During training camp, Mike Holmgren rode a golf cart along the edge of the field and did a drive-by address to the crowd. One of the things he said was for the fans to be patient. Well you know what Mike? Screw you, and screw your request for patience. This fan base has been patient for almost fifty years. For many fans, that is their entire lives. People in their thirties and forties who have invested in the Browns for years without any real reward.
How about a sense of urgency, Mike? How about saying I will not sleep until I'm standing on a field somewhere, confetti raining down, holding a big, shiny-ass trophy with some Lombardi guy's name on it? How about saying we will go hard after the best scouts, the best coaches, the best free agents, the best college players we can find. We will look for players at major college programs, smaller programs, tiny schools, we'll look in UPS lunchrooms if we have to. But we will not rest until this franchise is successful.
I am a realist. I know there's no magic, instant makeover. But I also know that football is a sport of emotion, and that all teams in all sports thrive and attitude and confidence.
Living in the New York city area, I can't help but compare our club to the NY Jets as fronted by Rex Ryan. From his very first press conference, he set extremely high expectations for his new team. He spoke of the Jets becoming a tough, physical team that no one would want to play. He said he wasn't there to kiss Bill Belichick's rings, and he did not fear the Patriot juggernaut. He stated that the Jets would visit the White House to celebrate a Super Bowl win during the Obama administration. And at that time the Jets had a legacy of defeat, collapse, and under-acheivement that rivaled the Browns. He had no quarterback. He played in the same division as perennial powerhouse New England.
I realize that not all fire-breathing head coaches are winners, and not being able to back up big talk is an invitation to being a league laughingstock. Certainly, it's something very few head coaches or clubs attempt to do, for good reason. But the Cleveland Browns, since the return, seem to have no expectations at all, other than to be patient. Being patient has become code for "we're not very good, so don't expect much". In my experience, poor expectations pretty often lead to poor results.
Eric Mangini is not Rex Ryan, no should he try to be. This is not a call for his head. The man has toughened up this team, and the personality being exhibited by the current Browns is a wonderful thing. But let's be real, we are approaching the halfway mark of the season with one win. By the only thing that matters, we suck. But we've been treading water for so long, that having a tougher team feels like real progress, even if it's incremental in the big picture view.
Meanwhile, the coaches and GMs we passed on in 2009 are taking the steps we can't seem to make toward success. Kansas City, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and even Detroit have quality young talent at key spots. You can see how the foundation is set.
Mangini, as proven by the 2009 draft, is not a man with a sense of urgency. He's one to avoid the bold move and hedge his bets. Unfortunately, trading down multiple times to take a center took us out of position to get a real impact player. If the club is going to move that way, the scouts and FO should have been damn sure of the guys they liked in the second round would be productive players. Robiskie, Massaquoi and Veikune have proven our scouting or decision making was lacking. Heckert seems to be an improvement, but the lack of action in pursuing stellar free agents is disconcerting. Unless, of course, patience is the plan.
What would be nice is a bit of bravado coming out of Berea. What would be nice is for the leaders of this franchise, Heckert or Holmgren, to set some expectations, to address the sense of complacency and ennui that pervades the franchise.
Holmgren needs to become more visible and speak to the fans. Apathy is setting in, you can feel it. I'm not sure Mike really understands Browns' fans. He says he does, but it comes off as lip service. Show us some action, Boss, talk to us, because being invisible reads as being inactive.
Somebody set a tone for the Cleveland Browns, please.
Where have you gone, Hanford Dixon?