It's Christmas come early! How else could you describe the Browns first win over Pittsburgh in… in.. I don't want to look it up right now, but in quite a while. Sure, it was not the prettiest game of football ever played, but I cannot recall a Christmas present that looked any better.
The sun seems brighter, food tastes better, music just sounds just a little sweeter, and on Friday I hugged the mailman for no reason whatsoever. I find myself wondering, what does it all mean?
Are the Browns good now? Was it an aberration? Maybe the Steelers are just terrible (Note: this would be my second choice right behind the Browns actually being good because… you know.. I hate those guys). It could simply mean the players banded together for one great game against a longtime nemesis. Or, maybe progress is really being made, Mangini is not an idiot, and it really is a process. Yeah, I said it, "a process."
Positive signs do exist after all. Close games against the Chargers and Lions did demonstrate some progress, especially by the offense.
But those were still losses. That's not progress.
Oh right, a loss is a loss. I understand the notion that wins and losses are nothing more than exactly what they are. For a playoff team, that certainly holds true, as close means nothing when playing for a championship. But folks, this is not a championship team.
That "loss is a loss" stuff just doesn't hold up for a two win team. Surely even the most hard-line fans can concede that a terrible team cannot start winning until they first begin improving. Surely there is more than one step on the path from suck to championship. And in that regard, I am forced to admit that building a winning team is in fact "a process" (damn it, there I go again. If ever questioned about this, I will deny any admission of "a process" ).
Process or not, along the way should come at least a few wins right? Agreed. But how many winnable games have really been played by the Browns this season? By my count, there have been four. The Bears, Bills, Lions and the Steelers the second time (the first time they still had Polamalu and a non-concussed Ben Roethlisberger). Out of those four, they got two wins, a last second defeat on a tough call, and one blowout loss in, not coincidentally, Derek Anderson's last start (hopefully ever) for the Browns. Every other opponent is either leading their division or in serious playoff contention.
So again, what does it all mean? Perhaps the Browns really are improving. Or maybe the first win over the Steelers in about six years has flooded my brain with enough endorphins to make me delusional. Regardless, I can't help but think that a couple wins over three beatable teams the rest of the way could put me squarely in Mangini's corner this offseason.
Not sold? Just indulge me for a minute and consider this fairytale: A coach takes over an embattled team that scarcely remembers what the playoffs are. He promptly benches the golden boy quarterback and losses pile up. With the golden boy reinstated, the coach turns things around and leads his team to the playoffs and perennial success.
Sound too good to be true? It shouldn't, because it already happened… to Bill Parcells. He took over the Giants, benched Phil Simms and went 3-12-1. The following year, with Simms back under center, the Giants made the playoffs and… well, you know the rest.
So is Eric Mangini basically Bill Parcells the sequel? I say yes. It could even be said that he is actually Parcells on a more aggressive schedule for success since it took Mangini just five and half games rather than a full season to reinstate Quinn.
Ok, fine that is a stretch, but if beating the Steelers isn't cause for euphoria induced delusions of optimism, then… well, let's be honest, if you are not feeling optimistic this week, then you probably clicked on this article by mistake.
So bring in a football Czar and do a thorough evaluation at season's end. I'm on board. But with the first victory over the Steelers since 2003 and a couple wins the rest of the way, Mangini's fate may not be as bleak as it once appeared. For at least this week, and in recognition of the best Christmas present I am likely to receive this year, I am in Mangini's corner.