Let me say this right up front. I don't think it's really fair to be only given one year to turn an NFL team around, especially when you inherited a 4-12 team. Eric Mangini definitely has improved team discipline and helped the Browns to be better in cutting down on turnovers and penalties.
However, much of the problems this season, Mangini has brought upon himself.
I don't really have a problem with Mangini being the coach, if he can co-exist with a General Manager. My problem is him being in charge of the whole operation. He certainly gets input from scouts and player personnel departments but, if anyone thinks anybody but Eric Mangini was making every draft day trade, selection or free agent signing is only kidding themselves.
Sure, it might be premature to cast judgment on the 2009 draft class, but when a team is 2-11, certainly your second-round draft choices should be starting or at least playing a majority of the time. I will go as far to say that the first four round choices should be playing.
Alex Mack is starting and seems to be playing well. Usually, a center is only noticed when he screws up. Mohamed Massaquoi has shown some signs of being a decent NFL receiver. However, beyond that, Brian Robiskie (taken No. 36) has hardly played and the other second-round selection, linebacker David Veikune has barely sniffed the field on special teams.
Kaluka Maiava has played a bit, but really seems to be a special teams-type player. There were three other USC linebackers that were drafted ahead of him and all made a much bigger impact than he did. Coye Francies is another draft choice who has spent most of the season on the inactive list.
Mangini didn't bring in any body that I would describe as a difference maker in free agency or in the draft, at least to date.
Which brings me to another point.
I don't have a problem with getting rid of Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards as I know they were pains to deal with. However, until you have a play maker to take their place, it doesn't add up to me as a positive move. Who would you rather have, Winslow or Greg Estandia? You hear the word addition by subtraction, but the NFL is a league of game-breaking players and the Browns have only one player that could be described as a game breaker on the offensive side of the ball and that's Josh Cribbs and the Browns are still trying to figure out how to use him.
The fact that Mangini thought Jamal Lewis had anything left in the tank after watching last season's tape brings more question to his judgment of skill level. They paid him a $4 million contract to bring him back. If the team was rebuilding, why not find a young back and bring him along. Some would say that's what James Davis was supposed to be, but they drafted him in the sixth-round and that still doesn't explain why they needed Lewis.
Say what you will about the departed Phil Savage, he brought in much more talent than what Mangini has. Sure, he missed on some, but the Browns had no Pro Bowl players when Savage arrived and they had multiple selections in 2007 and 2008.
I think there's something to be said for having a true GM bringing in the talent and overseeing the operation. Mangini gets a lot of credit for having two winning seasons in his three years with the Jets, but GM Mike Tannenbaum had quite a bit to do with the player procurement there.
I think it goes back to the decisions made last season. When Savage was fired, the move to get a ‘czar' or GM should have been made first before hiring a coach. However, since it was done the other way, the Browns and Randy Lerner are faced with the dilemma they have now.