Scratch Pioli Off The List

Chiefs GM Scott PioliFrom the moment the Browns hired Eric Mangini to be the new head coach without first hiring a GM, we knew it virtually meant that still getting Scott Pioli to come to Cleveland was a long shot at best. But still, none the less, some of us held out hope that Pioli would swallow his pride and still come to Cleveland and be the savior of the franchise.

Well, that dream is over. Scott Pioli has been hired as the next GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. Needless to say, Chiefs fans are rejoicing and reveling in the praise others are heaping on this move. Meanwhile, Browns fans continue to sit in stunned silence as we try to comprehend what exactly is going on in Berea with our beloved Browns.

Remember, Pioli was initially considered to be the hands-on favorite to land the Browns job. In fact, some thought the hiring process would be mere formality and that within a week of firing Phil Savage, the Browns would have Pioli in place to guide the future of the Browns organization. So how did we get where we are today?  

I think a couple things happened here. First of all, I think the interview that everyone thought would be mostly formality actually raised some red flags for Browns owner Randy Lerner. There are whispers of personality clashes between the two men. There has been talk of concern over the amount of power Pioli demanded. There were rumors that Pioli wanted to bring in Kirk Ferentz to coach the Browns, a move Lerner was fundamentally opposed to as he was not about to hire another college coach. I don’t think we will ever know the full story of what exactly happened, but I would say it’s a safe bet that some combination of these factors all played their role in killing the momentum of any agreement happening.

The other thing that happened was Eric Mangini was fired from the New York Jets. Remember, when Mangini was fired, Bill Cowher had already adamantly turned down Lerner for the Browns job. This meant that Lerner, who was set on finding a quality coach with previous NFL head coaching experience, had to be excited about the prospect of hiring Mangini. In all reality, the moment Cowher turned down the Browns, the only coaching candidate with experience left that was an attractive hire was Marty Schottenheimer (who, by all indications, wasn’t really excited or intrigued by the prospect of coming back to take over the Browns again). It’s easy to understand why Mangini jumped to the top of Lerner’s list.

Who knows how much Spygate really played into this and whether or not Pioli and Mangini ever could have worked together anyway, but one thing is clear, and that is that Scott Pioli was not thrilled when Randy Lerner interviewed Mangini. Pioli wanted the power to interview and hire his own coach (and why shouldn’t he?), and he didn’t like that Lerner appeared to be moving forward without him. From Lerner’s standpoint, though, he simply had to do his due diligence.

There are two conflicting schools of thought here. Some would argue that the GM is more important than the coach and that the GM should always be hired first and allowed to bring in his own coach. More and more, though, you’re seeing a different trend in the NFL. People are starting to believe that the head coach is actually more important than the GM, and that if you have a coach you want, you need to go get him regardless of what the GM thinks. I think it’s clear that Randy Lerner believes in the latter. After the interview with Mangini, Lerner knew that was the guy he wanted to coach the Browns. At that point, Lerner probably really did still want Scott Pioli to be the GM, but he couldn’t afford to sit around and wait for Pioli and let other teams start considering talking to Mangini. So Lerner went ahead and hired Mangini, and now Scott Pioli is in Kansas City while the Browns struggle to attract potential GMs due to the coach already being in place.

Only time will tell how the Browns GM search will play out. Only time will tell if Lerner made the right decision in going with his gut and making sure he secured Mangini first. Two things are clear to me right now, though. One, I actually firmly believe Lerner got the best head coach for the Browns he could. Mike Shanahan was not going to come to Cleveland. Same with Marty. Cowher had already turned them down. I really like Josh McDaniels a lot, and I think Jim Schwartz has a lot of potential as well, but it was time for the Browns to get a head coach with experience. Someone who knew what they were doing. Someone who wasn’t learning how to put together a staff, and practice agendas, and workout schedules, etc, etc, etc on the fly. It was time to bring in someone who already knew what they were doing and could focus instead on establishing an identity for the team. Eric Mangini was the best available coach, and Lerner hired him. I’m not sure I agree with hiring him before the GM, but we simply won’t know if that was the right move or not until we see this thing play out.

The second thing that’s clear to me now is that the Kansas City Chiefs will be a fascinating team to watch over the next 5 years. We’re going to have an idea of whether or not Lerner made the right decision by seeing how things work out for the Chiefs over the next few years. By all indications, Herm Edwards is as good as gone in Kansas City. That will give Pioli the freedom to hire the coach of his choosing. Keep an eye on them, watch them closely. Compare the Chiefs to the Browns over the next several years. I’m not sure I can recall too many times where it will be so easy to compare two different teams to see which philosophy would have been best.

I understand that Browns fans are frustrated and angry and embarrassed and sick of losing. We all feel that way, and it’s tough to be excited when your owner makes a somewhat obscure move by hiring a coach before the GM. But I will be reserving my judgment on this move by Lerner until I see how the Browns and Chiefs look 5 years from now. Remember, the Broncos just hired their coach before hiring their GM. In a similar move to Cleveland’s, the Broncos interviewed Josh McDaniels, felt strongly he was the right guy for the team, and didn’t want to wait on him and instead moved quickly and hired him. So Randy Lerner is certainly not alone in his thinking. But it’s not easy when you see the joy and glee of another franchise as they hire the GM we all thought was going to be ours. Especially as we sit here struggling to find guys who even seem to want the job. For Lerner’s sake, he better really be hoping that this turns out well, because there’s coming back from failure this time. Browns fans will be hoping as well, because what little hope is left is all we really have anymore.

  • steve

    who cares, i’m done with experiment with New England’s seconds

  • steve


  • RockKing

    I care.

  • Harv 21

    I think KC did it right. As much as I also want a head coach with prior NFL HC experience, I think you want known quality at the top of the organization. Mangini may be capable of being the next great head coach in the league, who knows. But from an organizational view, you want to put people in a situation where they will succeed. In reality, it appears Mangini will answer to no one but Lerner. No one in Berea will have the authority to criticize him, or curb his worse impulses, for fear of their own job. Hubris is inevitable, as are the problems that come with it. Throwing the keys to the whole operation to a 37 year old coach does not give the organization as a whole its best chance to succeed. Maybe they’ll get lucky, but it will be interesting to chart the Browns’s and Chiefs’s course over the next 5 years.

  • IRB?

    I can’t say that it’s surprising that Pioli ended up in KC. You bring up a good point though – we’re all going to be playing the “what if” game while watching KC and comparing our team to theirs over the next few years. For better or for worse, that’s how it’s going to be.

  • Scott

    For the money, the only player that comes to mind on the Chiefs that I’d like to have is Dwayne Bowe. When I think of the Chiefs, I think old (TG) and overpaid (LJ). Their QB turned things up a notch towards the second half this year, but their OLine is still pretty brutal. I agree Rock, this is one of those ‘wait and see’ judgements…

  • Cribbage

    Um, not all of us were wanting Pioli. From what I’ve read in the last few weeks, Kokinis would be a better fit and seems to be a stronger candidate. Belicheck is solely responsible for NE’s success. I wish KC luck, but I have a feeling this won’t end well for them.

  • buu

    i also think you should take into account the whole mangini/kokonis package deal that the plain dealer seems to be spinning a lot these days. i mean from what ive gathered is that lerner apparently fell in love with mangini who in turn wanted to bring in his friend george kokonis as GM and lerner’s delighted to have two guys who are on the same page to get things going. it would appear that kokonis is giving every inclination that hes on board to be the browns new GM and to work side by side with his old pal mangini, but of course hes probably playing it cool and with the ravens in the playoffs, keeping his options open.
    you did say that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that pioli was off the list a while ago.
    now of course, with it being the browns, the ravens will win the superbowl and kokonis will stay in baltimore and the search will continue.

  • Brian

    well, if the past 50 years of Cleveland sports are any indication, the Chiefs should be winning the Superbowl within the next 5 years.

  • RandyOSU

    Wouldn’t it be great to be George Kokinis’s agent, knowing that The Invisible Man has another infatuation? Wouldn’t it be great to negotiate with a man who is not interviewing nor has interviewed any other candidates for the position he is about to fill? After love at first sight with a cherubic coach, this romantic entanglement is now approaching a threesome. As the credible GM candidates fall by the wayside, we are left with The Love Boat.

    Welcome to the ManKok nation…….(sorry Scott Pioli, you didn’t flutter at the sight of Mangini).

  • RandyOSU

    For those Broncos fans still asking in the wake of the hiring of an offensive mind as the team’s head coach, “Hey, we thought it was our defense that sucked?,” Josh McDaniels’ first order of business was to hire a top-flight defensive mind.

    As expected (after some initial uncertainty), former 49ers coach Mike Nolan is the new defensive coordinator of the Broncos.

    Compare this to:

    Brian Daboll: ROOKIE

    Rob Ryan: Leader of a perennial lower tier defense

    George Kokinis: ROOKIE

    And the beat goes on…………………..

  • DCBucks

    RandyOSU, you said it best. Twice.

  • Tron

    Just curious if we’ll be seeing any new WFNY shirts like a picture of Mangini’s face with REALITY under it instead of hope, or a nice side by side of Mangini and Kokinis (if it happens) with ManKok under it. just throwing that out there…

  • mj

    “After the interview with Mangini, Lerner knew that was the guy he wanted to coach the Browns.”

    I see a trend. First interviewee “wows” The Randolph, gets hired. Where have we seen this before?

    I don’t think it’s so much that Lerner believes in a particular philosophy, per se, just that he falls in love with the first person he meets. Romeo, now Mangini.

    Mangini may work out, who knows, I’m willing to give the guy a chance to prove himself. But if I’m not buying this idea that it’s the coach and not the GM. If all of us posting here suited up as an NFL team, I’d feel pretty safe in saying that Paul Brown or Vince Lombardi couldn’t win with that team. Good players make for a good HC. And you don’t get good players without qualified personnel evaluators (ie, the GM and staff) and a sound philosophy.

    Look at Pittsburgh. Is Mike Tomlin the find of the century? Or did they find someone who’s capable, carries himself professionally, and fits the organizational philosophy? Does Rooney just have an ungodly ability to identify head coaches, with only three hires in, what, 40 years? It seems clear that the Rooneys have an organization in place, a philosophy they adhere to, and they maintain consistency within that model. Then they find a capable face to put on the organization. The Browns are doing it backwards.

  • mj

    As far as Pioli goes…

    KC was arguably the most attractive GM opening. Plenty of cap space, a solid core of talent to build around, rabid fan base, and they reside in arguably the worst division in the NFL. He will have complete control of the club, and just look at how much rope the Hunts gave Carl Peterson. It’s been, what, 10 years since he’s been relevant? KC will have the patience to let Pioli work his magic without interference, he’ll have all the resources he needs, and if it takes him a while he’ll likely be given enough rope to hang himself several dozen times.

    It would have been interesting to see how he’d perform in that role in Cleveland, but The Randolph wouldn’t cede that kind of control to him. KC was an infinitely better opportunity… and it kills me to think that Lerner’s Browns are no longer one of those elite plum jobs.

    I look forward to seeing if he succeeds in KC. I suspect that he will, but I think we will finally find out now exactly how much of NE’s success is due entirely to Bill Bellichick. They’ve lost other FO and coaching personnel before, but Pioli’s been the closest to being Bill’s partner in their little dynasty there.

    I think it will be fascinating as an NFL fan to compare and contrast the Browns’ and the Chiefs’ progress over the next five years, but also to see what happens in KC compared to New England.

  • mj

    One last thing, Rock… regarding Denver hiring a coach first. I don’t think this is a fair comparison to the Browns’ situation.

    First of all, Pat Bowlen has been around the league a long time. He’s proven to be successful. He’s won superbowls. If I were a Broncos fan, I’d be much more inclined to trust his judgment than Lerner’s… who has stated himself that he’s not a football guy, and in six years of owning the team, has failed to make one single good decision.

    Second of all, it’s not necessarily accurate that they hired a coach before a GM. They promoted from within… Jim Goodman will have final say, though he won’t formally hold the title of GM. But they have an established organization and a philosophy in place… the Browns have nothing.

    And RandyOSU points out some very critical differences in how they’re going about filling out their coaching staffs. We were told that the HC had to be hired early to get a jump on hiring the best assistants. RandyOSU makes all the points there, and I agree.

    Anyway, who knows… Denver may drop the ball too. I just don’t find them to be an apt comparison to our situation.

  • S-Dub

    Rob Ryan is a pretty good D coordinator. The Raiders D has been pretty solid in coverage and stopping the run, it’s just that their terrible offense gets on the field and goes 3 and out in about mins. I’d be excited about Ryan coming to be our D coordinator.

    The other guys, well I couldn’t tell ya.

  • IRB?

    Man, wouldn’t Pioli and Mangini have been great? Better thank ManKok, we would have….




    No doubt we are all jealous of what Pittsburgh has in place. They are very lucky.

    What I like about Mangini is he knows what he wants (unlike Romeo did) and I have a good feeling that they will bring in a GM who shares his visions. Now, unlike the last four years, a coach and GM will be working together with a clear vision on how they want this team to look.

    Now, if they can bring in that talent, it remains to be seen.

  • RandyOSU

    mj-great posts, couldn’t have said it all better!

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