Rich's Rant: Repeating the Same Mistakes

Rich Passan believes that the Browns GM/Coach search shows they have failed to learn their lessons...

Some people never learn. That would appear to be the case with Randy Lerner.

Four years ago, the Browns owner selected his new head coach before deciding on his new general manager. The results were just short of disastrous.

That's not the way it works in the National Football League. Putting the cart before the horse never works.

Normally, a general manager or someone with a similar job description is in place before the selection of a new head coach.

It's time for Lerner to hire a general manager, let him conduct the preliminary coaching interviews, narrow the field to two or three men, then call in the owner to help with the selection. That's the way it should work.

Will Lerner ever learn this? Judging from the manner in which he's conducting his current double search for a GM and head coach, uh-uh. It sure looks as though he is repeating 2004 all over again as he pieces together yet another attempt to yank the Browns from the NFL morass.

The first set of mistakes he committed can be forgiven because he was a newcomer at the time, having just taken over for his late father. One would think he has learned from his mistakes since then.

It is understandable that Lerner wants to interview some of the hot coaching candidates who won't be available once the playoffs begin.

So why has he interviewed Eric Mangini? What's his hurry? Is he fearful some other club will swoop in and grab him? That's not going to happen.

Mangini is unemployed. Fired by the New York Jets. What's so hot about him that Lerner practically frothed when informed of his New York dismissal?

There are several other worthy candidates out there besides Mangini, whose only edge is he has head-coaching experience.

But you have to wonder why other owners and general managers looking for head coaches aren't exactly beating down the doors to get at Mangini. While highly regarded for his football knowledge, he is not in the top five on the lists of clubs seeking new head coaches. And there's probably a good reason.

Mangini did not endear himself to his fellow coaches and NFL brethren when he leveled accusations of cheating (stealing signs) against the New England Patriots during the 2007 season.

Forget for a moment that the allegations were true. Mangini's actions violated an unwritten code among coaches around the NFL.

Most teams cheat in one form or another in an effort to gain an advantage on opponents. That cheating is met with a wink-wink, nod-nod response because so many clubs do it. That's why it's generally left alone.

Mangini had to know he would cause tidal waves when he gave birth to the so-called Spygate with his complaint. He had to know he would alienate a lot of people. And yet, he squealed.

NFL folks have long memories when it comes to stuff like this. He ratted out a member of a select community and it very well could come back and bite him in the rear flanks.

It would not be surprising to learn Mangini is considered a pariah for his actions. It would also not be surprising the Browns are the only team that would be ignorant enough to interview him.

That has to be at least one reason Scott Pioli, generally favored to become the Browns' new president of everything football, is hesitant to accept Lerner's invitation to climb on board Team Dysfunction and straighten it out.

If there is no animosity that lingers between Pioli and Mangini, that would represent a stunning change of heart by Pioli, whose Patriots suffered numerous indignities as a result.

Realistically, a matter of trust is involved and there is no way the former can trust the latter. Certainly not after what happened in Spygate.

Mangini stabbed the Patriots in the back by pointing fingers of guilt at them. He knew what was going on because he was a part of it himself as New England's defensive coordinator for a season. And yet, he kept his lip zipped until taking over the Jets.

He is a man who cannot be trusted. He might be a good football coach and probably would make someone a nice defensive coordinator, but he very well might have seriously damaged his chances of getting another head coaching gig in the NFL with one unwise decision. Except, of course, with the Browns.

It would appear, based on reports, that Lerner has fallen so much in love with Mangini (professionally, that is), he can't resist bringing him back to Cleveland as the new coach of the Browns.

As a head coach, Mangini was 23-25 with the Jets. He inherited a 4-12 team and turned it into a 10-6 club in his rookie season playing a last-place schedule. In 2007, the Jets played a tougher schedule and dropped back to 4-12. Playing another last-place schedule this past season, the Jets wound up 9-7 after winning eight of their first 11 games.

In the it's-not-how-you-start-it's-how-you-finish world of the NFL, that constitutes failure this past season. The Jets surrendered 122 points in losing four of their last five games. For the season, they gave up six more points than the Browns. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the defensive-minded Mangini.

Maybe he interviews well.

Now comes late word that if Pioli turns down Lerner, the owner might be interested in a package of Mangini and George Kokinis, Ozzie Newsome's right-hand man with the Baltimore Ravens and a good friend of Mangini.

Maybe Lerner is trying to put pressure on Pioli to make a decision. Then again, maybe he's hedging his bets. Either way, we'll find out soon enough.

If Kokinis turns out to be the man, Lerner would be compounding one mistake with another. Kokinis replaced Phil Savage in the Baltimore hierarchy when Savage took over as GM of the Browns four years ago.

It will be more of the same we've been subjected to the last four seasons. Mangini, like Romeo Crennel, fell off a branch of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and Kokinis, like Savage, worked at the elbow of Newsome. Sort of Savage-Crennel lite.

Talk about making the same mistake twice. Some people are doomed to repeat their mistakes. Lerner is flirting with becoming one of them. Unless, of course, this is all just a game and Pioli will be the man after all.

And I don't want to hear that Lerner and his minions know what they're doing and we don't. They don't.

If that were the case, the Browns would never have reached the point in their new existence where they're laughed at by a majority of the pro football world for their ineptitude.

The Browns don't need another rookie as general manager like Savage. And that's what Kokinis would be. He's not ready to run the show. Pioli is. He's not a rookie. He and Belichick call all the shots in New England with a massive degree of success.

If Lerner believes Mangini and Kokinis can help him open the door and solve his team's problems, he's knocking on the wrong door.

Murphy's Law, it would appear, is about to take up permanent residence at 76 Lou Groza Blvd.

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