Cleveland Sports Life Boat – Browns Head Coaches

Browns Coach Life Boat

Browns Coach Life Boat

I am a huge fan of the Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM Satellite radio. They do a bit on the radio called life boat, and I’m borrowing it for Cleveland sports. Here’s how it works. There are four people and only three seats remaining on the life boat. You must work your way through the list of candidates and, unfortunately, someone is designated to try their hand at long-distance swimming.

A couple rules.

1. You MUST pick three people to ride in the boat. “Let them all drown!” isn’t an interesting answer and frankly, you’re not funny. It’s been done, so skip it.

2. Don’t use an overly silly premise for your answer. Life boat is a silly enough premise where you aren’t going to “wow” anyone with your take that you should “keep the fatter guy because at least when we turn to cannibalism, we’ll have someone tasty to eat!”

So, this Cleveland sports life boat is Browns coaches. The candidates are:

Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur 

Craig – This turned out to be a bit easier than I would have thought, originally. Let’s run through them. Butch Davis is safe. Yes, he ruined his Browns tenure with a power grab with his buddy Pete Garcia. Yes, he quit mid-season in a disgraceful manner. Still, in terms of quality, I thought he was one of the better coaches the Browns have had since 1999. Eric Mangini is next safest. He was tasked with an almost impossible job between Randy Lerner’s leadership vacuum and not having a real general manager. Yes, he made many of his own problems, but ultimately I think history looks pretty kindly on Mangini and his run in Cleveland.

So that puts the test to Romeo Crennel and Pat Shurmur. I like both Crennel and Shurmur as men, probably more than Butch Davis. Ultimately even as infuriating as Shurmur’s offense was to watch, and even though Romeo Crennel had one great year for the Browns, I have to let Crennel swim. I still credit Rob Chudzinski with that nice year for the Browns as new offensive coordinator for the Browns. Pat Shurmur is saved, believe it or not.
Romeo Crennel was given four seasons and still only got lucky one year. Even though he was building it slowly, I did think there was direction, growth and improvement with Shurmur. It was just too slow. Crennel’s system always seemed to be the definition of entropy.
Andrew – I really don’t want to do this one. I think 3 of the 4 are awfully bad head coaches, with only Butch Davis being a mediocre coach. But, we’re required to save 3, so I have no choice.The first one I’m saving and the only one I think is a decent football coach is Butch Davis. Butch has found some level of success pretty much everywhere he has been. He turned Miami around, he took the Browns to the playoffs, he even made North Carolina somewhat respectable for a couple years there. Sure, he flames out quickly, but he can coach and he’s been the best coach the Browns 2.0 have had.

I don’t think any of the 3 remaining guys are good coaches. But I’m saving Mangini next. Why? Because he’s the smartest of the 3. He is undeniably smart when it comes to football. Maybe too smart for his own good as a coach. That’s why I think he’s a better analyst than coach. But he’s easily safe.

So, Shurmur or Crennel? Hmmm. Let me flip this coin real quick……. ok, it said I should save Crennel. I like Romeo a lot as a human being. I think he’s a great man who loved his players. Shurmur was stubborn, unpleasant, combative with the media for asking questions that needed to be asked, etc. Sorry, Pat, no room on my boat for you.

TD – To me, this one is real simple. Butch Davis, while his ego-centric actions derailed his once giant promise as a head coach, actually was the only man to take the Browns to the playoffs in the “new era.” Romeo Crennel was a great guy, but a below average coach as we know. However, he was the head coach of the best season since 1999, the 2007 10-6 team that fell just short of the playoffs.
I still say Eric Mangini was the best pure football coach the Browns have had since their return. I know the records don’t show it, but in his final season captaining the SS Brown and Orange, his team beat the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots – two of the leagues top teams, and for the most part were in every game. Not to mention, he did this with rookie Colt McCoy forced into duty. Mangini’s Browns team were also always prepared, ready to play, and didn’t commit dumb penalties.
So, that leaves us with the man who easily is left to sink, the completely ill-prepared and not ready for prime time head coach Pat Shurmur. Do I really need to get into why? If I hadn’t seen Chris Palmer, I would say that Shurmur was the least equipped Browns head coach i’ve ever seen.
Scott – Who got it done? Who didn’t? Butch Davis got the Browns to the playoffs. Yes, he replaced Tim Couch with Kelly Holcomb — among many other club-resetting moves — but he was a Dennis Northcutt catch away from getting a shot to play for the AFC title. Romeo is safe as he somehow managed to get this team to win 10 games regardless of how big of a fluke the whole situation was.
The last spot comes down to Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmur. I really want to hold Mangini’s tenure as GM against him as his first draft — my God, that second round — set the team back several years and ultimately cost him his job. But, we’re saving coaches, not coaches who wanted to play executive at the same time. If it came down to play-calling and getting the most out of what you have — essentially the job description of a head coach in the NFL — the nod goes to Mangini. Sorry Pat, you just didn’t, to borrow a phrase, win enough games.
Rick – Woof. The sad state of coaching in the Forest City. Unlike some of my colleagues, I will not separate the sins of those who were both coach and GM. They signed up for both jobs, so they get judged accordingly in my lifeboat.

Butch Davis, even though he botched some personnel moves still is safe as the rest of the group suggests. (Though I will point out he was only percentage points ahead of Romeo. Both won 24 regular season games, but Davis resigned with five fewer losses than Romeo.) Romeo had a 10 win season, no matter how many asterisks you want to put next to it for strength of schedule. (See Romeo, I’m making a decision without a coin flip.)

So, like many I am choosing between Mangini and Shurmur. 10 wins versus 9 wins. Even if I bust on Mangini for the ridiculous situation that was George Kokinis, he still out coaches Shurmur. Sigh. But you are so rowing Eric.

Now’s your turn in the comments. Remember. No funny business. The situations is limited to these four coaches and you MUST save three. Now get to work!
  • ted

    But Romeo IS fat!

  • Garry_Owen

    Romeo, for sure. Keep the fat guy because at least when we turn to cannabalism we’ll have someone tasty to eat.

  • jewpants47

    this sounded fun at first. then you start to think about it. and it’s just depressing that Butch may have been the best coach since ’99.

  • Garry_Owen

    Mangini, Davis, and Romeo.
    It was tough to pick between Romeo and Shurmur; after all, I’ve been throwing Pattycake Pattycake baker’s Shurmur a lifeline for 2 years. But at least Romeo gave us the one good season that we’ve experienced in a long while. Not to mention the BEST QB CONTROVERSY EVER.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Ugh eek blah vomit feed ’em all to the fishes seriously ain’t none of dem on my dingy!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Not only the head coaches but the front offices have been just as bad. Easy to explain 13 years of complete and utter ineptness.

  • TNB

    I’m probably the only one to set Butch into the water. Lets not forget the horrible personell decisions that he made or influenced. Kellen Winslow going on it trying to recover an onside kick, Holcomb over Couch, and some of the worst drafting I’ve ever seen.

  • boomhauertjs

    WFNY unanimous on Shurmur? He did not make too many fans while he was here, did he?

  • mgbode

    almost: see Craig’s answer

  • Harv 21

    agree with jp47, this is depressing. Since a few were a victim of their own overreaching into personnel, not sure how to factor this in. Do we use a Dirty Harry philosophy – “a good man knows his own limitations”?

    This group is so flawed that I’m down to trying to find a positive: what if anything did they do well?

    – Butch: his teams played hard and for a while he had them believing, enough for a playoff game. In.

    – Mangini: cleaned up the discipline and when given the time to make a game plan, he could game plan. Some great start to games, with surprises. Couldn’t in-game adjust AT ALL, total paralysis. But there’s 2 qualities. In.

    – Romeo: um, 10-6? Was honest? I don’t know, his capitulation to everything, his weakness in charge, I don’t know.

    -Shurmur: impossible to glean positive because of impossibility of task with that roster in just 2 years? Don’t know. Task was as hard in some ways as Palmer’s.

    Between the last two, I’m tossing Shurmur with a murmered apology. Because he never showed a strength and never even could have played the part of a HC in a film, even in a movie about a high school team. Pat, in your next life drop in a wide-legged squat during plays. No way Romeo can do that.

  • mgbode

    Butch and Mangini were the best actual coaches, but they insisted on controlling the FO and that destroyed their tenures.

    Romeo is the best person of the bunch IMO. Bonus points for all the stories he could tell (who doesn’t like the old grandfather telling them stories about back in the day? it might be a long ride on the water afterall). And, the most wins in a season too. He hired Chud, so even if you give that to Chud, Romeo gets credit.

    Pat Shurmur’s redeeming quality is that he was only here for 2 years and alot of the youngsters did seem to progress (Little, Gordon, Schwartz, Taylor, Ward, etc.). However, he was so conservative and he didn’t win and it undercut those progressions (and the most important guy, Weeden, didn’t seem to progress).

    I do like that we don’t even consider Palmer.


    I can make a case for throwing out each and every one of them. I’m going to go with Mangini though because his over-reliance on older players and his complete debacle of a draft set our franchise back 5 years in one fell swoop. I do not think that any other coach did as much future damage over such a short period of time.

  • Craig Lyndall

    Yeah. Yeah. Shurmur survived over Romeo, but just barely.

  • Craig Lyndall

    I voted it up, but you’re on notice! :-)

  • Garry_Owen

    Appreciate that, but I’ve been on notice for years.
    I’ll behave from now on.
    /fingers crossed behind back!

  • mgbode

    now, you’re on double-secret notice!!!

  • mgbode

    hey, I wrote this before I decided and I surprisingly killed off Mangini.

  • MrCleaveland

    When you’re outmanned and outgunned, you gotta make up for it by using your wits, not your beloved “system.” Find a way. Be creative.

    Mr. Shurmur, let’s have you try on these cement shoes and see how they fit.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Demerits? 😉

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I guess I need to throw Big Shurm out, although for whatever reason I’ve had more hope for his teams than for the teams of Mangini and Crennel. I think that is because I thought we had better players on Shurmur’s teams, so if that’s the case then I absolutely need to throw the guy off the boat as the team produced the same regardless.

  • hopwin

    Butch and Eric get in for sure. I am tempted to say Pat can ride in the Lamonte lifeboat but it is probably full what with Holmgren, Heckert, Childress and Juaron, so Pat gets a ride and we can tow Romeo since fat floats.

  • Kildawg

    I think this also applies to Mangini (if he gets too smart for his own good again).

  • dan

    Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel get a spot in the lifeboat for sure; they had the only two winning seasons since expansion.

    If I could separate Eric Mangini the Adequate Head Coach from Eric Mangini the Terrible Acquirer of Personnel I’d put the former in the lifeboat, but he chose Kokinis as G.M., Daboll as O.C., and endorsed getting mediocre veteran Jets rather than draft picks in the Sanchez trade down.

    Pat Shurmur? After two years of watching his teams fail to progress, I’ve yet to see any reason why he was hired in the first place.

    I’m putting both Shurmur and Mangini in the water, and the third spot in the lifeboat goes to Chris Palmer, who belongs in the discussion and was slightly better than those two and less responsible for the catastrophes he oversaw than they (for which I blame Dwight Clark).