Here we go again. Randy Lerner turned over the team how many times since he took over? And now that he’s sold the team, he’s given us yet another chance at turning over the team to someone with a different vision. Browns fans will yet again be left holding the bag of patience. At least this time, the bag is lighter as the patience supply is dwindling, right? Wrong. Jimmy Haslam will most likely replace Mike Holmgren. He very well could decide to replace Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur too, but my fears aren’t anywhere near the same this time around.
Love or hate Eric Mangini, but we’ve discussed the herculean task he faced time and again on this site. When Eric Mangini arrived he inherited a Romeo Crennel team devoid of discipline. There was talent around, but talent was brittle bone in bodies full of bad attitude in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Mangini looks smarter and smarter regarding those two as the years go by. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow have become journeymen fighting for their jobs annually at age 29. They were both in Seattle for training camp, but just last week Winslow was cut and is available. The point is that that was a rebuild.
This time around the Cleveland Browns are different. They’ve got young players all over the field. They have a secondary that, outside of Sheldon Brown, is probably among the youngest in the NFL. Their offensive and defensive lines are young as well. They’ve got some up-and-coming prospects in Trent Richardson, Greg Little and Josh Gordon. They’ve even got some marginal prospects in quarterback Brandon Weeden1 and tight end Jordan Cameron. They have all their draft picks intact other than the second rounder they used on Gordon. They have cap space for days. My point is that this team is set up well for the future even if the front office and coaching staff changes over night.
Instead of having to deal with bad attitudes and Shaun Rogers not living up to the hype, you have Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor. Instead of desperately trying to make Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald work, you’ve got Haden, Dimitri Patterson, and some young prospects like Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade. Instead of importing Abram Elam because he knows what it means to practice hard, the Browns have T.J. Ward and Eric Hagg. In addition to that, for all the criticisms that have been lobbed at Pat Shurmur, by almost all accounts he isn’t running a country club completely off the rails like Camp Romeo, embodied by Braylon Edwards’ barefoot heel injury debacle.
None of this is to say that the Browns are a finished product. Given the schedule and the youth all over the roster, I could easily see this Browns team succumbing to inexperience and injuries and only winning four or five games. You don’t take results like that and just stand pat when you take over a team. Still, you have to feel like there is a foundation. Jimmy Haslam and whoever he hires might still need to find the right quarterback. They might need to find an entirely new linebacking or receiving corps too. What they won’t have to build is an entirely new foundation or broken culture. Obviously the culture is suspect until the team starts winning for real, but I just don’t get the sense that this is a team out of control.
So have faith Browns fans. This team could benefit from Jimmy Haslam making changes, but it really shouldn’t require the wholesale rebuild that we’ve gone through so many times before.
Age makes him a marginal prospect for me. Not saying I don’t like the guy, but a 28-year-old prospect is not a 22-year-old prospect. [↩]