Outside the Perimeter: Few Favors

The Browns new head coach is doing himself few favors early on, according to columnist Mark Leonard...

New Browns' Head Coach Eric Mangini has done precious little since his appointment to advance either himself or the program with which he's been entrusted.

Generally, there is some excitement for a new hire, particularly one in so prominent a position as Mangini now occupies. There were strong indications this guy would be a disciplinarian, one who'd put an end to the undisciplined nonsense that so festered under the prior regime, characterized by repeated mental errors, among other transgressions. On this matter, Mangini has delivered, perhaps overly so.

Many are the reports of fines. Players began running training camp laps whenever blunders were committed. Penalties are down. Accountability seems to be up.  Some of this increased on-field order is possibly attributable to the field-generaling of young QB Brady Quinn. Wednesday's announcement that deposed starter Derek Anderson will be returning to the job will test that theory.

In too many matters otherwise related to the club, Mangini has done less well. Too many of those elements one might anticipate with a new guy in charge simply haven't manifested, much to the coach's discredit.

One might expect a renewed enthusiasm, a hopefulness, an energy that reflects both motivation and optimism. Both have been in conspicuously short supply. His Cleveland teams have yet to demonstrate sufficient fight and resistance, most especially to the idea of losing.

One might expect a clearly-articulated vision, demonstrated through a distinct approach and identity. Those the coach identifies as key would be easily recognizable for their being central to the schemes. This, too, has not materialized, though some might contend it is not Mangini's style to feature individuals so much as it is to foster a whole-team concept.

Nonetheless, who is this offense's bell cow? Upon whom does the attack rely? One cannot clearly ascertain: Is this a running club or a passing one?

If it is a running team, then why has so little been done to assure its success with that approach? Where are the linemen who make running possible, especially the guards? Where are the creative —or at least effective—blocking schemes? The component parts? Where is the requisite attitude and temperment?

All of this should've been resolved during that period of uncertainty at the QB position. While that battle was waging, Mangini should've been assuring himself, his staff and his players that a reliable ground attack would sustain the club while its QB strove to establish himself.

If it is a passing team, how can it be fluid, efficient, precise and synchronized when the foremost aspect—the passer—is indefinite right up to the season's opening kick?

What is more, since each of the combatants at that critical position has his own distinct style, how can it be maintained either was given his best chance at success? Neither was granted the opportunity to polish what it is he does best, with complementary weaponry  intended to assure it.

Answers to some of these questions might've been found in the new regime's initial draft, as it is commonly held that the draft is the lifeblood of any and every successful NFL organization.

True to the contention that Mangini will not build around virtuosos, the coach and his hand-picked GM George Kokinis bypassed an opportunity to nab an elite prospect with overall choice five. Instead, they dealt-down repeatedly to land an ultimate grunt, a center from Berkeley.

In so doing, the new regime secured for itself nothing of profound significance. Two additional sixth-round picks, a second-rounder and a trio of marginal vets comprised the entire return. Moreover, subsequent April manuevering delivered two rookie WRs and a DE from Hawaii who'd be converting to ILB. None of these acquired that day has proven to be a difference-maker on a roster desperately in need of several.

One might've expected a no-nonsense, control-freak, defensive-oriented disciplinarian to prioritize OL and LB, areas of undeniable need. After all, the first is crucial to ball-control, protecting both the passers and the rushers, while the latter is essential to stopping the run, a chronic flaw with the reborn Browns.

But such was not the case. Seemingly elevated to must-have importance were wideouts, as if this might become a spread-the-field attack predicated upon quick-strikes, short-drops, no-huddle, timing precision. Not only has this approach not been utilized, but the two highly-drafted target prospects have combined for two catches in three games. The first of those draftees has that many inactives already.

It should not be too much to ask for a loser's top 3 or 4 draftee to exhibit immediate impact, particularly when all came among the top 52 overall draft selections.

Much of this might be overlooked had Mangini's squad shown-up with intense and unquenchable fire. Hunger, desire, hustle, scrap, physicality, violence and a never-say-die personality would be most befitting its loyal, rabid, working-class fan base and iron-willed community. Alas, such animalistic passion has not surfaced either. In each of the first two games, whatever spunk existed within was exhausted shortly after halftime. In game three, energy and determination did not survive the mid-point of quarter one.

In brief, it is not only difficult to detect vision on the part of the new regime but also to perceive reasons for hope. This club does not appear even as ready as was last year's outfit, one that also achieved a disappointing 0-3 beginning. That one, coming off a 10-6 campaign, at least had injuries to point to. This one has been relatively healthy and supposedly had experienced upgrades at several positions, not the least of which was said to be head coach.

Whereas last year's club fell short of legitimizing itself as a serious contender, this one has descended to such a degree that it is already contending for distinction as the sport's least respectable outfit. Many are proclaiming it the NFL's worst and Mangini its worst head-coaching hire in 25 years.  A once-storied franchise professedly intent upon resurrecting its legendary image has instead become a national punchline, a source of snickers, mockery and laughter.

Having said all of this, it is high time for this coach to deliver on whatever promise it is he possesses. He's done far too little thus far.


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