You can color at least one member of an unnamed AFC North front office a little more than mildly impressed with the job Eric Mangini, George Kokinis & Company have done in their first half-year on the job. "Cleveland can't and won't be rebuilt in a year, but what they're doing has them headed in a better direction, I think," the executive said. "At least that's what it looks like from the outside.
"Eric and George look like they are getting players that fit into their system, not just getting any player whose [workout] numbers pop at you, then trying to get those numbers to fit into whatever system your [coaching] staff has."
--And, yes, that last sentence was a thinly-veiled slap at the previous regime. It's been an offseason-long source of amusement around the league that the previous personnel staff in Cleveland would acquire round players and expect the coaching staff to hammer them into square holes. Forget about being on the same page; it's very safe to say that the old personnel department was reading from an entirely different book than were the people responsible for the Sunday on-the-field product.
--Perhaps the biggest hope-inducing facet of this new regime is that they all -- from the front office to the personnel evaluators to the coaching staff -- seem to be on the same page. Now, whether or not it's the right system, or whether or not the ones doing the procuring of talent have the knack for hitting more than missing on acquisitions, or whether it's the right mix in the coaching staff or not, remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though: this regime is on the same ship, the same course, and are all pulling in the same direction. That would be 180 degrees from the previous regime, which was seemingly two dinghy's pulling in opposite directions toward their own personal and professional agenda-laden islands.
--"You have to have the coaching staff and the people giving that staff their players going in the same direction. I mean, that's a given in this league if you wanna be successful. When you're dealing with personnel and the whole scope of what personnel means, it's gotta be part about what you want, and part about what your coach wants. It's when you start forcing players on a coach.... when you start closing your mind to this and that, and get all stubborn and think 'I know all that'... that's when you start running into issues that go beyond the field and can rip an organization apart."
--Incidentally, I asked the unnamed executive who he thought were the best acquisitions by the Browns this offseason. The first two names he mentioned, in order? James Davis -- "an absolute steal" -- and Eric Barton -- "he will push and shove and coach D'Qwell Jackson to be an absolute beast". "And he can still be productive on the field for another coupla years too," the source added, referring to Barton.
--While his name wasn't mentioned by the above exec, wide receiver David Patten has been, according to one source, "a godsend" to rookie receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. Look at it as the "Barton Effect" on the other side of the ball, although there's some question as to whether the receiver has the same fumes in the tank as does the linebacker.
--Speaking of Robiskie, look for more on the first-year receiver in the next installment of this "series" as he's been a very impressive individual both on and off the field during his brief time as a member of the Browns.
--One thing you won't get anyone in the organization to talk about -- on or off the record, on deep background or from a pulpit -- is this: the Donte Stallworth situation. No one I have spoken to within the organization, on the perimeter of the organization, or with any type of relationship with the persons involved in the organization will touch this one with a 10-foot Goodell Slugger. And I'm having a hard time figuring out if that's a good or bad thing.
--Look for Isaac Sowells to be an early-to-mid training camp cut. And that sound you heard? Yes, it was the esteemed Mr. Passan cracking a rare smile somewhere on a tennis court in America's Great Southwest. Either that, or his face just broke. One of the two.