Again, as I stated earlier, this is a paramount decision for Mike Holmgren this year because this coach could define his legacy as a GM in the NFL, so the decision must be the right one.
Cleveland needs to find the guy that can come in for the next 8-10 years and deliver to Cleveland and a starving fanbase some success and a Super Bowl, if at all possible. That’s what Cleveland fans want, and that’s what they deserve.
The positive this season is that there are a lot better candidates available than there have been in recent years. That’s sure to make Holmgren’s job a little easier and allow him to really get a look at several solid candidates. And that’s a good thing.
Because Mangini got the job in Cleveland before the seat in New York had barely cooled. That took from him the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate what worked and what didn’t and try to change what he could to ensure some success.
And, where Cleveland is now is proof that hasty coaching decisions tend to be the wrong thing to do, and most times it’s detrimental to a team.
That said, I feel it important to say that I think Mangini, even with how badly Cleveland finished this season, deserved one more season.
Honestly, I believe that this coaching season was Mangini’s best of his career, and many echo that sentiment. Because even with a team devoid of talent in key positions, he was able to build a team that played hard and embraced the team-first concept.
A record of 5-11 is no good, we can all admit that; however, what Mangini was building needed a bit more time, and I believe that he should have had another year to fully implement his plan.
But, I’m not the GM and Cleveland is going a different direction.
With the amount of quality coordinators, and available HCs, there are a lot of solid head coaching candidates this season, but there are a couple that stand out to me as the best “fits” for Cleveland.
Those two are Brian Billick and...wait for it...Jim Harbaugh
Brian Billick, I believe, especially with his experience in the AFC North is an ideal candidate. He’s got an engaging personality, and he’s a players coach. Ray Lewis to this day still says Billick was the best coach he ever had. That’s got to mean something. And there are a lot of others that feel that way as well.
He’s a Super Bowl championship coach and would bring a swagger to the Browns that they haven’t had that since the expansion.
He could bring the Browns to new levels of success in a relatively short frame of time. He’s the offensive guy that Mike Holmgren wants, and even though he’s a Dennis Green disciple, I think he could fit with Mike Holmgren well.
Jim Harbaugh is an equally intriguing head coaching candidate and a guy that could establish himself quickly as an NFL head coach.
His demeanor is perfect for the Browns. His no-nonsense, get-the-job-done and respect-the-game mentality would fit with what Mangini was building, and that could make for a seamless transition for the players.
His experience as a player, as a QB nonetheless, would be valuable, especially for a young QB like Colt McCoy. He could really develop McCoy nicely, and if there’s any indication of his ability to develop QBs, just have a look at Andrew Luck.
If you ask Luck, he’ll tell you it’s because of Harbaugh that he’s developed. Ask Harbaugh, and he’ll tell you it’s because Luck is smart and works hard at what he does...sounds a lot like McCoy. That could only be a good thing.
At the end of the day, I believe that this is Cleveland’s most important decision on a head coach since they’ve been back, and it’s one that cannot be taken lightly.
They are at a critical point now, and the right candidate must be selected this season.
In a couple of months, this will all be old news, because whoever the HC is will be in place, doing his job, and we’ll be looking at the draft. However, in less than a year, we’ll have a better idea of whether or not the man Holmgren hired is the right man.
Here’s to hoping he is.