The Browns Under Mangini: It's Anyone's Guess

Michael HeinbachCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 30:  Braylon Edwards #17 of the Cleveland Browns sets up for a catch against the San Francisco 49ers on December 30, 2007 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo By Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It didn’t take long for the kind of drama first-year Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini strives to squash to rear its ugly head as the preseason got off to a thundering sputter Tuesday for a franchise engulfed in the familiar setting of rebuilding mode.

After sitting out the final portion of spring workouts due to an undisclosed injury, Browns’ No. 1 receiver Braylon Edwards returned to the team yesterday, one day after his designated report date, and according to the team, promptly failed his physical and was immediately placed on the Active/Non-Football Injury list.

Other than that, the Browns organization has given out zero additional information on a situation that’s become the first tangent distraction under Team Mangini. The way shreds of details were grudgingly divulged to the public was, to say the least, secretive.

The Edwards matter came to light while being buried in the press release announcing the signing of second-round draft pick Mohamed Massaquoi to a four-year contract. A day later, there’s still no individual story regarding the Edwards injury on the team’s official website,

This of course leads to rampant speculation of what’s actually going on behind drawn curtains at Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio.

Cleveland Plain Dealer beat reporter Tony Grossi reported yesterday afternoon a source hinted Edwards was injured playing basketball. But message boards have exploded with blind guesses as to the true nature of the situation.

Some believe the Browns have a deal in the works to ship Edwards elsewhere after a season in which he led the NFL in dropped passes. Others think Mangini is trying to teach his top receiver a lesson in accountability after missing his delegated date to arrive.

For the time being, no one, aside from members of the Browns front office, players, coaches, and training staff knows for certain what’s the reality of the issue. And that’s exactly how Mangini wants it.

The handling of Edwards is a prime example of what to expect from the Mangini regime. Call it an information underload.

True to his roots as a member of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Mangini would rather give out his credit-card numbers than discuss details of matters such as these, which he believes aren’t worthy of outsiders’ ears. Mangini doesn’t just play his cards close to the vest, he plays them under it.

Like Belichick, his former mentor and current rival, Mangini was known to report the only bare minimum required by the league on weekly injury reports while serving as head coach of the New York Jets. At last season’s end, few could have guessed Brett Farve would need surgery on his throwing arm just to even contemplate his annual unretirement party.

But it’s not only communication regarding injuries that fans and media members alike will find has become limited. Mangini his been positively vague regarding top priorities such as the quarterback competition or team strategies on both sides of the ball. Even his training camp schedule was much of a mystery up until last week.

For as long as Mangini is in charge, attempting to pry particulars from Browns coaches on matters from the most trivial on up will be a battle in futility, regardless of whether or not Mangini is taken to task for his tight-lipped policy. The design, of course, is to keep opponents guessing on even the most inconsequential of affairs.

In the end, there’s no sense in fighting it. From this point forward, media members and fans alike will be forced to rely on often unfounded rumors and speculation as to what’s really going on with Mangini’s Cleveland Browns. But should that bring positive results, who’s to argue?