Former Brown Says Mangini “was a bad head coach.”

Vince Grzegorek at Scene posted a quote yesterday from a former “player” for the Cleveland Browns, Nate Jackson.  You don’t remember the tenure of Nate Jackson as a member of the Cleveland Browns?  I am guessing I might be able to find him if I search old roster moves on NFL.com, but he doesn’t have any stats applied to his name since 2008.  Apparently, though, he was on the roster of the Cleveland Browns last year in Eric Mangini’s final year in Berea.  Here’s the quote.

I was only in Cleveland for one week, but as I wrote last year, I was there long enough to figure out that his coaching style was so interactive as to be intrusive. He peppered his players with fourthdownulator-esque studies, made them memorize those figures, then called upon them in meetings and forced them to stand and recite them. Players were visibly shaken by the process. This was not the football they knew. They had notes scattered about their laps and desks, nervously hoping they wouldn’t be asked to stand and tell Mangini what percentage of the time field goals are made by a left-footed kicker from the right hash-mark facing south with an east-to-west wind in the second quarter of Thursday night games in November. It’s hard to play your best with these things on your mind.

Mangini was a bad head coach. He couldn’t reconcile his scientific approach to the game with the real-time lack of science that was needed to play it. He took it too far and lost his team.

The first thing that anyone will say about this quote is, “Who is Nate Jackson?”  Even I poked fun at that prospect in the opening paragraph.  So does this invalidate the criticism?  Not completely.  It also doesn’t mean that Eric Mangini is definitively an awful NFL mind or coach.  It might mean that without change in style that Eric Mangini will never be suited to being a head coach.

One of the biggest rumblings about Eric Mangini from some of the players who played for him was that he didn’t treat them enough like men.  Obviously, we wouldn’t want to take Braylon Edwards word for it, because he barely proved he deserved to be treated like anything more than a petulant child when he was here.  Then again, in the pre-season when reporters asked Alex Mack how camp was going and how different things were, the somewhat uncomfortable, yet relieved smile.  Same with Joe Thomas celebrating his new deal as he praised Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert’s direction.  It was my opinion at that time that he was going as close to the line as he could in criticizing the past without doing so directly.

There is no question that being a popular head coach with your players isn’t necessarily the be-all end-all in terms of being successful.  In fact, you need look no further than Mr. Popularity Romeo Crennel for a guy who failed miserably by trying to be everybody’s best friend.  Still, I think there is something to be said between working guys hard with discipline and also taking it to a level that seemingly many players considered public shaming and embarrassing them in front of their peers.

Nate Jackson’s story speaks to that, and Alex Mack’s earlier comments about having to be called out in film study in front of the entire team instead of just in smaller individual position group meetings.  Being a disciplinarian and maintaining control of your team is one thing, but when it potentially alienates players, how valuable can it be?

Nothing is ever simple though.  One thing you can say for Eric Mangini’s teams is that they never seemed to quit on him.  They didn’t quit in his first year as they beat the Steelers and won out on a four game win streak.  Maybe you can say the team quit on him the last game of last season as the Steelers crushed the Browns 41-9.  That’s probably flawed logic too as that Browns unit was so banged up it’s hard to make that case.

In the end, it isn’t important, except for the die-hards who obsess about everything related to the Browns.  The only thing that matters now is that Pat Shurmur keeps his team from quitting on him as he looks to implement some semblance of a cohesive offense in the second half of the season against some really tough opponents.  If he doesn’t, we might read articles smashing him a few years from now written by Thomas Clayton.

(Deadspin had the entire article from Nate Jackson.)

  • mgbode

    it’s a fine line to walk. the easiest way for your players to buy-in is to win. tons of stories about Coughlin’s approach and his players being sour until they won that superbowl.

  • Steve

    Sounds like whining and nothing more. Mangini worked his players hard and forced them to be smart and aware of the situation at hand. And shockingly, they looked a lot better than this team.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Just remember that they didn’t exactly look a lot better than this team in Mangini’s first year during their 1-11 start. Maybe toward the end of that first 12 games they were starting to show signs of a real team, but certainly not early.

    I don’t know if Shurmur and company are an utter failure or if they really are experiencing some growing pains for all the obvious reasons. It would certainly be in everyone’s self interest if they started to click a bit on offense down the stretch this season. Then again, to predict that will happen is pretty ludicrous.

  • MrCleaveland

    Mangini tried to turn his players into men with his discipline. So that’s why he didn’t treat them like men. He didn’t think they were.

    /generalization, of course

  • Harrison

    Nate Jackson: “I was only in Cleveland for one week….” You can stop reading that quote right there. How is anyone taking this guy seriously? Is it surprising that he doesn’t like the coach that cut him during pre-season and ended his brief NFL career?

    Maybe these players needed to act more like men. They should be able to answer questions in front of teammates. God forbid they be expected to learn something about the game they play for a living. Maybe that’s why Nate Jackson isn’t in the NFL anymore.

  • Mark

    I’ve played a lot of sports. I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve managed tons of people. One constant I’ve noticed throughout is that everyone, at sometime, needs a pat on the back and/or a kick in the pants. The best coaches/managers/bosses have to know who needs what and when. I have no doubt that Mangini is a very smart football coach but I wonder if he had the skills I just mentioned. Obviously, we have no way of really knowing any of this but Mangini seemed to have one way, his way, and that was it. Some players loved it some hated it. That’s fine. The question is does it work?

  • Woods

    Let us reflect. A former brown says Mangini was a bad head coach. I would file this report under “not necessarily new news”.

    He is gone and not going to come back. Leave him alone. Look to the future.

    Go Browns

  • Hurricane

    All these guys do is whine b/c once someone noticed they had talent in middle school or high school everyone told them what they wanted to hear and let them do whatever they wanted to do so they didn’t upset them. It’s pathetic and so is Nate Jackson. He needs to shut his mouth and maybe focus on getting better at football so he can actually play in the NFL. You had to memorize some stats?! I have to memorize stuff I don’t care about every day. I hope Nate Jackson gets back into the NFL for one play and someone lights him and up as he’s in agony on the grass they look down and say, “64% of the time field goals are made by a left-footed kicker from the right hash-mark facing south with an east-to-west wind in the second quarter of Thursday night games in November.”

  • -bobby-

    While I dont take much stock in this in general, is there any surprise Mangini would want the players to know specific stats in specific situations? I can see how some may be beneficial for a player to know- but the example brought up is just dumb. But if you see like 80% of the time on 3rd and 5 from the left hash a team will go this direction or w/e then that could help out a lot.

  • deg4

    I could easily make the case that the team gave up in that final Pittsburgh game. Go back and watch it and you’ll see. I got so disgusted with Massaquoi just watching a defender intercept a pass he could have at the very least broken up, and maybe even caught, that I stopped watching. The only Browns game I didn’t finish last year…

  • oribiasi

    @ mgbode: You said it there, man. Think of Belicheck, not exactly Mr. Niceguy, but because he wins in New England, they keep him around.

    It’s interesting to compare Romeo and Mangini, in light of this news. They are polar opposites; one, a friendly lovable guy, a la Reginald VelJohnson (from Family Matters). The other is a tough, hard-nosed intellectual disciplinarian who drilled his players (mentally and phyiscally), and was in no way endearing.

    Maybe with Shurmur they decided to go for the middle ground. Maybe that’s how he struck Holmgren. We’ll never know.

  • mgbode

    @Hurricane – IT WAS DECEMBER, NOT NOVEMEMBER!!! TAKE A LAP!

  • mgbode

    @oribiasi – quite possibly. Shurmur seems to lean towards a players-coach from what we have seen, but we’re not behind the scenes either where he may discipline more.

  • Harv 21

    What Mark said.

    I kind of lump mangini in with the film-room-geek/never-had-real-job football coach. But even the holy ideal of these maladjusted guys. Belichik, did not succeed until he stepped back out after the Cleveland gig, reassessed, and figured out that the Parcells act worked for Parcells because he is Parcells.

    Still think Mangini would have benefitted from a year off between the Jets and Browns, Instead, he was immediately given total authority over everything, and the lesson he brought to this gig seemed to be Protect Your Position and You Can’rt Get Fired. And I think he will be a fine DC in the future and possibly a good HC if he has the ability to engage in some honest self-evaluation and learn how to deal with people and chillax. He can be a disciplinarian type, but he has to be himself, not mini-Bill#1 or mini-Bill#2.

  • Bryan

    this is so beyond stupid. player’s opinions of a coach are not an accurate (or even reasonable) indicator of a coach’s ability. if they were, then romeo would be the best coach ever and parcell’s and lombardi would be terrible.

  • Nigel Tufnel

    I don’t care how bad these guys are, it’s not a good idea to fire your head coach every other year.

  • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

    Craig, I disagree about the grain of salt, this needs a pound.

    Nate Jackson spent 6 years on a one-coach team in Denver and he thinks he earned the right to spend a week on a new team and make these grand declarations about the locker room? Does this invalidate his criticism? I absolutely think so. If someone starts a job somewhere and makes verbal assessments about the entire business within a week, we know what we’d call that guy.

    Let’s also mention the apparent fact that Jackson was completely wrong. If the locker room was truly lost, there is no way you would have seen games like New Orleans, New England, or 13 other games that the Browns were actually in until the end.

    I think what Jackson is trying to say is that he wasn’t smart enough to grasp the process, got cut, and he’s obviously still bitter about it because Brian Robiskie has a roster spot somewhere, and he doesn’t.

    All things aside, this is a guy who will have you think that punters are barely football players. So a grain of salt or a truckload, decide for yourself.

    deadspin.com/5823549/

    Maybe I just don’t understand giving this guy airtime when it’s apparent that he only writes out of spite.

  • JM

    He’s not as bad as Shurmur that is for sure.

  • doc

    Why is this grist for a blogpost? We’re talking about Nate Jackson. Why are any reporters actually interviewing that guy? And Craig, if you agree with Jackson’s sentiments, then man up and agree. If you think he’s full of it, then say so. The “maybe so/maybe not” hedging in your post is unseemly.

    As to Craig’s point about “Just remember that they didn’t exactly look a lot better than this team in Mangini’s first year during their 1-11 start…”—–apples to oranges bro. The Mangini Browns of 2009 were a reclamation project. They got rid of all their troubled play-makers. The entire culture of the team was being restructured. After 10-11 games, it was obvious the players had started to buy into his plan. Subsequent wins the following year over the Saints/Pats confirmed such an impression.

    We were told that there would be no excuses this year. Heckert/Holmgren had run the past two drafts. Shurmur had been brought in to run Holmgren’s offense. Mangini had been fired simply because “he didn’t win enough”. I can only interpret that as a mandate for Shurmur to put a winning product on the field. To that extent, this year has been a collosal failure and a refutation of the decision to change head coaches….

  • oribiasi

    @ doc: Well said and very accurate. And, your little piece about this season being no excuses is wonderful. This guy gets it, that’s for sure.

  • Shamrock

    Good one Doc. Give ‘em a few hours to respond.

  • Porkchop xpress

    Ater Romeo I did enjoy that Mangini seemed to reduce the “throw the remote at the TV” penalties; first down offsides, big play holding, 3rd down stop negated by facemask call etc.(anyone can cite any stats they want about how many penalties actually occured, I went through 6 less remotes Mangini’s first year compared to Crennel’s last year, can’t get more scientific than that, one of many advanced metrics I propose in my upcoming book AngryBall.) His clock management and some in game decisions drove me nuts though, for a guy who supposedly had his stuff so togther he botched more timeout, review, and end of half/game situations than anyone in the league (doubt me check out AngryBall Chapter 3: “WTF Did You Burn a Timeout Right After The Two minute Warning For?”

    It would be tough playing for a guy who would call you out in meetings unless he stood up there and took it on the chin for his mistakes too

  • MrCleaveland

    @17

    Chris, I think you mean take with a half-grain of salt or a tenth of a grain of salt. To take with a pound of salt would mean that you think it’s important.

    Metaphorically yours,

    That Guy

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    First of all, I am not especially excited to respond to someone who condescendingly refers to me as “bro” while criticizing a post because I won’t form an unsubstantiated opinion.

    I find it far more valuable to present one guy’s potentially baseless opinion (Nate Jackson) and then provide first-hand accounts of what I think I could read between the lines when I was standing three feet away from Alex Mack and Joe Thomas. Given that information, why would a strong opinion from me mean much of anything?

    As for the “excuses” thing, I am so sick and tired of this line of thinking I could scream. “No excuses” is the only way any football organization can run because regardless of who gets hurt and who is brought in, the team still has to play games every Sunday. “No excuses” is straight out of the cliche handbook right next to taking them “one game at a time.”

    It doesn’t mean that as fans/bloggers/commentators that we can’t make excuses and talk about circumstances. We constantly look ahead on the schedule too. Should we not do that because if asked, Mike Holmgren would say that the team should take them “one game at a time?”

    I don’t care what Mike Holmgren said about “no excuses.” I will continue to call it like I see it with regard to injuries, failed player development, coaching gaffes, bad reffing or anything else that I feel impacts a game, even if it fits into the definition of an excuse.

    Lastly, nobody interviewed Nate Jackson. He is a writer now that he isn’t being cut from NFL teams. His post was linked by Vince and was on Deadspin, one of the biggest sports blogs in the world. It wasn’t exactly plucked from a random, tiny little message board.

  • Marc

    I liked Mangini

  • humboldt

    @Bryan

    “this is so beyond stupid. player’s opinions of a coach are not an accurate (or even reasonable) indicator of a coach’s ability.”

    Ok, but surely the coach’s overall record (10-22) would be a relatively more accurate indicator? And if that is the case, then player insights such as that offered by Jackson can help approximate the reasons why the coach was ineffective.

    @Chris M

    “I think what Jackson is trying to say is that he wasn’t smart enough to grasp the process”

    You do of course realize that Jackson is now a columnist for the New York Times, which some would consider an impressive intellectual feat in and of itself. Ad hominem attacks are actually quite unhelpful since, as others have said, there are some real lessons here that Mangini can learn from if he chooses to pay any attention to this sort of specific constructive criticism.

  • ben

    OBSERVE BRO!

  • Harv 21

    Thank you Craig. “No excuses” = necessary mantra for those playing/coaching.

    The Indy Colt’s coach certainly tells his team: No Excuses. Meanwhile we all understand their precipitous drop in wins is significantly related to the absence of Manning. And their GM can’t just smugly repeat mantras, he will decide whether their QB position needs an upgrade rather than repeating mantras. Their fans would be irrational to just scream at the current QB and coach: No Excuses! Even if they’re tired of losing. No Excuses encourages people to perform to their full potential. That’s great, and necessary. But just repeating it doesn’t solve a systemic problem like the absence of talent, the wrong system, the wrong coach.

  • oribiasi

    @ Harv 21: So, what phrases/words/sentences should we believe from Holmgren/Shurmur? When they said that they were happy with their current wide receiver corps, should we have believed that one, too?

    Just curious.

  • Cleveland78

    I never wanted to get rid of the guy, so don’t blame me for the current situation.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    @oribiasi, I think they meant it or were really thinking wishfully and I think they got it wrong. I think they wanted to see these receivers in the new offense and conceitedly thought the WCO would sprinkle magic dust over these guys. I think they were hopeful that it would suit them and they would break out. It is safe to say they were wildly wrong about how much the new offense would resuscitate the receivers. I don’t think they ever imagined that they would be cutting Brian Robiskie mid-season. That kind of tells the story of how wrong they were.

    Is that fair?

  • Harv 21

    @ oribiasi: I just apply the same common sense as I do in real life. Sometimes “nice to see you” means that, sometimes not. If they’re not thrilled with their wides, they’ll draft one pretty high(they did). If they’re terrified, they’ll draft a couple and get a decent FA. Did Tay;or really have his best game, or have success against a depleted o-line and Jauron was giving a discouraged player little encouragement? Don’t know without knowing more context, but don’t expect, need or even want the absolute truth from the team. Just want them to win.

  • oribiasi

    @ Craig: Sure, that’s fair. Although, it makes me more than nervous to think that any NFL head coach and/or Mile Holmgren would hope that through magical football osmosis, all of our receivers would instantly become better. Does it sound like hubris to you, too? Does it sound like “I know better, I don’t need another WR, so there!” to you?

    You do bring a really interesting point up about Robiskie. When do you think they knew that he had to go? Remember, he wasn’t started for like 3 weeks before that happened. As such, why keep him on the roster? Ideas?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Sure it sounds overconfident, but the real test is now that they’ve seen how they react.

  • Mark

    Harv has it right. I’m not acting as if the statements coming from Holmgrem are sworn affidavits. Read them and apply common sense. I never got too worked up when Mangini held his press conferences and effectively said nothing. The same thing applies here. In fact, I don’t want total honesty out of Berea. What they say, the “no excuses”, mean very little to me.

  • mgbode

    @oribiasi – and let us also note that while Robiskie was technically a starter for the first 3 weeks of the season, the WRs were rotating off the field very play (so pretty much all WRs got equal playing time) and Robiskie was usually the 3rd or 4th option on the play (if at all).

    i’m not saying it is not Robiskie’s fault for his demise. I am saying that the coaches did not trust him despite his starting title.

  • oribiasi

    @ mgbode: Well, sure, he was not a number one option. Whether was because he didn’t prove himself in practice or because they wanted to see other players try to fulfill those roles is a mystery.

    To be honest, our team’s entire approach to the wide receiver position is a mystery to me. If you’re going to perform poorly, that’s one thing. But, if as a team president/coach, you’re going to be fine with it and not lose a 6th rounder for Lloyd…that worries me.

    I guess we can hope that they have some major master plan that is super secret and super successful. I just hate having to hope that the Deus Ex Machina is running in the background in Berea. Look at the successful teams right now: Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh. There is no trickery in those organizations (save N.E., I guess, with video-cam-gate). Everyone knows what they are going to do, and they know that everyone knows. And, when they do it, they just say “try and stop us.” So far no one has been able to do so with the Packers.

  • mgbode

    just to be clear, i wasn’t just saying that Robiskie wasn’t a #1 WR, but that he never seemed to be the first (or second) read on a pass play. when he was in McCoy rarely even looked left. now that he’s gone, he’s thrown more to that side.

  • pepe

    I stopped reading after “I was only in Cleveland for one week but…”

    I was only in Cleveland for one week last June and I have to tell you that Cleveland has the best weather of any city in America without a doubt.