- Contrary to what you might be hearing from nearly every media outlet known to man, the fate of head coach Eric Mangini has not been decided. Holmgren today reiterated what we've been saying for quite a while.
While the common belief amongst league types is that Mangini will be relieved of his duties after the season, new team president Mike Holmgren has not made this determination.
Holmgren, known for having one of the better offensive minds in the game, will dictate what he expects to see, and there is little doubt Holmgren is going to surround himself with qualified personnel with whom he already has relationships.
Whether Mangini survives this is unclear. I do know that Holmgren does not discount Mangini's ability to coach, an attribute that once again separates him from most in the media.
- With every yard RB Jerome Harrison gains, the cries for Mangini's scalp grow louder.
It's certainly true that Mangini, like Romeo Crennel before him, let this talent go to waste on the bench. This was due to the player not being as solid in his total position responsibility as he could have been. Nor did the head coach consider Harrison to be capable or sufficient as a blocker.
And that may all be valid in some ways. But the bottom-line is that this team has been limited due to the lack of play-makers.
In today's NFL, having a head coach able to deal with the troubled souls on the roster can be the difference between an average and good team. As the season progressed, Mangini's stranglehold has regressed, not just in the Harrison situation but with numerous other aspects which ate away at this team. As he has eased up, the team has responded, which shows what the head coach is capable of.
- Now that the running game is excelling, the job done by the offensive line should not be discounted. Mangini reiterated this point today, and is right to do so.
Granted, the Browns have faced teams of talent closer to theirs, but blocking is blocking, running is running and playing as a unit is something which has been improving in recent weeks. What makes this surge more impressive is that it has come about without being balanced by a serious passing attack. In that respect, it's somewhat amazing.
Despite teams loading the box, the Browns offensive line has been physical and sound fundamentally, which makes the quick one-cut running style of Harrison much more explosive.
This one-cut ability, coupled with Harrison's quickness hitting the hole, has taken pressure of the offensive line. Not having to maintain blocks for a longer period of time enables a shorter burst, which also gets the running back to the second level before the linebackers and safeties fill.
It's the small things, which are often unnoticed, which can build into a consistently powerful attack.
Also worth noting – in rushing the football 34 times a week ago and 39 times on Sunday, Harrison should quiet the nay-sayers who claim the 5'9" 210-lb RB doesn't possess the physical strength and endurance to play a major role in the backfield.
After watching every snap on numerous occasions and speaking to some successful NFL quarterbacks, I've come away unimpressed with the Browns QB situation.
Privately, the Browns staff has dealt with the deficiency at the position and believe the quarterback play has slowed the development of the offensive scheme. Despite the youth and inexperience at the wide receiver position, the general belief is the Browns offense leaves far too much on the playing field due to the inconsistency of the passing game.
Accuracy is recognized in different manners. A general belief is an accurately thrown ball is one which is delivered within the perimeter of the receivers body -- and the Browns QB's have been below average in this regard.
With Quinn, on most attempts longer than 10/15 yards, the ball is generally behind and over-top the receiver. With Anderson, he is simply erratic wherever the attempt is made. Although Anderson displays the ability to attempt and complete more difficult throws, Quinn is more consistent overall.
One reason for this is that the run defense has improved dramatically in the past weeks -- and following the season ending ankle injury to NT Shaun Rogers.
Gap integrity and scheme responsibility have improved greatly, enabling the linebackers and safeties to flow to the hole and make plays. It is also no coincidence that the inside linebacker play has improved with the insertion of veteran David Bowens and Jason Trusnik into the scheme.
Bowens and Trusnik are much more physical, which helps in fending off blocks and making plays closer to the line of scrimmage. If the defensive scheme remains the same heading into the 2010 season, the opportunity for each to remain central figures in the scheme appears bright.
Additionally, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has altered the scheme, showing more versatility in utilizing LB's as down linemen, and more so following the addition of OLB Matt Roth and continuing development of ILB Kaluka Maiava.
Roth, a Miami Dolphins cast-off, has been tremendous since joining the Browns. With four sacks and nine QB pressures, Roth has displayed the ability to play at a high level in this defensive scheme and should be a factor heading into 2010, if he remains with the team. Potentially an unrestricted free agent, Roth could depart Cleveland if a new collective bargaining agreement is completed between the team owners and players union.
- Scouts for the Browns have been as busy as I can remember. There are few off-days for this group, as they have scouted endlessly, including and schools in Division III.
With teams not having endless college game film to count on in scouting and evaluating the collegiate talent, scouts are as important as ever.
The buzz reaching these ears are that college players gaining the most recognition in need positions for the Browns are as follows:
QB - Jimmy Clausen; Sam Bradford
RB - C.J. Spiller; Anthony Dixon
TE - Jermaine Gresham; Dennis Pitta
WR - Dez Bryant; Golden Tate
OT - Russell Okung; Trent Williams
OG - Mike Iupati; Mike Johnson
LB - Rolando McClain; Sergio Kindle
S - Eric Berry; Taylor Mays
CB - Joe Haden; Patrick Robinson