Lerner's Decision Has Him on the Ropes

In touch with what is going through players minds perhaps more than any other writer on the Browns scene, Lane Adkins offers his thoughts on the next right steps for Randy Lerner and Browns fans...

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If the early version of the 2009 Cleveland Browns was a boxer, we would be witnessing a first-round knockout. Outside of a couple jabs landed by the Browns, the pummeling has been severe.

Team owner Randy Lerner put all his eggs in one basket when he named Eric Mangini head coach and the results have not been promising.

With an 0-3 record, an inept offense and a defense which has taken the high road, there is little positive to note about this team.

History tells us that there has been teams which have grown and excelled after getting off to starts worse than the Browns' current 0-3 record. Old friend Marty Schottenheimer turned around a dismal Redskins team after starting the season 0-5 to finish 8-8.

Soon after relieving former general manager Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel of their duties, Lerner went on his latest crusade: seeking a head coach with experience to guide his team.  Lerner did not look far and his decision to hire Mangini quickly without exploring every option appears questionable at the present time.

Coming off a 2008 season full of embarrassment for the owner, expectations for 2009 were higher. The Browns, it was hoped, would at least field a competitive product.

Competitive? Not even close. Even though the team did have opportunities in the second half of the first two games to be in the hunt, a lack of execution, focus, and adjustment appeared to separate the men from the boys on game day.

All that was just prelude to the embarrassment that was displayed this past Sunday in Baltimore, as the Ravens easily made the Browns say "uncle" in a 34-3 shellacking.

Plenty of issues surround the Cleveland Browns. From players not fully buying into the head coach's philosophy to the stern hand with which Mangini rules, there's a lack of team unity between this roster and head coach which underlines the disappointment with the product on the field.

Known as a disciplinarian, Mangini's team plays without the discipline, focus, and determination he espouses when talking about players.

Preparation, supposedly a strong suit of Mangini's, is definitely lacking as this team has been out-performed, out-worked, and out-coached in each game this season.

Despite the early season turmoil, Lerner remains steadfast behind his decision. A generally reserved man, Lerner has not spoken about the disappointment publicly, but has been in consistent contact with the head coach.

Lerner believes in Mangini, making him a member of a rapidly shrinking group.

If I were the head coach, I'd feel like someone in a Geico commercial -- there is someone watching you, Eric.

Can hundreds of thousands of Browns fans all be wrong?

With Mangini, there is the perception and the actions. The head coach comes off brash, non-emotional and non-caring. An X's and O's type guy, Mangini does not attempt to reach his players often; this is something the man feels is relatively unnecessary in the game of professional football.

And far too often, Mangini comes across as stoic, far from personable, and very dictatorial when addressing his players -- a perception which has rubbed more than a passing few of them the wrong way.

Granted, players who are making excellent incomes in difficult times to play a game shouldn't need mentally pampered or stroked, but players are different in this day and age.

But this is Mangini's team. It is Mangini's way. Right or wrong, the head coach knows when he looks in the mirror that he is doing it his way.

As the public outcry for his ouster gains ground by the day, Mangini is not on the verge of anything but preparing for the next game. Despite the embarrassment and lack of success, Lerner is not the type of owner that is going to pull the plug so quickly.

Whether it's warranted or not.

Three games into the first year of a head coach is not the sensible time to gauge the future of a football team. Especially one which is widely recognized as needing plenty of nurturing.

Lerner's decision may be his lasting impression on Cleveland Browns football, and only Eric Mangini can prove the critics wrong in believing he cannot succeed.

Right now, the critics appear right, but we are only three games into the plan. I don't like what I see on game day, but I also know not to be too judgmental when the pieces of the puzzle are being worked into place.

Be patient. The new hire deserves time to construct his masterpiece -- but the clock is already ticking and visible progress is needed to give fans hope.

In a month, we should have a good idea whether Mangini is the right man for the job. Lerner has grown accustomed to paying off the contracts of fired personnel; and hopes that this time things will be different.

It's tough to be a Browns fan, but one of these times the organization is going to get it right and the celebration will begin.  For now, let's give the man some space to work.

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