Think back to 2008. It was a year removed from one of, if not the best year in the history of Cleveland sports. The Browns were coming off a 10-win season. The Indians had just won the AL Central and finished a game away from the World Series. The Cavaliers still had LeBron James and were one of the best teams in the NBA. We probably took for granted just how great that year was. It seems like a lifetime ago when you consider the sad state of affairs that we are currently subjected to.
Just a year later, the Tribe was beginning their downward spiral. The Browns proved to be a one-year, schedule-aided fluke. The Cavs were still great with LeBron, but we all knew his contract was just one year away from expiring.
In 2008 the three major sports teams in this town were led by Eric Wedge, Mike Brown, and Romeo Crennel. Let that soak in for a moment…..
Wedge was who he was. He never liked talking to the media, wasn’t seen as a public figure one bit and was never trotted out for speaking engagements or events the way the Indians did with the man who replaced him, Manny Acta. But that is how Wedge liked it. Wedge just wanted to keep grinding. He kept everything tight behind the doors of the clubhouse and never seemed buddy-buddy with this players.
Wedge now is the manager of the Seattle Mariners.
Mike Brown was a bit of a patsy. He was put in a no-win situation with LeBron pulling all the strings whether people wanted to acknowledge it at the time or not. If the Cavs won, LeBron got all of the credit. If they lost, it was Brown’s fault. Mike was engaging, affable, and well liked by the media and fans as a person. His in-game-coaching left a lot to be desired and was often questioned, but win or lose, he was always there answering all the questions that came his way.
The Cavs let Brown go in a effort to appease LeBron. After a year out of the game, Brown landed on his feet strong, as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Like Brown, Romeo Crennel the man, was never questioned. His grandfatherly-like demeanor made it impossible not to like him personally. His press conferences were often softball-fests because the media all had such a deep respect for him. Crennel was open and honest, two characteristics you often don’t see in head coaches or managers in pro sports. The players all loved him and “Camp Crennel” was league-renowned as a complete country club training camp atmosphere. Plenty of people were sad to see Romeo the person, let go. Nobody was sad to see Romeo the coach, be relieved of his duties.
After a late season 2-1 run as the interim coach, the Kansas City Chiefs elevated Crennel to their permanent head coach for 2012.
Now we are in the latter part of 2012 and transition is in the air. The Indians fired Manny Acta six games short of three seasons on the job. It was a shock to nobody with the Indians second-half collapse and the need for major changes throughout the organization.GM Chris Antonetti and to a lesser extent, team President Mark Shapiro had job security questions quelled right away by the Dolan family ownership, who pledged to stay the course with at the Acta firing press conference. Little did we know the duo had a an ace up their collective sleeve.
Just over a week after letting Acta go, the Tribe hired Terry Francona as their new skipper. I still can’t believe it actually happened. At yesterday’s introduction, Francona said he took the job for “two reasons – Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro.” It is an absolutely incredible turn of events considering the multiple problems the organization has i.e a lack of talent, a complete distrust of ownership, and an apathetic, shrinking fan base.
Byron Scott, who replaced Brown, is beginning his third year on the job as the head coach of the Cavaliers. With organization’s clear path towards rebuilding through the draft while piling up cap space, Scott seems to be pretty safe for the foreseeable future. Then again, this is a team owned by Dan Gilbert, so anything is possible.
Like the Indians, the Browns are in a state of flux.
Sure, we all thought they had a plan and a path towards improvement, but then Randy Lerner sold the Browns to Jimmy Haslam signaling a new era in Browns football. Suddenly, everyone was auditioning to stay. Team president Mike Holmgren has essentially been neutered and won’t be on the job much longer with the Joe Banner rumors getting louder by the day. GM Tom Heckert has no idea where he stands and the coach the two of them picked, Pat Shurmur, seems to have about as good of a shot of sticking around as Holmgren does.
The current front office and coaching staff was told they’d be given the chance to essentially “play for their jobs” in 2012. We are five games in and Shurmur’s team not only looks lackluster and undisciplined at times, but the head coach himself is cracking under the pressure. Just watch the press conference after Sunday’s blowout loss to the Giants. Shurmur is not doing himself any favors.
Haslam is a billionaire businessman. He didn’t get this way by working with people he didn’t choose once he got to the top. Undoubtedly, he is going to want his own people running what to him is now his most important asset. In fact, Haslam will set his sights high. If Banner is indeed his man, he too will be on board with this line of thinking.
Could this be the time that the Browns actually land the big fish coach that will finally get things going? Could Haslam draw in Jon Gruden, who judging by the HBO Real Sports piece from last month still has the coaching itch deep inside of him?
Lets say this were to happen, I know this is a big stretch, but the three men coaching/managing the local sports teams would be Terry Francona, Byron Scott, and Jon Gruden. Could you imagine? In our town, that could actually be real?
All three men COMMAND respect. All three men have the pedigree. All three men should have nobody questioning them in their respective locker rooms.
That, my friends, is a far cry from Wedge, Brown, and Crennel.
Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?
(photo via Marvin Fong / The Plain Dealer)