Cleveland Browns: The Pros and Cons of Firing Eric Mangini

Robert CobbCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

The Pros and Cons Of Firing Eric Mangini

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    With the Cleveland Browns embarrassing 41-9 massacre at the hands of hated arch-rival, Pittsburgh now officially in the books, clouds of uncertainty and change now loom very ominously and very real about Browns head coach, Eric Mangini that it can be safe to say that we will all have our answers on Monday.

    And with the Browns now finishing up at 5-11, they ended this once promising season not on so much as making a sound but more like a pathetic whimper as they would go 2-6 in their final eight games after pulling off back-to-back upsets over New England and New Orleans.

    The games that may have done in Mangini were the two back-to-back losses to Buffalo and Cincinnati, at the time both winnable, but were both badly played and coached even worse.

    While this is clearly a divisively sharp issue amongst Browns fans about whether Mangini deserves another season, it will be hard to argue against the clock management issues, questionable play-calling and breakdowns on the defense, and this is from a defensive-minded coach? 

    His 10-22 record and recent bad showings against AFC North heavyweights Baltimore and Pittsburgh have not done enough to leave a lasting impression.

    Cleveland sports fans are sometimes guilty of being too blinded by loyalty when clearly the results and standards are not clearly acceptable.

    And while I'm also a Cleveland fan, Mangini's body of work, although impressive with a team that has no talent, a young secondary, no true No. 1 wide receiver have shown some promise,

    I strongly feel that Mike Holmgren will choose to not retain Eric Mangini based on the above reasons as well as going in a different direction in bring in a West Coast-style coach.

    This is not only a business decision, but a decision that can and will shape the Browns organization for a long time.

Team Was More Competitve, Despite Lack Of Talent

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    CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 26:  Cornerback Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens hits tight end Benjamin Watson #82 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    While this statistic will not serve for much consolation for Browns fans everywhere, the Browns made some marginal strides in the right direction of becoming more competitive.

    During the season, Cleveland was in a lot of close games as nine of their 11 losses were by 10 points or less, and with the exception of losses in Week 6 and 17 to Pittsburgh being by more than ten points.

    Which shows that Cleveland is a young team that still has lots of upside and room for growth, they just need to learn how to close games.

Browns Overachieved in Upset Wins Over Saints and Patriots

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    NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 24:  Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on October 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Following a 28-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns had two daunting games with both the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and the NFL-best New England Patriots and following the tough loss to the Steelers, the Browns would most certainly lose in the Superdome. 

    Now one cannot be sure if the Saints failed to take Cleveland seriously, but they looked completely caught off-guard as the Browns would intercept Drew Brees in a 30-17 upset, highlighted by a 68-yard dash on a fake punt by Reggie Hodges. 

    In Week 9, Cleveland had a full week to prepare for the New England Patriots and it showed as the Browns came out flying and took the NFL by storm in a 34-14 upset, which would become known as Colt McCoy's official coming-out party that was highlighted by 20-yard touchdown run. 

    Clearly, the Browns will not beat neither of these teams nine times out of ten, but in these two games, the Browns used a loose confidence, some chicanery and really seemed to be flow offensively with McCoy under center. 

Browns Played With More Discipline

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    CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 26:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs by defenders T.J. Ward #43 and Chris Gocong #51 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Im
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Along with being in a lot of their games this year, The Browns also showed more discipline and focus under Eric Mangini then they have in the past.

    I know that this stat will not show up on ESPN, but in the two years under Mangini the Browns were among the least penalized teams in the NFL.

    During the 2010-11 season, the Browns gave up the third fewest penalties per game in the NFL with 4.8, the seventh fewest penalty yards per game with 41.9 yards. 

    The Browns are tied with Washington and Denver for 18th in giving up 1.5 penalty first downs, Cleveland was ranked 25th in giving up a average 8.7 penalty yards per penalty a game and the fourth fewest penalties per play at 0.04.  

    Cleveland's opponents would yield the 22nd most penalties per game at 5.5, 20th in penalty yards a game with 47.7, 15th in penalty first downs per game at 1.3 

    Browns opponents would also give up the seventh most yards per penalty at 8.7 and were 21st in the NFL at 0.04 penalties per play. 

    So if there was one bright spot in Mangini and his coaching was his infusion of discipline made the Browns less likely to draw stupid penalties at the wrong time during games. It was just a shame that the offense was unable to take advantage.

Cleveland Had an Identity On Offense

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 02:  Defenders Larry Foote #50, Lawrence Timmons #94 and James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackle tailback Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (P
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Thanks to the emergence of former Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison and his late-season tear in 2009, Cleveland established that they could run the ball effectively.

    In the off-season, Cleveland further committed to establishing a identity by trading for Denver Broncos running back, Peyton Hillis and drafting former Tennessee Vols running back, Montario Hardesty. 

    Hillis would go on to have a monster season and help lead the Browns 20th-ranked rushing attack which would average 102.9 yards a game.

    Mangini stuck by his commitment to run the ball on the ground for Cleveland, which turned out to be a real blessing during the early part of the year.

    However, when teams began to stuff Hillis, the onus was placed on McCoy, who showed that he really needs another running back and a top-tier wideout to help open up the running game.

Defense Played Well, Kept Browns in Many Games

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 02:  Wide receiver Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball past defensive back Abram Elam #26, T.J. Ward #43 and Coye Francies #36 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Clevelan
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns defense does not get enough credit for keeping the team in a lot of close games.

    With the exception of the two losses to Pittsburgh, Cleveland played very well; one positive example is a six-turnover performance in a 24-20 loss to Jacksonville.

    The defense would rank in points allowed at 20.8,and 18th against the pass giving up 220.7 yards a game. However, expect the Browns to draft defense as their run defense would rank 27th against the run.

    Cleveland does have talent and promise on defense in linebacker Chris Gocong, free safety TJ Ward, cornerback Joe Haden and nose tackle Ahytba Rubin, who could form the core of a promising and hungry defense.

    If Mangini is retained, look for him to draft heavy on defense in the first two rounds and then go after a wide receiver such as Miami's Leonard Hankerson, Hawai'i's Greg Salas and possibly San Diego State's DeMarco Sampson in the third round.

Lack Of Development at The Wide Receiver Spot

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    GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Brian Robiskie #80 of the Cleveland Browns makes a touchdown catch during the NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field August 14, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)
    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    This is the first "Con" for Eric Mangini and if there is one position that has drawn much criticism from Browns fans and media is the lack of a No. 1 wide receiver.

    But one other thing that is missed is Mangini's failure to develop a wide receiver, most notably drafted wide outs Mohamed Massaqoui and Brian Robiskie. 

    During Mangini's first draft with Cleveland, he bypassed notables such as Ohio State linebacker James Laurinitis and USC linebacker Rey Malaluga to draft two wideouts back to back, which sure drew a few raised eyebrows. 

    Since being drafted, neither wideout has broken out or emerged as a possible No. 1 for the Browns, and while both have recently come on, most notably, Brian Robiskie, Massaqoui and Robiskie have combined for only 65 catches for only 793 yards and only five touchdowns.

    This not only shows the need to either draft a wideout or sign one in free-agency, but the inability to develop draft prospects.

    Also consider that Mangini traded for former New York Jet Chansi Stuckey, who has had his issues holding on to the ball this year, as he also failed to live up to expectations and has simply looked like a waste for Cleveland.  

    Clearly, Mangini's eyes for talent may need to be re-examined. 

Failure To Identify QB, Not Benching Delhomme After Struggles Sooner

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  Jake Delhomme #17 of the Cleveland Browns readies to pass against the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 13-6. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    There are simply not enough words to describe how bad Jake Delhomme busted in Cleveland this year, so I will skip that entirely, instead I will focus on Eric Mangini and his constant mind games that may have cost the Browns a sense of direction and continuity by not identifying his starter. 

    I will concede that Jake Delhomme lit it up in the pre-season, but once the regular season started, it seemed that Delhomme regressed, at that point Mangini should have either made a switch or tried to put Seneca Wallace under center to see if he can light a spark under the team.

    What may have sealed both Delhomme and Mangini's fates in Cleveland was the horrid 12-of-20, 86-yard game he had in Buffalo, and yet while Delhomme struggled mightily, Mangini chose to keep him in, enraging Browns fans worldwide. 

    Let's just say that this will be Delhomme's only season in Cleveland as he will most likely be cut in the off-season.

Time Management Issues, Questionable Play-Calling

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    BEREA, OH - MAY 02: Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll of the Cleveland Browns talks with a player during rookie mini camp at the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex on May 2, 2009 in Berea, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    This one is easy for Browns fans to get riled up at, is the questionable play-calling of Browns offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll and bad clock management of Eric Mangini.

    When the Browns were 3-5 and the talk of the NFL, Daboll seemed more aggressive with his play-calling which would call for roll-outs, boot-legs and screens, since then not only did Daboll regress but got worse and more predictable as the season went on.

    This falls on Mangini because it became clear that Daboll was in over his head and really didn't know how to use what scant talent he had effectively.

    While Cleveland hardly has any talent, relying too much on Hillis and Benjamin Watson made the Browns easy to game-plan for.

    Let's not even get started on the bad clock management, shall we?

    No spiking the ball to stop the clock, no hurry-up offense or sense of urgency under two minutes and bad game awareness and wasting of time-outs? That's what I thought.

Failure To Close Out Winnable Games

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Peyton Hillis #41 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Ashton Youboty #26 of the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Carolina, Buffalo and Cincinnati could prove to be the bane of Eric Mangini's tenure in Cleveland as the Browns seemed to play down to the talent of these teams, that Cleveland was clearly better than. 

    Cleveland, for whatever reason, seems to win games that they are supposed "to lose" to as in the case of New England and Cincinnati and lose games that they are supposed "to win" such as the case in Buffalo and Cincinnati. 

    In a nail-biting 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers, it came down to a John Kasay missed field goal, in rainy Buffalo, Cleveland failed to take advantage of the worst run defense in the NFL and combined with Delhomme's shaky performance manged to lose and on the road against a reeling Cincinnati Bengals team, as they once again fell victim to old nemesis Carson Palmer.

    Mangini seemed to never get enough out of his players to get them up for these winnable games and close them out.

    Once Cleveland lost to Cincinnati, it seemed that many players simply mailed it in from that point.

Firing Would Show Instability and Lack Of Direction

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21:  Jake Delhomme #17  of the Cleveland Browns talks with head coach Eric Mangini during a game agaisnt the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 21, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Im
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    This may be the reason why Browns head coach Eric Mangini might be retained and although it may be a slim chance, this is a deep and complicated decision.

    Is it really fair to fire a coach who has only been on the job for two years who has done a respectable and admirable job with little to no talent?

    Is it just to bring in a new coach and completely install a new offensive system and possibly revamp the entire defense?

    These two questions must be answered by Mike Holmgren himself before he decides whether to dismiss Eric Mangini and possibly bring in prospective candidates ranging from Jon Gruden to Marty Mornhinweg.

    There are so many ways that Holmgren can go and whether he decides to keep Mangini one thing that should be done is bring in a experienced offensive coordinator such as Baltimore's quarterbacks coach, former Broncos head coach, Josh McDaniels or even Gil Haskill just to name a few possible options.

    If Holmgren does indeed go this route and retain Mangini, then Mangini must show some immediate progress as the time for excuses will be over and he will not have a valid argument for keeping his job. 

    The main thing about this possible sacking of Mangini is that, Cleveland must begin to show some sort of direction and stability as they have gone through four head coaches since returning in 1999, and firing Mangini may seem like the knee-jerk emotional quick-fix that most Browns fans want ands demand, it may not be the best choice. 

    While I'm not endorsing Mangini in anyway as his clear issues with clock management, failure to develop talent and inability to lead and rally his team may be grounds for dismissal, this could and possibly will come down to Mike Holmgren and his decision to go a different route, preferably without Mangini.