In a season that has already lost the interest of many fans because of the team's monumental struggles, one of the most interesting things to watch play out will be how much influence – if any – the hiring of former quarterback Bernie Kosar as a consultant to team owner Randy Lerner will have on the day-to-day operations of the Browns, both on and off the field.
Last Friday during his weekly media availability, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was asked what he thought of bringing in Kosar. He said all the right things, but it was clear from the surprised and serious look on his face that the inquiry had hit a nerve.
If you're the coordinator – especially the first-year coordinator -- of an offense that is ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in most statistical categories, the last thing you want is someone being brought in who has a strong – and we do mean strong – offensive resume to look over your shoulder. To make matters worse, Kosar, in his previous unofficial role as advisor or consultant, has for years had the ear of Lerner. There's a strong kinship between the two. They are about the same age, have the same love for the Browns and have been going through some of the same unfortunate personal issues recently
Kosar sits with Lerner in the owner's box on game day. So when Lerner watches the offense continue to struggle and struggle and struggle and asks honest questions of Kosar as to the reasons why, the ex-quarterback's honest answers, if he chooses to answer that way and cut straight to the point, may not reflect well on the current offensive coaches.
Or head coach Eric Mangini.
Up until the arrival of Kosar, Mangini had been given a free hand to re-construct the team – and the football end of the organization – the way he saw fit. That's the norm for any new coach coming in. He has to be given a chance to fully implement his program and people. That's especially true for a team such as the Browns, who were 4-12 last season after losing their last six games and not scoring an offensive touchdown in the process.
And Mangini has done a thorough job of eradicating most of what he inherited as he tries to build a new foundation and move forward with it. He has said many times that he has great respect for the Browns' tradition, but always adds that what went on with the team before he arrived, in terms of negative issues, is not his problem. He's concerned only about what has gone on during his watch.
However, in bringing in Kosar in an official capacity, the Browns have for the first time in the nine months the coach has been on the job, incorporated an "outsider" into the football end of the operation – that is, someone Mangini didn't hire and probably never would have hired. Because Kosar reports directly to Lerner, Mangini has no say or control over what he says or does.
Now, Lerner has for a long time wanted to hire Kosar, but the native of Boardman Township in suburban Youngstown, Ohio always had family responsibilities that kept him from making the needed commitment. But he has somehow finally been able to work around that.
However, the timing of his arrival is interesting in that it comes at a time when the Browns are en route to setting all kinds of team records for low offensive production, both for the team and, in some cases, individually, especially at quarterback.
If the offensive problems continue and the outcry from the fans – and media – gets more and more pronounced, then it will be up to Lerner as to how much he stock he puts in what Kosar is telling him and then takes action on it.
Even if little – or even nothing – happens in that regard, Kosar's mere presence is something that Mangini and his people do not want, but must be constantly wary of. Although the coach and his staff would never consider any suggestions from Kosar, there is always now the possibility that Lerner will. He's a hands-off owner who would never mandate his coaching staff to do anything, but he could suggest it, if only in a roundabout way so as to not appear to be meddling.
Keep this in mind: There is absolutely no question that Lerner desperately wants to get the Browns righted, and if that means making some tough decisions – or even simply adjustments to the way things have done since Mangini arrived – then so be it. The bottom line – on the football field, that is – is all that matters to him, and he is willing to spend – and has been spending – the money needed to make the Browns successful.
The hiring of Kosar also has to be looked at from the standpoint it coincides almost simultaneously with the recent dismissal of director of team operations Erin O'Brien. For those who came to training camp, she was the person running the audio board and playing the musical selections that, at Mangini's orders, blared at various times during practice. She is the first person brought in by Mangini to have been let go by the club.
So there have now been two actions Mangini didn't want – the arrival of someone he didn't hire, and the removal of someone he did hire.
Are they connected in some way? Would either of the moves have occurred if the Browns were 6-1 instead of 1-6?
We'll never know. But at least the moves, especially the one involving Kosar – and why they may have been done – give Browns fans something interesting to chew on in a season that has been – and may continue to be – otherwise hard to swallow