Leonard: Behind Mangini's Brown Reference

As Eric Mangini's future is debated, Mark looks deeper into the legendary coach Paul Brown's approach, and how it might tie to some of Mangini's comments.

Much ado is being made of the Eric Mangini interview conducted by CBSportsline's Clark Judge, a wide-ranging discourse that includes mention of Tupac, Andre Rison and the original Browns' coach,  Norwalk-born genius Paul Brown.  In it, Mangini maintains he believes in winning with a philosophy consistent with Brown's. To many fans, the remarks make sense only through inference, by "guess-timating" what must be meant via context.

?Quite possibly, that to which Mangini alludes is similar to what is found in Jack Clary's 1973 book "Cleveland Browns", one of the Great Teams' Great Years series.

On page 14, Clary details the February 8, 1945 signing of the then-36-year-old Brown. Identifying what it was the coach stood for, Clary quotes Brown:?

"At Ohio State, I asked nothing of my players that I wouldn't ask of my own sons and that's the way I planned the Browns. I had every intention of carrying through with the same idealism we had at Ohio State. The difference was that the players would draw a salary for playing football, and we would also try to help them improve their economic standing by providing business opportunities. The two things I insisted upon were that I would be in charge of the football end of the business and that I would have an absolute free hand in selecting my players. I was determined that I wanted them to be high class, and I picked them on the basis of personality as well as ability. I had always lived by the rule that you don't win with dogs and to me, it is a rule that never has changed."

After then detailing Brown's tremendous success at Massillon High (81-7-2) and then at OSU (18-8-1 with a national championship in ‘42), Clary continued: "There would be no happenstance selection of players; no taking ‘names' only for name-value; no deliberate establishment of a one-star system. Nor would there be an over-abundance of professional players just because they were professional players. Brown had too much confidence in his own coaching prowess and a feeling that the first mold his players must fit was his own. From there the rest would take shape."

Then, quoting Brown, Clary wrote: "There was no doubt that the team I selected would be the most amateur in pro football. I wanted players with a love for the game, not a group of fellows who were strictly professional football players. I didn't want them to think only of the money. I wanted them to think of the game first, the money second."

As an aside to those unfamiliar with the foundational pieces, the following players were signed, in order: (1.) QB Otto Graham, (2.) OT/PK Lou Groza, (3.) WR Dante Lavelli and (4.) WR Mac Speedie.

As for the allusions to Brown, fans of the team should be able to identify a number of Mangini-isms among Brown's personal sentiments, not the least of which is a resounding streak of conviction, a distinctly admirable quality and one that must appear in any winner, achiever, leader and man of principle.  For his willingness to put it all out there for every reader to see, Mangini deserves credit, though one can rightly question why he waited this long to allow the public to know him in this way. Presumably, this is the Mangini shown to Browns' owner Randy Lerner, as well as the Mangini other writers in this market might well have welcomed the opportunity to present to Cleveland audiences, had only the man agreed to such a profile. (I cannot say with honesty he was invited to do so, however.)

At any rate, readers of the Judge article can better appreciate Mangini's references to Brown now that Clary's contributions have been shared.

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On the subject of old-time Browns, there are few as intriguing as longtime wideout/punter Gary Collins, a Maryland product chosen number-one in 1962, the same year in which the rights to Syracuse RB Ernie Davis were acquired from Washington in exchange for Bobby Mitchell (who'd become their first black player).  Collins played through the ‘71 campaign with considerable distinction, though he is often portrayed as bitter. For example, he was the only player who declined to be interviewed when Terry Pluto was writing his Browns Town 1964.

Collins came to mind last evening when the stats of Seoul, Korea's Hines Ward were shown on the screen during Monday Night Football. Ward has 76 career TD catches among his Steelers' record 849 catches. We were later told Hines has led the club in catches for ten years, according to broadcaster-analyst John Gruden.

Collins had 70 catches for scores during his amazingly under-rated NFL career, achieved on only 331 catches. That translates to a touchdown for every five Collins' catches, a remarkable rate of production.  For additional comparison, Hall of Fame RB Leroy Kelly reached paydirt only four more times while rushing for 7,274 yards as a Brown, second in club annals only to Jim Brown's 12,312 (106 TDs).

It goes without saying Ward has had things much easier than did Collins, since numerous rules have been altered to favor receivers in the passing game and the ball is thrown much more frequently than it was during Collins' day. When Gary played, receivers could be physically harassed all over the field, at least until the ball was in the air. Moreover, clotheslining and head-shots were regularly administered as a means to intimidate and injure.  Since too few may be aware of Collins' achievements, understand this player had the top two seasons for scoring catches by a Brown, prior to Braylon Edwards' 2007 season of 16. Collins nabbed 13 in ‘63 and 12 in ‘66. Remarkably, only the latter ended in a Pro Bowl for Collins, who was also selected in 1967.

Yet he was named All-Pro in both 1965 (UPI) and 1969 (AP & UPI). It was during the first of those two campaigns that he achieved a then-club-record four 100-yard receiving games while averaging an astonishing 46.7 as a punter.  Of course, Collins is probably best known for his three TD catches in the 1964 title game victory over Baltimore, a standard he'd earlier established versus Philadelphia in ‘63. Overall, Collins three times exceeded 50 catches in a season, a very respectable mark for his era, totaling 5,299 yards. He also set a club mark with a scoring catch in seven straight games. Never, however, did he have a 1,000-yard year.

When the time came for the Hall of Fame selection committee to select its All-Pros for the decade of the 1960s, it was Collins who represented the Browns at WR, joined on the unit by LG Gene Hickerson and FB Brown. Colts' OL coach Howard Mudd, who performed in that same capacity here under Marty Schottenheimer, was also named at guard. (This information taken from The NFL's Official Encyclopedic History of Professional Football.) 

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All this reflecting upon former Browns' greats got me to thinking: "Who has been the all-time best Brown from Notre Dame? Have the Browns ever had a significant performer from the Golden Dome?"  The answer to the latter question is "Yes." To the other, the answer may well be NT Bob Golic, though I am willing to be corrected. Linemen Lou Rymkus and John Yonaker were contemporaries but before my time. Someone whose career coincided with Golic's, OG Larry Williams, was also very decent for the Browns, but not the player Golic had been.

It was actually from Notre Dame that Cleveland's first choice for inaugural head coach nearly came. Arthur B. "Mickey" McBride—the first name in Browns' football—actually had a hand-shake deal in place with legendary Irish mentor Frank Leahy before the school begged the Cleveland owner to relinquish his claim.

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And so ends the bye week. Now it's back to reality and the ‘09 Browns of Mangini. Please let there be some offense from here on out, eh?

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More from this writer can be found at xanga.com/maleonard.


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