Passan: Mangini Decision Makes No Sense

You may agree with Rich Passan's opinions. Or you may very well not. Regardless, Rich Passan sticks to his guns, and today declares Mike Holmgren's decision to retain Mangini to be a bad move.

There must be something in the Cleveland air that does strange things to people's minds.

What other reason can there be for Mike Holmgren planting his stamp of approval on Eric Mangini to continue as the Browns coach Thursday?

It makes very little sense.

It is at once very surprising and disappointing.

The new Browns president arrived in Cleveland with the reputation of being a clear thinker who knows exactly what he wants and has definite ideas on how to achieve success.

When the news broke that Holmgren had accepted Randy Lerner's invitation to run the club's entire football operation, the natural reaction was that Mangini would never survive.

Finally, the Browns' fortunes were going to be placed in the hands of someone whose credentials screamed success. Finally, the relative torture Browns fans had suffered through was about to end.

There was no way could Holmgren and Mangini coexist. Holmgren's football philosophies on both sides of the ball flew in the face of Mangini's.

Mangini favors the 3-4 scheme on defense. He's wedded to it. Holmgren, while mainly an offensive coach, employed the 4-3 in Green Bay and Seattle.

Mangini believes in stretching the field offensively. Holmgren is a West Coast guy with more of a horizontal, ball-control bent.

Mangini is from the Bill Belichick School of Football. Holmgren is from the Bill Walsh School of Football. They are polar opposites.

So how did Mangini, dangling without the aid of a safety net, manage to convince Holmgren he was the man?

We'll never know for sure. Holmgren will let his team statement stand as his reasoning. In part, it read: "In my opinion, Eric has gained the respect and admiration of players, coaches and others in the organization and with him continuing to lead the team, I feel we are headed in the right direction. Working together, our goal is to build on the strong tradition of this franchise and help get the Browns back to the playoffs."

Respect and admiration of the players? What players? Those ex-Jets who had followed him to Cleveland from New York and steadfastly supported him? Or the ones who claimed throughout the season-ending four-game winning streak that they were playing for themselves and for their pride because they were fed up after losing 11 of the first 12 games?

Does that mean in game 13 a switch was flipped and the Browns all of a sudden began understanding Mangini's program? Does it really happen that quickly? Flip a switch and Shazam! A four-game winning streak. Like it'll carry over as momentum into next season? It doesn't work that way.

It's amazing what a small winning streak can do for Browns fans. They are so hungry for anything positive, they'll fall in line in sycophantic fashion tout de suite after applying their blinders. It was as though the first 12 games did not exist.

Where did the many Mangini critics after those 12 games go? They became so fickle and so mesmerized by the results of the final four games, they put on those blinders and became believers.

And to what strong tradition is Holmgren referring? He's been around long enough to know the Browns' strong tradition has been weakened considerably over the last generation.

He did, however, allow that he "was able to gain some tremendous insight into (Mangini's) thought process and philosophies and came away from our meetings very impressed."

That's understandable. Mangini is a very smart guy. He is a very persuasive individual who has the ability to tell you what you want to hear. He fooled Lerner and has now added Holmgren to his list of victims. Give him credit. He's a survivor.

With his retention of Mangini and most of his coaching staff (presumably including the mediocre Brian Daboll), Holmgren took the easy way out and basically said he didn't want to start over.

Why not? That's precisely what he did when he arrived in Seattle in 1999. Changed everything there and wound up in a Super Bowl several years later.

And that's exactly what he's going to do with the Browns eventually when he discovers what most fans knew after the first 12 games of Mangini's Cleveland career. This club needs a philosophical overhaul. From top to bottom.

It seems as though Holmgren, like most of Mangini's earlier critics who jumped back onto the bandwagon with the late-season flurry, has bought into all the winning. What, the first dozen games didn't count?

Did the Browns play better down the stretch? Comparatively speaking, of course they did. They played so terribly in the first 12 games, the final four seemed almost like a dream sequence.

The Browns won those four games with significant contributions from players who were either on the practice squad, in Mangini's doghouse or grabbing bench time because the coaches deemed someone better at their position during the first 75% of the season.

If Jamal Lewis hadn't gotten injured, Jerome Harrison would never have received the opportunity to rush for 561 yards in the last three games. It was a rare case of the running back making the offensive line look better than it was.

Without Harrison, the Cleveland offense staggers to the finish line because the quarterbacking, quite frankly, was awful. Why was he tethered to the bench or inactive on game days for most of the first 12 games? Ask Mangini.

And if inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton hadn't gone down, Jason Trusnik, Kaluka Maiava and David Bowens (who moved inside from outside linebacker) never get an opportunity and are either out of position (Bowens) or stuck on the bench.

Same with Ahtyba Rubin and Corey Williams, who played every bit as well as the injured Shaun Rogers at nose tackle. To Mangini's credit, outside linebacker Matt Roth was a nice pickup off the waiver wire.

Instead of talking to just Mangini, maybe Holmgren should have discussed him with New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and found out why the Jets let him go a year ago.

Or talk to former Browns GM George Kokinis and find out how and why Mangini torpedoed him.

Or call Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz to find out how it felt to be ludicrously – and embarrassingly – accused by Mangini of cheating (by faking injuries) when the two teams met this past season.

Or speak with those players who were fed up with the way things were going and decided to play for themselves and the good of the team.

Holmgren had to decide whether the four-game skein was legitimate or an aberration. Unfortunately, he chose the former. Unfortunately, he chose unwisely. This is clearly a mistake.

So Mangini now becomes a toothless tiger. He held all the cards prior to Holmgren's arrival. He was the face of the franchise. Everything ran through him. That's all gone now.

The only good thing out of all this is that he will coach next season with a much shorter leash than the one with which he finished. Pressure to succeed immediately will be brought to bear.

If Holmgren tugs enough on that leash – and somehow, I think Mangini will give him numerous opportunities – it wouldn't surprise anyone if the new president places himself back onto the coaching landscape.

Now that would be a good move.

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