So far, so good.
But there's a long way to go, and plenty of things can – and no doubt will – change.
That was the basic message from Eric Mangini on Saturday as the three-day, full-squad minicamp ended, setting the stage for the Aug. 1 start of his first training camp as Browns head coach.
"I'm happy with a lot of things we've been able to do here the last five months (since he was hired) with the offseason strength and conditioning program, the minicamps and the OTAs," he said. "We've gotten a lot of good work done.
"You can get some idea of the players from what we've done so far (spring practices with shorts and no pads), but you'll get a much better idea once you put the pads on. What we've done so far has one level of intensity, but once training camp begins, there will be a whole other level of intensity."
As Mangini's friend and predecessor as Browns head coach, Romeo Crennel, used to say, "Everybody looks good in shorts. Even I look good in shorts."
With the touch football out of the way, the pads and the full contact will serve as the great separator. It separates the men from the boys, the contenders for a starting job from the pretenders. A contender in April, May and June may well be a pretender come August. That's what training camp is all about, to decide who belongs in which group. Camp and the preseason are the last two building blocks before the start of the regular season, when the level of intensity goes up to an even higher level.
Crennel's last team – the one in 2008 – was just 4-12 after preseason expectations had the club headed to the playoffs and maybe even to the Super Bowl for the first time. But a lot of injuries and some poor play ruined that.
What happened last season was the final nail in the coffin for the regime of Crennel and general manager Phil Savage, both of whom were fired as the campaign ended. They were in charge for four years, with just one winning record – 10-6 in 2007 – and no playoffs to show for it
Enter Mangini, who was fired at about the same time as head coach of the Jets. He made the playoffs once and posted two winning records in his three years on the job, including going 9-7 in 2008 and missing out on the postseason after being 8-3 at one point.
He's getting a fresh start, and he's making sure the Browns do the same.
"It is easier this time from the standpoint that when I was with the Jets, that was the first time for me as a head coach, so everything I was doing, I was doing for the first time," Mangini said.
He learned a lot in those three years.
Until camp starts, Mangini said he and his family will go to their place on Cape Cod "and I'll swim with the boys." But he also said he will spend a lot of time studying and getting ready for the season.
He'd like his players to do the same.
"I don't want them to just go to the beach, put on suntan lotion and hang out and read a book," Mangini said. "If they read a book, I hope they read the playbook and study it. If you know the playbook, you're not having to think before you do something. You're just reacting, and that allows your true physical abilities to come out."
We'll know who studied – and who didn't – soon enough.