is not sufficient reason. Yet.

But like the Buzzards returning to Hinckley every Spring, you watch what happens when training camp opens in July. We will be back. But for now, we are treating the Mangini hire like we would opening our Christmas present and finding that instead of getting a Big Wheel we got a calculator. Disappointed.

But ultimately, it was the right gift.