Cleveland Browns: Why Fans Should Still Be Rooting for Current Regime to Succeed
Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been a model franchise.
A model of instability, and all of the ills that result from it.
The average number of years coaches have been given to succeed in Cleveland is 2.8.
To listen to some fans, they'd like to see that average go down even further, without delay, with the firing of current head coach Pat Shurmur.
Chris Palmer was given two years. He went 5-27. Butch Davis got three and a half. He went 24-34. As an interim, Terry Robiskie went 1-5, but he wasn't included into that 2.8 average.
Romeo Crennel went 24-40 in his four seasons. Eric Mangini got two and went 10-22.
Shurmur has been around for one season, one offseason and five games into this 2012 season. His record is 4-17.
Turning to general managers and presidents, since 1999 the Browns have had four of each. There's been Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark. There's been John Collins, Phil Savage, Michael Keenan, George Kokinis. And now, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert.
Holmgren is five games into the third season of his five-year contract. Since the announcement that the team would be sold to Jimmy Haslam III, the big rumor has been that the new owner has his eye on bringing in Joe Banner, former president in Philadelphia.
For his part, Haslam has said the start of his era will not be marked by midseason team management sacking.
"We’ll be halfway through the football season then, so any personnel decisions we’d make would be toward the end of the year," he said in an interview with Fox Business.
Speaking before the team fell to 0-5, Haslam said that nobody in the organization thinks going 0-4 is acceptable, including himself, Holmgren and Shurmur.
“But we’ve got a young team. We’re building. I think we’re heading in the right direction," he said. "We don’t officially own the team yet and we’ve said all along that we’re not going to make any comments on personnel until after we own the team."
Should the Browns look to reboot team management?
Haslam has repeatedly noted the value of stability, pointing to his time with a minority stake in a different franchise—that team to the east.
In August, Haslam even cited the 2.8 average figure.
"They've averaged a new coach once every 2.8 years (since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999) and that's just not a good recipe," Haslam told SI.com's Peter King.
"One thing I learned from watching the Steelers is the importance of consistency in coaching, and how much it sets you back when you're always making a change. When you change coaches, it can be a three- or four-year deal to get back."
And that's exactly what is supremely unsettling about the idea of rebooting the team management of this franchise once again.
"It can be a three- or four-year deal to get back." Let that one marinate.
A couple points: First, some fans express they'd like to see Haslam clean house á la carte. They say they'd like to maybe keep Heckert and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron and get rid of Shurmur and Holmgren.
One problem with this thinking is making the assumption that a given person is going to want to stay on after the firing of the guy who hired him.
Remember when some fans wanted to keep former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan when Mangini was fired? He didn't have any interest in that. Typically, a reboot means a total reboot.
So that brings us to, should there be a total reboot?
I modestly suggest fans take a cue from their soon-to-be-new-owner and wait to judge that at the end of the season.
And in the meantime, all of the dawgs in Brownie Nation should be barking for this current regime to succeed.
Haslam seems to understand what can be gained by keeping the franchise stable, and what is at stake when the apple cart gets turned over.
Pat Shurmur knows the deal. Asked what he could do to impress the new owner his answer was simple, "Win games."
Winning solves everything.
It cures a multitude of ills. The current regime would take a lot of the starch out of their detractors if they can turn this ship around this season and start winning games. They've got some solid opportunities coming up to do just that and need to take advantage.
If the Browns can string some wins together the current team management will build a solid case for itself to continue what they said all along is a three- to five-year plan.
I would like to see that plan carried out.
Mike Holmgren was hired as an architect of long-term stability for the organization. Holmgren has acknowledged all along that building it the right way takes some time.
The Browns have gathered an intriguing core of young, promising talent in three offseasons under Holmgren and Heckert. Now they have to emerge.
It would be a shame to see that nucleus blown up if the Browns do what they've done so often in this lost decade—switch horses in midstream and go in an entirely opposite direction.
Of course, there's a chance that if the franchise does get the total reboot Haslam and his people could decide to stick with the 4-3 defense and the west coast offense.
But Clevelanders know from experience that nothing like this can be counted on.
And it should be noted that Haslam himself remains largely an unknown.
First blush has been promising. Haslam has conducted more interviews and shown more personality in two and a half months than Randy Lerner showed in ten years of ownership.
But relative extroversion isn't a corollary indicator that he'll be able to bring winning to Cleveland as soon as he takes the reigns.
Haslam himself has acknowledged repeatedly how much he has to learn, and he has shown himself to be an enthusiastic student. But the real test hasn't even started yet.
Mike Holmgren has said that he would like to finish the job he started in Cleveland.
So far it hasn't gone that well. The Browns have been 9-28 under Holmgren.
Randy Lerner has said several times that Holmgren has brought legitimacy.
"I know now why the other guys didn't work," he told Cleveland Scene. "I can see that now. And I can see elemental reasons why this is different."
Nevertheless, by the end of this season the writing will be on the wall.
If the Browns continue down this path of futility, Cleveland will doubtlessly be treated to another reboot.
The winds of mass change will once again blow through the shores of Lake Erie.
But if this team can turn this season around, Cleveland could be treated to building on top of something, instead of tearing it all down and building from scratch once again.
This team deserves to have its loyal dawgs still in its corner, cheering for that success. And at the end of the season, come what may.
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