Is the honeymoon over for Mike Holmgren?
On the afternoon of the AFC Championship game between that despised team clad in soot and urine, and the team the now-former Cleveland Browns head coach built, it’s time for Six Points to reappear.
Sixteen days before Groundhog Day.
Why, oh why, does every season seem, to Browns fans, like the endless loop of futility in the movie bearing the same title?
In more fortunate NFL cities, the first Monday in January brings a press conference in which the head coach discusses the previous day’s game and comments on the upcoming playoff opponent.
In Cleveland, almost as often as not, the first Monday in January brings a press conference bidding adieu to the newly deposed head coach.
When Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel were shown the door, Six Points raised a toast.
This time around, there’s not enough Jameson ever made in the history of the distillery for Six Points to not regard the Cleveland Browns organization as having made a colossal mistake.
A more sober analysis leads Six Points to conclude this is yet another chapter in the depressing litany of sheer incompetency written since the design of Cleveland Browns Stadium was unveiled.
1. Rebirth or (yet another) Reboot?
Six Points has no taste for Kool-Aid. He’s been fed enough of it..
From the drafting of Mike “Mad Dog in a Meat Market” Junkin to the hiring of Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark to run Browns 2.0, Rev. Jim Jones would have been proud of the drink once-knowledgeable Cleveland football fans were fed.
Every few years, the Browns steer their yet-unbuilt ship in a new direction, only to smash it on the rocks shortly thereafter.
The result? More rudderless suck.
In comes a new regime, from Rutigliano to Carson to Policy/Clark to Davis to Savage/Crennel.
Predictably, more rudderless suck.
Late in 2009, rudderless Randolph Lerner, who inherited the team from his late father Al Lerner, opened his checkbook to hire a “credible football mind” in the person of Mike Holmgren, on whose private jet Arthur Bertram Modell flew to Baltimore to seal the deal to relocate the original Browns to Baltimore.
While most of Northeast Ohio’s media has drunk the Kool-Aid, Six Points predicts more rudderless suck.
Browns Town has become Jonestown, and Six Points ain’t drinking there.
Why so cynical about the team that means so much to this region? Read on.
2. Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results:
That‘s a common—and legally required—disclaimer on investment offers, and it’s simple common sense.
Ask anyone who bought Countrywide in early 2007.
But, what do we want to buy into past performance as an indicator?
Pat Shurmur? Really?
In his two years as offensive coordinator in St. Louis, the Rams’ best offensive ranking was 26th of 32 NFL teams. Shurmur accomplished this with a stud running back and a first-overall draft pick at QB.
Imagine the firestorm if Holmgren would have replaced Eric Mangini with Brian Daboll.
Six Points does not view this hiring as much better than the aforementioned scenario.
But... but, we have another Credible Football Mind as defensive coordinator!
Fired in Chicago and Buffalo as head coach and having had a cup of coffee as the Lions’ interim head coach, Jauron’s defenses have never finished as high as 16th in the NFL.
Less than mediocre, but Jauron has years of experience at it!
Would you trade Rob Ryan, whose defenses were entertaining as he got the most out of virtually nothing for Jauron?
Would you trade special teams coordinator Brad Seely, whose units ranked among the NFL’s elite, for Special Teams Coach To Be Named Later?
Neither would Six Points.
The best-case scenario with the hiring of Shurmur would be the historical parallel to Sam Rutigliano, who Modell selected as head coach after a near-mutiny the previous season under the departed Forrest Gregg.
Rutigliano was wide receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints, who had been in a similar state of rudderless suck since that franchise’s inception in 1967.
Sam’s teams were exciting to watch and could light up the scoreboard, but the games were marked by boneheaded playcalling and the inability to go mano-a-mano with that team that wears soot and urine and the then-extant Houston Oilers in the former AFC Central.
If this is the best case, Six Points would hate to see the worst case. But, he just might.
Looking at past performance, Six Points ain’t buying.
3. Location, Location, Location ... and, Destroying the Foundation?
In real estate, the mantra “location, location, location” has stood since the first Sumerian wanted a nicer crib.
If the residence of Six Points was ten miles due north, it would be worth about a third of its value, provided all of the copper wiring and plumbing wasn’t stolen from it.
What point is Six Points making? What works in one place won’t necessarily work in another.
The United States, despite having uniform fast food at almost all its freeway exits, is home to many unique regional and international cuisines.
Nonetheless, you won’t sell much gumbo in Nebraska or scrapple in San Francisco.
Now, Holmgren is trying to sell sushi in Cleveland. You’ll sell sushi to the media and to the few trendy types, but not to the rest of us.
Sushi and white wine in a burger-and-beer division.
While 5-11 is a disappointment to Browns fans everywhere, this team adapted to its environment and played competitively with all its opponents until the final game.
Mangini’s second 5-11 team was a vast improvement over his first.
Now, let’s blow it up and start over.
A West Coast Offense in a smashmouth division? Good luck with that!
Changing from a 3-4 defensive alignment to a 4-3 under a 60-year-old defensive coordinator whose defenses never achieved so much as the textbook definition of mediocrity? Have fun!
The Browns still have only three fifths of an offensive line, one running back, two promising secondary players in Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, no serious talent at wide receiver and glacial linebackers.
Also, Six Points does not think the quarterback puzzle is solved, as Colt McCoy may not be fit for the lakefront in November and December, especially when other teams do this thing called “film study.”
Now, the Browns are about to put all of their eggs in the basket of an undersized, average-armed quarterback running the West Coast Offense in a division Woody Hayes would have been proud of.
Location, location, location ...
4. The Big Show and the Peter Principle:
Questioning Holmgren’s credentials as a head coach is virtually impossible. With three Super Bowl appearances, one of them a win and coaching two separate franchises to the Roman Numeral Game, that’s not an issue.
But, when Holmgren has ditched the headset for the necktie, it’s a different story.
Relieved of his duties as Seattle GM, it was not until Holmgren only wore the headset that the Seahawks made their only Super Bowl appearance, a 2006 loss to the team that wears soot and urine.
To give credit where it’s due, Tom Heckert, the man Holmgren hired as general manager, looks to be a very solid personnel man, if the Browns’ 2010 draft is any indication.
But to quote Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Canadian professor Laurence Peter made his famous observation that, in any hierarchial organization, people tend to be promoted to their level of incompetence.
Holmgren was promoted there once in Seattle.
Now, by replacing a solid coach in favor of a West Coast Offense disciple, he may have reached that level again by committing the classic error of passive micromanagement.
Four wins and twelve losses is a distinct possibility for the 2011 Browns. Anything less than 8-8 should have the temperature of Holmgren’s office chair significantly increased.
5. Wagging The Dog:
In a region where professional football was invented, newspapers are sold, internet page views are racked up and advertising money is made by reporting on or distorting the reporting of the sport that is the undisputed king.
While we may seek rational analysis, the argument is that rational analysis does not sell papers or get web hits.
Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had been the ringleader of all who called for the head of Eric Mangini since Day One.
Fine, if you have a column. Not so good if you’re a beat reporter, which Grossi is.
Plain Dealer columnists Bud Shaw and Bill Livingston were also sounding the “Cangini” drumbeat, as was Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Talk radio, in general, is a Swamp of suck, as all commercial terrestrial radio tends to be. For music stations, you get the same ten songs over and over, and for talk radio, you get the same ten talking points over and over.
Cleveland sports talk radio, such as it is, was equally offensive, catering to the lowest common denominator.
So, in 2010, Browns fans woke up, read Grossi, Ridenour and not-ready-for-prime-time Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal calling for Mangini’s head, turned on his car radio and heard Tony Rizzo of WKNR saying the same thing.
On his way home, he heard more of the same and then tuned in WKYC-TVs “Extra Point” to hear Sam Rutigliano repeating the point.
It should be noted that all of the above, except for Ulrich, who was not in the Northeast Ohio media at the time, were strong Brady Quinn supporters in 2009.
Past performance? Future results?
6. Dead Mangini Walking:
We all know when we’re Dead Men Walking in the office.
The regime above us has changed, the people who once showered us with perks won’t return our calls, the lunch crew goes out without us, and while we remain diligent, we know the axe will eventually fall.
While one may call Eric Mangini inflexible and conservative, no one could call him stupid.
Mangini knew he was a dead man walking, and the “what did he know and when did he know it” line of questioning is merely flogging the deceased equine.
Nonetheless, Mangini stuck by his principles and soldiered on until he was walked out of the door in Berea.
Mangini took over an undisciplined team bereft of talent, took the garbage out, and left a disciplined squad that, while still short of talent compared to its adversaries, would still line up and punch them in the mouth.
Mangini never threw a player under the bus in public during his tenure in Cleveland, and the glowing endorsements from his players spoke volumes.
With the exception of the final game, Mangini transformed a wholly inept 4-12 squad into a team that had a chance to win every game it was in.
For the first time since the inception of Browns 2.0, the team had an identity.
Clevelanders could identify with Browns 2.3.2, as the smashmouth running of Peyton Hillis and the gambling defense of Rob Ryan matched the ethos of our region.
Coach Mangini, Six Points wishes you the best in your future endeavors, and thanks you for making our team watchable again.
Extra Point: Good Night, and Good Luck:
For those familiar with Six Points, “Extra Point” can go off-topic. Call “Extra Point” the dessert after the vegetables.
Six Points is not the only Browns fan who will miss Eric Mangini, and many more will miss Mangini after Browns 2.4.1 proves that the West Coast Offense combined with a porous defense is not viable on the North Coast.
Tens of millions more Americans will miss Keith Olbermann, formerly of MSNBC.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with Olbermann, his Countdown show was rock-solid on the facts. Rarely, if ever, was Olbermann called out on a misrepresentation, much less a blatant lie.
It may be no surprise that Olbermann began his career as a sportscaster.
Besides being a diversion and the candy store of life, the beauty of sports is that it’s based on fact.
If sports reporting were handled like much of cable news, special interests would have half of Cleveland believing the Browns finished 11-5 instead of 5-11.
Could Olbermann be pompous and arrogant at times? Of course.
Was some of Olbermann’s approach self-aggrandizing, not-so-subtly comparing himself to Edward R. Murrow? Yes.
But, despite the bombast, even a viewer who disagreed with Olbermann could take the facts presented on Countdown to the bank.
If we could say that for all of our reporters and commentators, regardless of their politics, we’d live in a better nation.