The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Things were supposed to be different this year for the Browns with the addition of Eric Mangini. The former Jet coach instilled a strict philosophy of discipline and accountability, a far cry from the sheltered summer camp feel of ousted Romeo Crennel. Fluff practices and special player treatment were replaced with tough-hitting scrimmages that included lap punishments for any miscues. A team-oriented philosophy was forced upon the players, with the quick trades of me-first players like Kellen Winslow and Shaun Smith. Things would be different indeed.
Well folks, if game one is any indication of the upcoming season, then be prepared for dejavu. The Browns managed to neatly package a myriad of penalties, turnovers, and miscommunication all in a second-half meltdown against Minnesota. While I understand that the talent level was heavily weighed towards the Vikes, the whole philosophy of Mangini is built upon error-free play that will keep games close enough to win.
More than any other professional game, football is a team sport where the sum of the parts can overcome individual performance. Any given Sunday, right? Not if you are a Browns fan.
The optimists will argue that the team played inspired, disciplined football in the first half, holding a Pro-Bowl RB and hall of Fame QB under wraps. However, how does that same attitude totally disappear so quickly in the second half under this new regime?
By the middle of the fourth quarter, when the game started becoming out of reach, the team was playing lackadaisical football, merely going through the motions. That defeatist attitude is exactly what Mangini was brought in to change. Where was the fire? Where was the fight? I certainly did not see any.
I hope I am wrong, but the aura emanating out of this first game was that the Browns are a second-rate team that is going nowhere. I was hopeful that Mangini would echo his opponents namesake by being the great and mighty viking Eric "the Red". Instead I saw him mirror another famous Eric, the lazy ass loser from South Park—Cartman.