It's official. Randy Lerner is doomed to repeat his mistakes. He still hasn't learned.
When he names Eric Mangini as his new head coach today, the Browns' owner will parrot the motion picture Groundhog Day.
One of these days, Lerner will learn a very valuable lesson. Today will not be that day.
That lesson? In the National Football League, you're only as strong as your front office. Everything filters down from on high in the NFL, where the trickle-down theory actually works.
Following the 2007 season, the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins belonged in that select company. Then the Falcons hired Tom Dimitroff as their general manager and the Dolphins picked off Bill Parcells to run their football operations.
Dimitroff selected Mike Smith as his coach and Parcells tapped Tony Sparano, both rookie head coaches. The Falcons went from 4-12 last season to 11-5 and the playoffs this season, while the Dolphins improved from 1-15 to 11-5 and the AFC East championship.
You start from the top down.
Take a look at the front offices of the teams that perennially challenge for postseason action. The same teams pop up most of the time.
Strong front offices.
By anointing Mangini as his new head coach, Lerner has practically given him the keys to the kingdom.
You can just about make book on another certainty. George Kokinis will be the Browns' new general manager. Who else besides Phil Savage would take over as GM with a new head coach not of his choosing already in place?
Tom Heckert of the Philadelphia Eagles is scheduled to interview for the position later this week. Why bother? Why would Heckert take the job knowing he has no say-so in the selection of the head coach? He might as well remain in Philadelphia.
Kokinis is Mangini's guy. Barring an upset of major proportions, he has a lock on the job. You can bet all the shots will be called by Mangini with Kokinis bowing – figuratively speaking – reverently.
Mangini can thank his lucky stars there's someone like Lerner in the NFL because it's highly unlikely any other team would have awarded him this chance given his reputation as a snitch. His name will always be attached to Spygate.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of a coaching staff Mangini can assemble. The coaching community does not take kindly to ratting out a colleague.
For whatever reason, Lerner is dancing to Mangini's tune. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
How could Lerner be so naïve with this selection? Perhaps Mangini was smart enough to deliver the answers the owner wanted to hear.
Lerner apparently does not believe there is any kind of dysfunction in his organization and Mangini agreed. Maybe he doesn't think it starts from the top and works its way down.
Scott Pioli, once the white-hot candidate for the GM job, evidently believed the organization should be torn apart and rebuilt. Eight years of front-office experience told him that. Lerner didn't want to hear that.
He says he wants continuity and a head coach-general manager tandem that works well as a team, using last season's split between Savage and Romeo Crennel as the prime example.
If I'm not mistaken, Crennel and Savage worked pretty well together in their first three years. They supported each other publicly. We never heard complaints from either party.
It wasn't until this past season that the two men fell off the same page. Lerner seems to be using one season as the barometer for the Browns' failures the last four years.
What's to say a Mangini-Kokinis tandem will function seamlessly as long as they're with the Browns? Sure, they'll be kissy-face for at least the first year, perhaps two. But there is no guarantee that will last, especially if the club's on-field failures continue.
Lerner is blindly taking Mangini's word that Kokinis could step right in and improve the structure of the front office. So what kind of experience does he have that would lead anyone to believe he's perfect for the job?
Let's examine his body of work in the NFL. Area scout for the Baltimore Ravens for four years before being appointed the assistant director of pro personnel in 2000. Moved up to director of pro personnel in 2002 and, according to the club's media guide, works closely with Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome in analyzing NFL rosters and coordinating and evaluating each year's free-agency market. He also assists in handling contract negotiations with some draft choices.
Basically, he makes recommendations to Newsome, who has the final say and can reject them if he chooses.
Has Kokinis ever run a front office? No. How much administrative experience does he have? None to speak of. How qualified would he be to run a front office for an NFL team? As qualified as Savage and we all saw how that turned out.
And yet, Mangini seems to have convinced Lerner that Kokinis is ready to take over and be his point man as they attempt to finally aim the Browns in the right direction.
Isn't this what many of us expected when Lerner tapped Savage as his general manager four years ago? Isn't this what many of us expected when the nefarious Butch Davis was relegated to the far reaches of our memory banks?
Lerner says he doesn't want a rookie in his front office. Maybe someone should shake him just enough to get him to see that Kokinis has never run an entire NFL operation from the front office.
If Lerner is going to put the college draft into the hands of Mangini and Kokinis, he might as well reserve the basement in the AFC North again for at least the next year or two. Unless, of course, Mike Brown down in Cincinnati outdumbs him.
Neither man has ever been in charge of a draft. They've been on the periphery, but never in a position to make a command decision. To place either of these men in such a position is flirting with disaster.
General Manager Mike Tannenbaum handles the draft for the Jets and Newsome, of course, runs the Ravens' draft.
One has to wonder who had Lerner's ear as he attempted to restructure the front office. Whoever it was does not have the club's best interests at heart if the names of Mangini and Kokinis caused amorous flutters.
He might not realize it now, but by hooking up with Mangini and Kokinis, Lerner has managed to anger a small segment of the fans fed up with the kind of passive football Mangini espouses.
But there will always be sycophants who faithfully place their approval on whomever Lerner hires. In (fill in the blank) We Trust is certain to be the mantra of the club's blind-faith fans.
And in another four years – maybe less – we'll probably hear the same refrain we've been subjected to following the Savage-Crennel circus.
That refrain? When is Randy Lerner going to finally get it right? The definitive answer, based on his first two attempts, might very well be never.
Speaking of Crennel, if the rumors of Mangini naming him as his defensive coordinator are true, prepare to duck. Such a move would take chaos to a whole new level in the locker room and among the fans.
To be fair, there are more than just a few fans in Browns Nation who believe Mangini will – not possibly, not most likely, but will – duplicate what Bill Belichick has accomplished since leaving Cleveland.
Their reasoning, however, is flawed. The only similarity between the two is that both failed in their first crack as a head coach. The differences, however, are stark
Belichick has always wanted to be a football coach. He learned at the feet of his father, who was a coach. Mangini was a relative latecomer to the profession.
Belichick was the New York Giants' defensive coordinator for six seasons, winning two Super Bowl championship rings along the way. Mangini coordinated the Patriots defense for just one season before taking over the Jets.
Belichick has directed every college draft as a head coach. Mangini has no practical experience in that important arena.
Belichick has run the entire football program in every conceivable phase in Cleveland and New England. Mangini has just coached.
Belichick learned from his mistakes after leaving Cleveland. The jury is still out on Mangini, whose track record is sketchy as best.
So before you jump on the Mangini bandwagon, be very careful. Premature jumping can be dangerous to your health, causing severe disappointment and agonizing frustration.