2008 was a tough year to swallow for Cleveland Browns fans everywhere.
Coming off of a 10-6 year in 2007, there were huge expectations for the franchise and Browns fans and the Pound were down right giddy. Several factors contributed to a brutal season, including injuries, a tough schedule, late game collapses, bad coaching and poor play by several key players (eg. Braylon Edwards.)
As I've written regarding the Cleveland Indians current situation with Eric Wedge, I understand the need to move on from a coaching perspective because the head coach is accountable for the success and/or failure of a team.
I agreed with moving forward without Romeo Crennel and actually applauded the hiring of Mangini. What has transpired since his hiring has left me scratching my head and pondering, are the Browns looking at rebuilding or are they still feeling like a contender?
Every move the team has made since his hiring, smells of caution, safety and restraint. Whether its cutting and running from All-Pro caliber tight end in Kellen Winslow to trading down several times in the draft, to drafting a center with their No. 1 pick, I just don't see the team moving aggressively like a team ready to contend.
Mangini has brought in a whole host of his old Jets players, opting to go with guys who are familiar with his system versus going after impact players.
From a draft perspective it seems he was more interested in getting character guys who demonstrated a good football IQ instead of going after speed and athleticism.
I'm not at this juncture criticizing any of these moves, I'm more trying to figure out where management and this coaching staff heads are at in terms of their approach with this team. Are the goals for this team next year to win the division, or are the goals to improve?
Do the goals include making the playoffs or are the goals more focused on changing team culture?
I do see a focus on creating depth at critical positions including the offensive and defensive lines. I think the Browns have been burned in the past because of a lack of depth. A few key injuries and they are playing severely disadvantaged in past years.
So in this regard, maybe Mangini feels the key pieces are there and with the addition of some quality guys, guys who are certified pros and have played in his system, that he can win right away.
Maybe there weren't a lot of bright bold moves because he, in fact, doesn't feel he needs game changers but rather sturdy pro's who won't make mistakes. I think one thing can be said for certain and that is that the days of winning by making more big plays then the other team are being replaced by winning with disciplined and mistake free football.
Maybe Mangini will wear a sweater vest to cap off the whole persona, a-la his college counterpart down the road.
Ultimately, I think all Cleveland Browns fans need to evaluate where your heads are at going into this season. Are the expectations for a long awaited trip to the playoffs? Or would a 3 or 4 game improvement suffice? Knowing Cleveland and their fan base, I'd be surprised if it were the latter. Whatever the case, I think Mangini will be patient and he'll focus on improvement in a lot of key areas. Let's all just hope that this leads to points on the board and w's in the standings.