Everything and anything associated with the expansion-era Cleveland Browns has been a dismal failure for the better part of ten years. We are not talking the mid-to-late eighties here, when the Cleveland Browns were known to be one of the best teams in the game.
Throughout each and every disappointment, the fans of this team have remained steadfast in their desire to see the organization succeed.
This year's regime change regenerates a little hope for fans who have endured far too much disappointment.
Browns fans are known to persevere; how else could this fan-base grasp hold of this team in 1999, along with every single season of disappointment that followed? Outside of a playoff appearance and an improbable winning record in the 2007 season, this organization has had one recurring theme -- losing.
Browns team owner Randy Lerner wants to win badly. Not simply for himself, but for the fans as well, since he remains one himself. Lerner, oft-portrayed as a green, naive owner of a sports franchise, is not nearly as disconnected from the organization as reports indicate.
Granted, many of the decisions Lerner has ultimately made have not panned out for the team, the organization, or the vast number of fans who wear the colors of the Cleveland Browns. To think this man does not want this team to succeed, however, is preposterous. His exhaustive search -- which brought head coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis to Cleveland -- was not done simply to fill idle time.
Losing breeds contempt; in the case of Lerner, losing and the manner which his organization has been portrayed has brought great torment. Not due to making what seemed to be some bad hires. Not solely due to the poor record of his teams over the years.
What has to be most difficult for the team's owner is the manner in which his organization is perceived, and how the perception sheds a negative light on both himself and the fan base.
He knew he had to do something. Lerner's search for quality football men to oversee the coaching duties and personnel aspects of the organization was methodical. He also understood his selections may not be the high-profile, recognizable names many fans wanted associated with the Cleveland Browns.
Early in the process, Lerner sought out the experienced and very capable former general manager of the Browns and New York Giants, Ernie Accorsi, to consult him. Accorsi and Lerner detailed the steps of the process and the attributes they were looking for in new front office executives.
Lerner did look surprised when notified during a meeting with local media that Mangini had been let go by the New York Jets earlier that day.
Looking for a head coach with experience, Mangini jumped out at Lerner as the owner was familiar with him due to his time in Cleveland and New England with Bill Belichick. Additionally, Lerner has a residence in the New York area and was in tune with Mangini's Jets experience.
With Accorsi providing insight and ultimately informing Lerner that Mangini was a solid candidate for the head coaching position, Lerner wasted little time in inking the former Jets' coach.
The process was paved with Accorsi's experience and belief in structure. A key element of the approach was to bring on an experienced coach, one who was strong in instilling values and discipline to a roster and organization void of such important attributes.
Why It Might Work
While many who cover and follow this team are critical of the hires of Mangini and Kokinis, I find no viable basis for this line of thinking just yet. The toughness and discipline Mangini will instill in this roster will be a dramatic change to the old way that the team did business.
My concerns have to do with the perception of the head coach. His reputation of being tough to deal with on the professional level could prove to be troubling in getting his staff and roster to buy into the program. Despite these concerns, numerous head coaches have learned from their initial opportunity and became stronger, and more successful with later opportunities.
While Mangini may not be the second coming of Bill Belichick, Belichick himself thought at one time there were a lot of striking similarities between the two formerly-close associates and friends..
Kokinis, on the other hand, is yet another successful front office executive who has learned under the tutelage of former Browns tight-end Ozzie Newsome, the general manager and executive vice president of the Baltimore Ravens. By all accounts, what you see is what you get with Kokinis.
Kokinis has worked on the college and pro-end of a successful front office, handling various responsibilities as Newsome's right-hand man. Known as a strong communicator and thorough evaluator of talent, Kokinis is responsible for bringing professionalism, accountability and direction to a Cleveland Browns front office that has been scrutinized for a lack of each strength Kokinis is anticipated to bring to the table.
Until Mangini and Kokinis begin to make moves to strengthen the roster and display their talents, jumping onto the bandwagon of criticism is baseless and unrealistic.
And, until I see otherwise, I'll run with Ernie Accorsi's recommendations to one Randy Lerner.
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