At least not yet, if you please. The Cleveland Browns hit rock bottom last year like a drug addict or alcoholic. Braylon Edwards dropped every pass thrown his way. Derek Anderson seemed on the verge of tears as we booed him. Brady Quinn got a chance to start and got hurt. Kellen Winslow acted like a baby in another wasted year of injuries on his way to getting his agent to make him the richest tight end in the land. Romeo Crennel was curing his problems with challenging plays, by refusing to ever challenge another play as he continued to pout over the loss of Maurice Carthon, whom he refused to fire. As all this was happening Phil Savage was sending profane emails to fans while failing miserably at managing anything but his scouting operation. Like a drug addict, the Browns have been sent back to rehab and his name is Eric Mangini.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that because I refuse to hate everything with a blind rage I get painted as an apologist all the time. So here is my normal disclaimer. I am not guaranteeing that this regime is going to put the Browns in the Super Bowl. I am also not standing behind the process whereby Randy Lerner hired Mangini 100%. I have just as many questions and doubts about the Browns’ staff and coordinators as the rest of you. The difference is with the perception that I watch the Browns right now.
I am sure a lot of you are familiar with the serenity prayer.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
And with that in mind, consider the following. Mangini is probably going to be here for the next three years at least. No amount of complaining will change that. Those who want to magically revisit the hiring process can not. Mack, Massoquai, Robiskie and Veikune are under contract here. Instead of wasting time talking about who could be here, it is time to just root like crazy that they hit the field soon and succeed. Those criticisms are valid, but their expiration dates have passed and won’t be renewed for a while. I am not trying to make you think that the glass is half full. Far from it, in fact. I just want everyone to remember that last year the glass was completely empty.
Mangini has made mistakes with this team. The QB competition was carried way too far and it has cost the Browns dearly in the first couple of weeks. At the same time, consider this. The Browns made mistakes against Minnesota like running the wildcat twice. Mangini and Daboll took ownership of the mistake. Also, in the first game, we didn’t see hardly any three and four receiver sets to try and take some pressure off the offensive line. In game two, even though it didn’t work exceptionally, the Browns had Furrey out there along with Edwards, Cribbs and even Massoquai to try something different. The Browns wanted to get Cribbs involved by running an end-around. Ultimately it was only a four yard gain when they finally handed him the ball, but they faked it at least twice in order to set it up. I know we want results, but without attempts at adjustments you can never figure out what works. This coaching staff is trying different things and acknowleging mistakes. That is much more than we can say about the Romeo Crennel era.
Even if Mangini isn’t the coach to take this team to the top, I feel like he is a great guy to work this team through rehab. He is attempting to instill a sense of responsibility and so far has led the charge on that. He is attempting to instill a sense of work ethic. He ran training camp in a way that seems more befitting of the game of football than Club Romeo.
When ProFootballTalk wrote about that fine against a player for not covering a $3 bottle of water at the hotel, it seemed extreme. Rumor has it that the player who was fined might have been Abe Elam. That shed a little light on the situation for me. I am just guessing, but I think Mangini decided to make an example out of Elam for the purposes of driving home the culture he wants to create. What better player to do that with than one of his own guys that he went out and personally brought in via trade this off-season? Do you think that speaks to the rest of the guys on this team who are holdovers from the failed Savege / Crennel era? Maybe it is a complete mistake for Mangini to be so hard on a player, but I don’t know, you don’t know and ProFootballTalk only pretends to know.
The point is that this team was off the rails when Mangini arrived. Now they are in rehab trying to cure themselves of all those horrible bad habits. After two weeks of losses, instead of looking at the team and trying to find indications that the rehab might be working, all I read are criticisms and damnation. When an actor goes into rehab it is so they can find a way to start working again. Nobody expects them to walk out of rehab and on stage to receive their Oscar. Maybe in Cleveland people would.
I know we all want results. I want to see wins too. All the old clichés hold true, though. You have to walk before you can run. You have to be broken down before you can be molded back into shape. On down the line. Is it so far out of the realm of possibility that this is all just a part of the process after a 4-12 season? And again, this isn’t to say that Mangini, and company have done everything right. I am sure they have made a lot of mistakes along the way. Then again, it seems like so many of you have already dropped the gavel of judgment on them as failures who need to go now. It is way too early for that judgement even if some of you may eventually be proven right.
So go ahead and call my an apologist now. I am just trying to show you that I don’t find rooting and criticism / skepticism to be mutually exclusive. It is ok to be disappointed with losses, and point out mistakes, but to jump to the conclusions that Quinn needs to sit and that Mangini needs to be fired are way too pre-mature. It is part of the acidic Browns culture that has persisted since 1999. Just watch the team, root your heart out for progress, and be constructive in your criticisms. It isn’t like we thought they were going to the Super Bowl anyway. They deserve criticism sometimes, but we can’t help them by damning them, either. We deserve better, but irrational negativity doesn’t help us get it.