Last football season was one of the most frustrating Cleveland Browns fans can remember. What began with great expectations after 2007’s surprising 10-6 campaign quickly spiraled downward as the Browns limped to a 4-12 finish.
That paved the way for a new coaching staff and a new general manger as team owner Randy Learner scrambled to right a ship that’s never truly been completely seaworthy since the team returned to the NFL in 1999.
With a rash of new talent, head coach Eric Mangini has taken the reins of the perennial underachievers and vowed to be the disciplinarian the Browns have desperately lacked over the course of the last 10 years.
With the first tangible chapter of the Mangini era rapidly approaching in Friday’s date for rookies to report to Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio, there are several things Browns Backers should be looking toward with hope for future success.
First and foremost will be a new sense of accountability for every player on the roster, from the undrafted rookie free-agent signee all the way up to the veteran leaders.
Mangini will not tolerate any mental mistake, be it a flag for a false start, a pass-interference penalty or losing possession of the football. Under the leadership of Mangini and his staff, expect the Browns to play hard, play smart and drastically reduce the miscues that impede the team’s development.
Though Mangini and first-year offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have revealed next to nothing about what to expect from the Browns offense, the head coach has offered up a nugget of a philosophy which should be met with encouragement by Browns fans.
Mangini’s hope for the offense is for it to have the ability to adjust from week to week depending on Cleveland’s opponent.
Being capable of running the ball on teams who struggle to defend the ground game or pass against those with a weak defensive backfield will be a welcome change from years spent under one-dimensional former head coach Romeo Crennel.
Expect the defense to improve as well. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has implemented a system in which the Browns will attack, rather than react and adjust to what opposing offenses throw at them. This year look for the Browns to put more pressure on the quarterback, swarm to the football and defend the pass better than they have in years.
Finally, by the time the Browns break camp with eyes toward the season opener at home Sept. 13 against the Minnesota Vikings the competition for the starting quarterback position will be in the rear-view mirror.
The torturous Derek Anderson-Brady Quinn saga might live on for the first few weeks of training camp, but look for Mangini to eventually pick his guy and stick with him. No matter which side of the debate Browns fans sit on, most will agree ending the QB competition will be a refreshing way to start a fresh season.
In the end, the Browns might not have the depth and overall talent this season to contend with the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers for first place in the AFC North. But Mangini and company might take more than just a small step toward turning the Browns into a competitive franchise in the near future.