The Browns look like a real team again

GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Jake Delhomme  of the Cleveland Browns calls out a play 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)

It’s only one preseason game, but watching the Cleveland Browns last night against the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl favorite, had to make Browns fans feel better for a change.

What we saw was a team that belonged on the field with their opponent. We also saw a team that had two NFL quarterbacks. Jake Delhomme looked like a solid veteran, and Seneca Wallace looked like a potential weapon at that position. We don’t have to hold our breath any more and hope that Brady Quinn can hit a wide open receiver or that Derek Anderson can stop throwing the ball right in the hands of defensive backs.

We still don’t know how good this offense can be, but we do know that they probably won’t looked like a bunch of over-matched amateurs when trying to throw the ball. Mike Holmgren realized that a change needed to be made, and I suspect that Eric Mangini was all for a change as well.

The running game also didn’t miss a beat. It was a joy to watch the Browns pound in that first touchdown from the four yard line. Lawrence Vickers is a beast at fullback, and Jerome Harrison showed again that he can gain tough yardage. With a solid running game, Delhomme should be able to have a solid season. Also, we didn’t even see the Wildcat last night and Josh Cribbs didn’t touch the ball!

Peyton Hillis showed that we now have several weapons coming out of the backfield. This kid is a great receiver, and I loved seeing the screen pass. We haven’t even seen Montario Hardesty yet.

The defense could stop one of the best offenses in the league, so let’s hope they play better against more typical NFL offenses. That said, the young DBs looked pretty good. T.J. Ward looks like a real player, even with some of the mistakes. Joe Haden looked solid, and we saw a glimpse of his athletic ability and speed on the kickoff return.

Bottom line – the Browns looked like a team that can play with the better teams in this league. Let’s see how they do next week at home against the St. Louis Rams, a team that seems to be starting over.

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates.

Mike Holmgren is keeping Eric Mangini a head coach of the Browns


Photo from fOTOGLIF

I have mixed feelings about this. In one sense, Eric Mangini gets the chance to build on the progress made this year. Also, with Holmgren and a GM calling the shots on the roster, Mangini can focus solely on coaching and leave the rest of the stuff to real pros. The Josh Cribbs situation comes to mind, and obviously the draft.

On the other hand, Mike Holmgren might be wasting a year of this doesn’t work out.

One positive is that you have a team president who really understands the offensive side of the ball, and a head coach who has experience as a defensive coordinator. If they can work together, they might compliment each other.

Hopefully, Holmgren is going to have serious input going forward on the offensive strategy. I’d like to hear that he and Brian Daboll spent time together as well. Ideally, apart from bringing in a new offensive coordinator, I’d like to see Holmgren add someone to the offensive staff to help Daboll with the passing game. The Browns need to develop a quarterback, whether it’s Brady Quinn or a new guy, and right now it’s hard to have much confidence in Mangini and Daboll. If they can leverage Holmgren’s expertise, their chances of success will improve.

Brady Quinn done for the season

WKNR is reporting that Brady Quinn is done for the season due to a leg foot injury he suffered against the Chiefs. Derek Anderson will start the last two games of the season. The Browns offense has been playing better, and Quinn has done a good job managing the offense, but he’s continued to struggle with his accuracy.

New Browns president Mike Holmgren will need to assess whether Quinn can be his quarterback next season, and this cuts short Quinn’s audition period. That said, Holmgren will probably hire a coach that runs the West Coast offense, so Holmgren has probably seen enough to evaluate whether Quinn deserves a shot. I suspect that Derek Anderson will not be in Holmgren’s plans as he’s not at all suited for the West Coast offense. Anderson is a much better fit for a vertical passing game similar to the offense the Browns ran in 2007 under Chud.

Eric Mangini has to be disappointed. Quinn has been able to manage the offense, and now he has to shift gears for the final two games that might decide Mangini’s fate as head coach.

What should Mike Holmgren do with Eric Mangini?

Most of us are assuming that Mike Holmgren is going to accept the position of football czar with the Cleveland Browns. Naturally I’m relieved, as it’s painfully obvious that owner Randy Lerner is incapable of managing the Browns organization. His only hope is to pick a smart, experienced guy like Mike Holmgren and pray that Holmgren can do it. Lerner adds nothing to the mix, other than his willingness to write checks, which is obviously an important factor.

If Holmgren comes to Cleveland, we’ll find out soon what role he intends to play. Despite the speculation that he will want to coach the team as well, I’m assuming for now that he intends to run the show but have someone else be the head coach on the field. Which then brings us to Eric Mangini.

The season has been a complete mess, but it’s clear that the team has not quit on Mangini, and he deserves some credit for winning the last two games. So, many are asking the obvious question – should Holmgren keep Mangini?

Terry Pluto suggests that Holmgren ought to consider keeping Mangini.

Yes, the Browns need changes. Yes, they need impact players. Yes, Mangini made mistakes, his biggest being the failure of his friend George Kokinis as the general manager.

Where he needs help is with the draft and acquiring players to fit an overall vision for winning formulated by a front office and coach working together. Picking the right players is a full-time job, one that often has been done poorly since the Browns returned in 1999.

Holmgren should concentrate on making the roster stronger, the scouting staff better, the organization run more efficiently. Because on the field, the Browns are a well-disciplined and determined team. They could easily have quit during a season that started 1-11 amid reports that the coach would be fired when it was over.

These are good points, and generally I agree with Pluto about Holmgren’s role. But, can he work with Mangini?

On a personal level, none of us have any idea. The two men both like having control, but they both work hard and it’s clear they have mutual respect. Until they get together and discuss it in detail none of can know the answer here.

The two men, however, have very different football philosophies, and this is where I think there’s no way Mangini stays without making some significant adjustments.

First, Holmgren is one of the premiere experts on the West Coast offense. Mangini is from the Belichick/Parcells coaching tree and I can’t think of any coach from that group who has ever used the West Coast offense, let alone embraced it. Under Mangini and Brian Daboll, the Browns offense has been a joke. I defy anyone to explain the philosophy behind this offense. The emergence of Jerome Harrison is exciting and infuriating at he same time, as Mangini squandered game after game with Harrison on the bench, or worse yet on the inactive list.

It makes no sense to make Mike Holmgren the football czar and expect him to pick players for an offensive system that is new to him. The first order of business would be to see if Holmgren and Mangini could agree on a new coaching staff on offense that would run the West Coast offense. This obviously would be an adjustment for Mangini, but he’s the one with the 3-11 record and one of the worst offenses in recent memory. Without an agreement here, Holmgren should let Mangini go.

Some might argue, as Holmgren even acknowledged, that this isn’t fair. As Pluto pointed out, Mangini has restored discipline and the players are playing hard despite a poor record. But have we ever seen a Mike Holmgren team that lacked discipline or didn’t play hard? Doesn’t Holmgren know practically every coach from the Bill Walsh coaching tree? I would expect him to find a coach that would be inclined to enforce discipline, so this factor shouldn’t carry the day.

The offense should be non-negotiable. With Holmgren’s system, he’ll know which coaches to hire, which free agents to sign, which players to keep and which college kids to draft. More specifically, he can make a decision on Brady Quinn. I suspect Quinn would do better in a West Coast offense, but would anyone question Mike Holmgren’s judgment? Can you think of anyone better to make that assessment?

If they can get past this hurdle and come to an understanding regarding the offense, then Holmgren should seriously consider keeping Mangini. Despite the problems on defense this year, there have been some good signs, and Mangini’s expertise is on defense. Also, the special teams have been excellent this year.

Regarding personnel issues, Mangini has made plenty of mistakes, but he’s made up for some of them as well. For example, David Veikune looks like a bad pick, but the Browns picked up Matt Roth on waivers who looks like a steal. Mangini has found ways to use a number of different players on defense, and the team seems to be making progress in that area. Most of the Jet players have been solid contributors, if not Pro Bowl players. Everyone ripped Mangini for getting old players, and now everyone is surprised to see the team playing hard. Isn’t it possible that the former Jets helped Mangini set the positive tone?

Also, Mangini resisted the urge to go after high-profile free agents, as he’s clearly taking the long view with the Browns. I still think the decision to draft center Alex Mack was a good one. He gets better every week, and the offensive line deserves much of the credit for Jerome Harrison’s monster day yesterday. For years everyone in Cleveland wanted to Browns to draft linemen, but Mangini got little credit for the kind of move that helps the team in the long run. This move saved significant cap space and the Browns are in a good position on that front. Guys like Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow were shipped off as well. Again, these are moves that hurt the Browns in the short term but should help in the long term.

Holmgren is a smart guy, and he’ll see the positives. He won’t be distracted by the record. He’ll dig deep and see the good along with the bad. If he and Mangini can settle on a strategy on offense and forge a working relationship where they compliment each other, then this marriage just might work out well for the Browns. The good news is that Lerner will be putting Holmgren in charge, and Holmgren will not hesitate to cut his losses if the marriage doesn’t work. That’s the critical issue. We can’t count on Lerner to oversee the situation, so one of the two has to be the ultimate boss. If that guy is Holmgren, then he has to have the final say on Mangini and everything else about the Browns.

UPDATE: It’s official. Mike Holmgren has accepted the position of team president and he will not be coaching the team.

Brady Quinn takes a step back


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Many of us were pleasantly surprised by Brady Quinn’s impressive performance last week against the Detroit Lions. Sure, their defense is terrible, but NFL quarterbacks are expected to tear apart bad defenses, so Quinn’s performance represented real progress.

Unfortunately, reality set in this week, as Quinn had trouble hitting his receivers today in Cincinnati. Of course, the play calling sucked (the Browns abandoned the Wildcat) and several receivers dropped passes, but Quinn had serious trouble again with his accuracy. He had trouble with all his throws – short, medium and long. The long throws were laughably off target.

I’m not sure what’s going on here. Perhaps all the problems on offense are making him rush his throws and hurting his accuracy. Maybe it’s the terrible protection (by the way, why does Daboll keep spreading the field on third down when our quarterbacks often end up getting pounded) or bad play-calling. Last week was the only game so far where Quinn looked comfortable and it helped his accuracy.

He certainly needs to stay in there. The Browns need to figure out whether he can be the starter next season. If the Browns make an adjustment, they should focus on offensive coordinator Brian Daboll who is absolutely clueless.

Related Posts