From the look of things so far this offseason, the new regime of Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini and GM George Kokinis, affectionately dubbed "Mankok," are going to do things their way. This is very bad news for a fan base that expects to be heard and obeyed. Obviously, there has been no love lost between the two this offseason, and it may get even worse after the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25-26.
Browns fans want a defense to rival those of their two neighbors and most bitter rivals, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. So in keeping up with the Jones', supplications and pleas have been made for the Browns to draft a defensive player in the first round of the draft, whether it be DE Brian Orakpo or a linebacker like Aaron Curry or Clay Matthews. After all, there is certainly room for Cleveland to improve on their pass rushing.
Yet, judging by Mankok's off season activity, this scenario could very well be in jeopardy. This is, of course, mere speculation, but here is why I believe that Cleveland Browns fans could come away from the 2009 draft extremely ticked off.
1. Unlike Crennel and Savage, Mankok doesn't care what everybody else thinks, and that includes the fans. Not that they reset after making them mad, but if that's the byproduct of making moves that they think is best for the team, then so be it. Next!
2. Free agency appears to be the conduit through which Mankok is adding to the defense. Considering the amount of free agents signed to that side of the ball, one has to wonder if Cleveland will forego a defensive player in the early rounds of the draft, especially when you consider...
3. ...the pressing needs on offense. While the offseason has seen additions to the defense, the offense went through some drainage. The hell with the Anderson/Quinn argument, who's going to catch the ball? Edwards is on a sort-of probation and could likely be gone after next season. Winslow is gone. Jurevicius is gone. Stallworth could be in jail. Steptoe can't cut it.
Then there's the running game. As we all know, running backs don't last past the age of 30, and Jamal Lewis is no exception, as he hit the proverbial wall last season. Expect things to only get worse for him in 2009.
4. Is Cleveland's defense really that bad? They finished in the top half of the league in 2008, though barely. Yes, I know sacks were rare, but did Mel Tucker even try? Wasn't a linebacker blitz a novelty seldom seen in Cleveland?
Is it really that bad when you hold the then-to-be Super Bowl champs to 10 points? Is it so unsatisfactory to limit the defending Super Bowl champs to two touchdowns or to grab a pick-six from their quarterback? Does it suck to keep the 2008 NFL MVP from throwing a single touchdown? Was it so bad to have a safety who ranked third in the NFL in interceptions?
More fans have recently accepted the fact that some offensive players need to be drafted this year, but still expect a linebacker or defense lineman in the first round. That, of course, is still possible. But with all that has gone down this offseason, consider yourselves warned that the first three picks could be for two receivers and a running back.
Mangini and Kokinis don't care if you set the river on fire again. They're gonna do what they're gonna do. So grab a box of Kleenex, fellow fans, just in case.