Last week things got testy here on WFNY yet again when I brought up that I was tired of hearing the argument that detractors use to say Mike Holmgren is a hypocrite for firing Mangini for not winning enough. I just wrote a small paragraph on it in a ranting fashion, and I don’t think it might have made the point, and possibly even came off a little antagonistic. So, I thought I would research it properly to really present the case that Mangini wasn’t fired for wins alone.
In case you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about yet, the idea is that Eric Mangini won five games the season before he was fired and Mike Holmgren said, “…we did not win enough games this year” in the press conference announcing Mangini’s firing. Pat Shurmur only won four games, so it seems pretty simple that Holmgren was caught being inconsistent at best and a hypocrite at worst. ”So what does Mike Holmgren have to say for himself now?” seems to be the battle cry of the loudest of his detractors.
It is true that Mike Holmgren said that the Browns didn’t win enough games, but nobody even remembers the sentence preceding that one.
After saying how hard it was to make the decision and how much he liked and respected Eric Mangini, Holmgren said the following (emphasis mine.)
“Unfortunately this business at times and even though it wasn’t the only factor, I want to win here. We want to win here in Cleveland and we did not win enough games this year.”
“… even though it wasn’t the only factor…” is kind of an important phrase leading up to the part about winning games. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame anyone for missing it either among the other 347 different questions trying to determine if Holmgren had fired Mangini to make way for his own return to the sidelines.
Even beyond this one question, Holmgren said a whole lot more in his news conference about the decision to fire Mangini and what he was looking for in a new coach. By proxy says something about why Mangini was let go.
On this one, Holmgren talks in circles a bit, but he let’s the cat out of the bag at the end, indicating that he would favor his own system. (Emphasis mine.)
(On if the next coach will have run more of a West Coast style system)- “No, I don’t think I can do that. In what I tried to do with Eric (Mangini) this year and we talked about it this morning. I said, ‘I wish I could have helped you out more,’ and we had one of those things where we were kind of talking to each other that way. If I hire a coach, I’m hiring a coach. He’s going to run what he runs, what he’s comfortable with, what he knows. Now will it be part of the consideration in the process? Absolutely, but I am not going to interfere that way as a president. I did not do it this year, I’m not going to do it next year and I’m not going to do it ever. That’s not fair. Is it a consideration in this process? I think it is though. Maybe not the ‘system’ exactly but certainly something that I think allows the quarterback in this case in one of our quarterbacks to be successful.”
While saying he is going to be “hands off” Holmgren says that his system will be a consideration. As we now know with Shurmur’s hiring, it was a massive consideration. So, do you think you can apply that to Mangini’s firing other than just not winning enough? Here’s more from Holmgren’s press conference.
(On if it would be easier if the next head coach ran a West Coast offense so he could give input and advice)- “Certainly it would be easier, yes. It would be easier, but again, I’m going to be real careful about that. I just don’t think it’s fair. I would try and put myself in his shoes in having somebody pop into my office all the time saying do this, do that and do that. I know how I would react and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. To answer, it would be easier, yes.”
And yet again, Holmgren wants to make sure whoever he hires doesn’t end up being painted as a puppet of his. But again, we can all see that he had a massive preference for his own philosophies.
And if that isn’t enough, remember Mangini’s own comments to Terry Pluto from earlier this year about how it wouldn’t work because of the two different coaching trees. Nobody knows why Mangini was fired better than Mangini after working with Holmgren and then being fired by him.
In the end, none of this proves that the Browns are on their way to respectability, let alone the Superbowl. They are still a four-win team looking to get better. Holmgren has made plenty of mistakes. He blatantly said that he didn’t think it felt like the team was starting over. Clearly after watching this season with Pat Shurmur and staff, they were starting over in more respects than not. Holmgren back-tracked on that a this season’s press conference when he kept referring to this as “year one.” Whoops.
That doesn’t really jive with him saying he didn’t think the team was starting over when Mangini was fired. I don’t think it would have been a good idea on the heels of firing Mangini to be honest and say that we were starting over this season because part of his job is to sell tickets, but it certainly raises eyebrows at a minimum.
In the end it doesn’t matter a whole lot other than in our discussions here. I would never tell anyone to trust Holmgren blindly anyway. I would never try to tell anyone that he hasn’t made mistakes or that the Browns are 100% headed in the right direction. I also wouldn’t attempt to tell anyone that Shurmur is a good hire after the season we just watched. He dealt with adversity this season, but in the end the Browns didn’t win and even beyond that the offense (his specialty) was abysmal. We all know that the team and its head coach will have to improve by leaps and bounds next season to justify sticking around.
I just get really sick and tired of the one-line “gotcha” criticisms that hope to summarize the Browns. I would really like to move beyond that kind of stuff into more of the finer points of how this team can get better. It is so much simpler to create rules in your mind or summarize to such finite little talking points that you can take a black and white stance, but I find the Johnny Cochran rules-making strategies like “if the glove don’t fit you must acquit” to be pretty frustrating.
Ultimately an NFL team, between the front office, coaching staff and players on the roster is a much more complex equation at least in my viewpoint. Simple answers are great when they are legit, but rarely are things that simple and easy. If things were that simple and easy, this team would have righted itself already and we wouldn’t have such contentious arguments about them.