*Note: The following conversation is purely satire and did not (to my knowledge) actually take place.
Jan. 1, 2009
Eric Mangini, recently fired as head coach of the New York Jets, sits in the darkest corner of a local bar across from his former master, The Dark One.
Eric Mangini: Thank you for seeing me Mr. Bel...er, I mean lord.
The Dark One: I am busy, Eric. What is it that you want?
EM: As you know, master, I just lost my job with the Jets, and I'm not sure where to go from here.
TDO: I told you that you weren't ready to be on your own.
EM: I know. I should have listened to you. What would I have to do for you to take me back into the fold?
TDO: If you wish to be back in my good graces, Eric, there is only one thing to do. I want you to humiliate the city that hated me so, and to do that you must ruin the Cleveland Browns.
EM: And how do I do that?
TDO: Become head coach of the Browns and run the team into the ground.
EM: How on earth am I supposed to get myself hired? I've just been fired after orchestrating one of the worst late-season collapses in football history.
TDO: Lie. Tell Mr. Lerner that you can win with the players he has. If he thinks you can provide a winning season or two and put more money in his pocket, he won't hesitate to hire you. Trust me. He doesn't like to be bothered with his American football team.
EM: What should I do if I get hired, my lord?
TDO: You will be hired. You can start by completely botching the draft.
EM: But they have the fifth overall pick, and there are plenty of talented players available. How can I screw that up without being obvious?
TDO: Like Al Davis? Just kidding. It's easy. Trade down as much as you can, and then reach with every single pick. That should ensure that the majority of your choices can't contribute until after you are gone, if at all.
EM: What about the extra picks I get from trading down?
TDO: It's simple really. Determine the best five players available with each pick and then pass on them. The rest should fall into place.
EM: Okay, that doesn't sound too hard. What else can I do?
TDO: Ruin the offense. If the team cannot score, it cannot win.
EM: But the Browns have two talented young quarterbacks and a strong promising line. How can I sabotage that?
TDO: First, bring in linemen with little talent. Tell everyone that you desire size along the line for a strong running game. People will buy it. Just make sure that the players you bring in don't actually help the running game. Then pick a quarterback and ruin him.
EM: How do I pick?
TDO: It doesn't matter. Flip a coin. It worked for Romeo Crennel.
EM: Okay, then what?
TDO: Whatever you do, don't let your choice know. Keep it secret as long as possible. This should ensure that he cannot develop chemistry with the rest of the team. Also, it won't hurt to trade away his favorite target.
EM: And if the other quarterback ends up playing due to injury or other circumstances?
TDO: Easy—just trade away his favorite target too.
EM: In the middle of the season?!
TDO: Sure, why not? Also, I think you should bring in Brett.
EM: But they already have two young QBs, my lord.
TDO: Exactly. Ratliff will be unable to teach them anything.
TDO: If all else fails, hire someone to run the offense in circles: someone who can't design plays, call a game, or get a first down if he had 10 tries, and, if at all possible, will just move the offense backwards.
EM: I know just the man for the job.
EM: What about the defense? I don't think I can get away with hiring an idiot on both sides of the ball.
TDO: No, find someone who knows his job; simply don't give him much talent to work with. Let any talented free agents you have go and bring in as many backups as possible. Actually, bring in a few talented players but then cut them. It will look like the players you picked beat them out for the job, and you can act surprised when the team flops.
EM: Great idea!
TDO: It shouldn't matter much anyway. If you execute your offense properly, the defense will be unable to rest and recover. It will break down eventually.
EM: Special teams could be a problem, master. It is one of the team's strengths. I mean, Josh Cribbs or even the punter Dave Zastudil could alone probably bring the team one win.
TDO: Do everything you can to get Cribbs injured. As for the punter, your offense should take care of that.
EM: How so?
TDO: No one is used to punting 20 times a game. He'll get hurt.
EM: Okay, but how am I supposed to get all this past the GM?
TDO: Talk Lerner into letting you pick your own GM.
TDO: Yeah, he'll go for it.
EM: This is starting to sound pretty easy. What should I do with players who start to show promise?
TDO: Make sure they get hurt in practice, of course. In fact, run the entire team down in practices. With luck, the players won't be able to hold up in games, and the more injuries, the better.
EM: Wow. I think I can do this. I can't believe I ever went against you. I promise I won't let you down this time, master.
TDO: One more thing, Eric. Whatever you do, do not take the blame for anything. Blame your coordinators, your player, the other coaches and refs, whatever it takes. As long as you are in control, you should be able to set the franchise back for many years to come.
EM: Thank you, master, but do you really think I can cause that much damage in just one year?
TDO: Yes Eric, but do not be surprised if Mr. Lerner keeps you around for two.