Rich's Rant: I Am Cranky, Hear Me Roar

The OBR's friendly neighborhood curmudgeon is back and, well, let's just say he's not exactly pleased with the constitution of the roster...

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your brand spanking new Cleveland Browns. And be sure to buy that program this Sunday for the season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium. You'll need it.

Any resemblance between the team that finished last season and the one that shows up against the Minnesota Vikings is strictly accidental.

Sure, last season's team underachieved with a 4-12 record and finished with not so much as an offensive whimper in the final six games. But with any kind of decent coaching, that club would have won at least six games.

Even though the dust hasn't settled since cutdown day on Saturday, one certainty prevails at 76 Lou Groza Blvd in Berea this season. Eric Mangini has virtually torn apart what he inherited when he arrived last January.

Of the new 53-man roster, only 30 wore the Seal Brown and Orange last season. That is a nearly 44% roster turnover, a remarkable figure even by National Football League standards. And that number very well might change after Mangini and General Manager George Kokinis conclude massaging the league's waiver wire.

If one of the reasons Mangini got the job as head coach and ringmaster was because he led Randy Lerner to believe he'd only tinker with the roster, the owner has to be wondering what the hell happened.

That, of course, is if he even cares enough to notice.

The only surprise thus far is that Mangini has not picked up one of the Vikings' roster cuts. Bring in a guy who will spill the Vikes' secrets just in time for the opener. All in the name of competitive advantage, of course.

Of the 30 returnees, only 13 are starters, six on offense. That does not include specialists. Of the new faces, 10 are rookies, an astoundingly high number for a team with hopes of playing well into January.

Along the way, Mangini has vacillated to the extreme on his starting quarterback (more on that later), treated his men like children with punishment laps for mistakes, attempted to manage the news with the media and broken up the seating in the dressing room in the name of camaraderie. Wonder how that sits with players who tend to be cliquish.

The new coach preached discipline, focus, attention to detail and hard work.

And all he received in the exhibition season, which came mercifully to an end last Thursday with one of the most meaningless games in years (no wonder fans are upset with having to pay full price for exhibitions), was more of what we witnessed under Romeo Crennel.

Failure to run the ball, failure to stop the run, dumb penalties, poor execution, virtually no pass rush and inconsistent play at quarterback.

And all of this is expected to disappear once the regular season begins? Just like that?

A vast majority of pro football writers across the country have the Browns winning anywhere from as few as two to as many as six games. Who can blame them for thinking so poorly of this club?

They see the lack of talent on this team and the martinet ways of Mangini, who lost two more games than he won in his three seasons with the New York Jets. They see a team that has trouble running the ball, stopping the run and getting familiar with opposing quarterbacks. They see a team with a minimum amount of talent. They see a team with a lot of uncertainty at quarterback.

What they don't see is the possibility they could be wrong. And the makeup of the Cleveland roster is their evidence.

This is not a good football team. At least not yet as the lower end of the roster wallows in a constant state of flux.

Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll want this team to run. But that could prove extremely difficult with an offensive line lacking in quality depth, a rookie center and shaky, at best, talent on the right side. Add Jamal Lewis' refusal to abandon the ballet-like manner with which he runs with the ball and you have a big problem.

It's not certain whether Mangini and Daboll notice that Lewis needs cavernous holes in order to be effective and this line is not capable of providing them. By comparison, rookie James Davis and Jerome Harrison need just a sliver to cut loose because they arrive at the openings much quicker.

"Jamal has a lot to contribute and I'm looking forward to seeing him as we go through the season," Mangini said. "He's a physical guy. He's a tough guy. He's a good pro . . ."

It'll be interesting to see how long he sticks with the veteran. It won't be long before he gets tired of watching the second play of every drive become second and 8 after Lewis picks up his obligatory two yards on first down.

The receiving corps, with the exception of Braylon Edwards, is full of complementary players. Mike Furrey and Joshua Cribbs are not good enough to be No. 2 guys and rookies Brian Robiskie and Mo Massaquoi are, well, rookies.

And they'll all be led by Brady Quinn, who has yet to prove a thing as a quarterback in the NFL. Yes, he'll get the start against Minnesota (strictly a guess) after the so-called fair and balanced battle he had with Derek Anderson the past six weeks. They were virtually dead even with their mediocre performances.

Quinn put 13 points on the scoreboard in his three games and was 21-for-31 for 228 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Anderson put 16 points on the board and was 15-for-26 for 207 yards with no TDs and two picks in his three outings.

Quinn took 55 snaps in nine series during which the offense put up 316 yards, eight first downs and the one touchdown. Anderson handled 47 snaps in 10 series during which the offense gained 238 yards, scored one TD and registered 13 first downs.

After parsing those numbers, how Mangini can pick one over the other unequivocally is a head scratcher.

On defense, the Browns open with a nose tackle who hasn't played yet and a linebacker corps that lacks the athleticism so vital to the success of a 3-4 scheme. Unless coordinator Rob Ryan keeps his promise of unveiling an aggressive, attacking defense, look for more of the same bend-and-break performances.

The Browns have one of the easiest schedules (on paper) in the NFL this season. But unlike Mangini's first season in New York, when he stunned everyone with a 10-6 record with a similar easy schedule, his Browns will be fortunate to go 6-10 this season.

To wind up any better than that with all the blemishes that clutter the roster is reason enough to consider Mangini for coach of the year.

Not gonna happen. The optimist in me says 6-10 with a victory, finally, over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In Cleveland.

Otherwise, hunker down because it's going to be a long, frustrating season.


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