A Clear Case of Direction

While most of the media is whining about exclusion, Lane Adkins attempts to peel back the many layers of Eric Mangini to find out what exactly is underneath all of the secrecy of the new head coach.

Tired of the losing ways and the public relations nightmare his organization had quickly become, team owner Randy Lerner wasted little time at the end of the 2008 season and fired his general manager, followed shortly thereafter by the head coach.

What Lerner didn't know was that the New York Jets were primed to fire their head coach, Eric Mangini soon after the announcements made by Lerner's Browns.

Upon learning Mangini's fate had been sealed in New York, Lerner's curiosity about Mangini began to grow. Mangini, who was battle-tested and had some success in his first round as a head coach in the NFL, quickly became an obvious candidate.

Mangini quickly went from candidate to the odds-on favorite, based largely on his previous head coaching experience and his time working hand-in-hand with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. When the retired Ernie Accorsi gave his thumbs-up on Mangini, Lerner was off to the races.

Fast-forward to the spring, and Mangini is the head coach of the Browns. There is no question as to who leads the organization -- Mangini makes it clear he, and new general manager George Kokinis, a friend of Mangini and former staffer with the Browns, are joined at the hip.

From the onset, each move made by the new regime in Cleveland is questioned -- sometimes by the fans, every time by members of the media. 

This comes with the territory. Part of the job some will say, and I agree, to some extent.

But, I don't agree with painting a picture of the man without giving him the time to express himself.

For Mangini, he expresses himself primarily by what he can accomplish on the playing field. Yes, Mangini can be a stoic personality. The man gives away very little, all in an effort to keep other teams in the league, as well as those covering the team, guessing.

With Mangini, what happens within the team, stays within the team.

Sure, that kind of tack is not good for those reporting on the team, but this is business. Sometimes described as a paranoid type, Mangini doesn't offer up much, and then delves into the smallest of details when evaluating the play and habits of his team.

Consider his roots. Mangini comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Over the years Mangini modeled and picked up many characteristics from arguably the best head coach in the game today -- and of course Belichick had a tough run with the media when coach of the Browns in the early 1990's. Belichick was as secretive as they come when coaching the Browns; men such as Belichick and Mangini will call it a competitive edge when refraining from sharing information.

What I see is a man, a coach, that lives the game. There is a mindset with Mangini to play the game the right way, don't be outworked and don't walk in unprepared. Some of this mindset is expressed in the meeting rooms within the Browns training facility when he quizzes players.

Interestingly, Mangini doesn't only quiz players about their responsibilities, he pops up and requests a player spell out what the responsibility of another player, another position is on a given play.

This is who Eric Mangini is. A football coach, an old school type that demands accountability, and commands respect and discipline from his men.

Yet, there have been some claims of players hating playing for the coach. It has also proven difficult to find many stars on the roster, but Mangini seeks players that fit his system. 

If Mangini and Kokinis do their jobs, securing stars shouldn't be an issue for a team that has historically struggled in building a competitive team through the college player draft process.

The end game is about winning. It's not about how likable a personality Mangini is; results on the playing field will cure most of what ails.

Fans are either going to love or hate him. If the team wins, Eric Mangini will be hailed as a great coach. If the team doesn't win, it'll be the same case of the Browns just being a lousy team, with a lousy coach and owner.

It's nearly become a Cleveland tradition -- right up there next to Otto Graham and Jim Brown.

This is the NFL and Cleveland has been at the bottom of the totem pole long enough.

Personally, I view Mangini as a refreshing change, not because of his personality or from the perspective of making the work of the media any easier, but rather from the perspective the Cleveland Browns have gone through a variety of coaching personalities and have not been successful.

So, Mangini gets the benefit of the doubt in my book -- whether he tells us anything or not.

Results are all that really matter and with enough hard work, the media can always get the story and it'll be a bit easier to do if the team wins.


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