Adkins: Holmgren Holding Mangini's Cards

With a new prez officially rolling up his sleeves next week and getting down to business, Lane takes a look at how it may go down with Mangini -- and whether that will be good or bad for the current head coach

The hiring of Mike Holmgren to become the president of the Cleveland Browns will be a day which again changes the face of the organization.

Immediately, the Browns organization gains credibility due to Holmgren's reputation around the league. The immediate unknown is whether this move sets back the team on the field heading toward the 2010 season.

It remains a difficult chore to watch this Cleveland Browns team. While the development within the roster is obvious and a chemistry is growing with this team, I cannot help but think of everything that has been wrong in the 2009 season.

From the training camp QB competition to the dysfunctional state of the organization, this club has been one which never appeared capable of helping themselves.

Head coach Eric Mangini is at the root of the issue; this cannot be denied and should be the first order of business for the recently hired Holmgren.

Some of the problems this 2009 version of the Browns faced came from roster moves made out of necessity by the head coach. Feeling secure in his position, the head coach ripped at the core of the team he inherited and added youth and former players he coached to provide leadership -- as well as a cast to help transition the team.

The transition was very slow, players did not like or believe in the head coach and signs of a divide within the locker room appeared evident. The benching of QB Brady Quinn only intensified some distrust within the organization as the head coach preached patience to this team -- the quick benching only fueled the lack of trust in Mangini.

With each passing week, the atmosphere in the locker room and within the team structure was non-descript. The game was not fun for most, and the losing in embarrassing fashion was growing on players. To compound the issues, Mangini was viewed as a "Napoleon" of sorts.

Where Mangini fails is in the perception of himself and some discipline decisions which leaves many shaking their heads in amazement. Instilling discipline is a necessity, but the extreme manner in which Mangini carries such it out has created additional issues within the organization.

From assigned parking spots to restricting facility access to the lack of acknowledgment of Browns alumni, Mangini only has himself to blame for the perception he has created and maintains to this day. Despite Mangini's mannerisms, the team worked hard; some within the locker room would claim this is in spite of the head coach.

Though, as the season progressed, the Mangini Plan started to take hold: play strong against the run, keep the pass in front of the defensive backs, limit mistakes and run the football -- all aspects which the team struggled with throughout the first 10 games or so.

As the play of the team improved, the mood in the locker room responded in kind and Mangini had become somewhat personable, and some voices within the locker room began to note that they understood what the head coach was attempting to accomplish.

Playing against teams of similar talent, the Browns have become competitive and have won three straight games. While the surge definitely has been helped due to the level of competition, undeniably this team is playing in the manner which the head coach has sought.

Holmgren and Mangini come from vastly different backgrounds -- Holmgren from the Bill Walsh West Coast offensive scheme and Mangini from the Bill Belichick/Bill Parcells, Erhardt-Perkins adapted offensive philosophy.

The defensive ties are just as contrary, with Holmgren basically having 4-3 defensive schemes while head coach in Green Bay and Seattle while Mangini was groomed in the two-gap, 3-4 defensive scheme.

While Holmgren is not expected to coach the Browns, these philosophical differences could be the undoing of Mangini as head coach in Cleveland.

Holmgren's comfort level in schemes which he is accustomed could play a major factor when evaluating the head coach and staff of the Cleveland Browns early this off-season. Despite the team playing their best football of the season, it's difficult imagining the head coach remaining.

Due to the troubling season, the lack of history between the two men and the aforementioned philosophical differences, right or wrong, Mangini may be one and done in Cleveland and this will set the team back temporarily.

Despite the negativity surrounding Mangini due to the poor season and perceived lack of development by fans and some covering the team, I believe this team is improving and growing under the direction of the head coach.

With a team such as the Browns, improvement cannot be simply quantified by wins and losses. The restructuring of the roster assured there would be tough times prior to the team becoming stable and solid. Much like the men he coached under, Belichick in New England and Parcells in New York, those teams struggled in a similar manner as the Mangini-coached team in Cleveland as each team taking into the second season of the plan to become competitive and a winning type team.

This isn't to say Mangini will be the next Belichick or Parcells, though the similarities regarding football mentality, scheme, discipline and player development are uncanny. And, the path of progress has been in stages -- limiting penalties, fewer mistakes, improved execution -- all a part of the process where the team develops in incremental steps.

In the end, the late season run by the Browns may only prove Mangini has the team on the right path.

It is nearly impossible to truly gauge a head coach at the professional level with only one season at the helm, especially after turning over the roster and getting the team in excellent fiscal shape heading toward the off-season.

Some will say if Mangini is terminated, that it was his doing and this would be correct.

I don't know if Mangini will be retained by Holmgren; if he isn't, the man could and possibly should feel cheated as his plan was formulated for the future of the Cleveland Browns and not solely on the 2009 season.

For Holmgren, he is not tied to Mangini and it may be smart business to surround himself with those he is close to -- the list of candidates is endless.

Either way, this is good for the Cleveland Browns organization and, in the NFL, good organizations breed success on the football field.

The OBR Top Stories