Clueless in Berea

No, this isn’t a column about Eric Mangini. The Browns are a disaster so far, and we’ll see if Mangini can turn this around. But as bad as things have been, Mangini and George Kokinis are obviously trying to build this team over the long haul. They aren’t going for quick fixes. Trading down in the first round to draft a center should have signaled that very clearly. Trading away Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards also made it clear that they were willing to sacrifice this season to stockpile draft picks. They’re also very mindful of the salary cap as well.

That doesn’t excuse this terrible start and I have no idea if this will work, but it’s way too early to give up on Mangini.

The real problem in Berea, however, is ownership. Today we were blessed with another handful of quotes from Randy Lerner. Most of them made little sense, as he’s distraught over the performance of the team and really doesn’t know what to do. But this quote stood out:

During Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Bears, Lerner stood watching from the tunnel between the field and the locker room with equal parts disgust and anger written on his face.

He admitted that the whole quarterback fiasco “doesn’t look sensible.” As to why the Browns have been so reluctant to play Brady Quinn, he said “I haven’t been told about anything.”

This is beyond embarrassing. He hasn’t been told anything? He owns the damn team!

It’s obvious that Randy Lerner has never managed anything in his entire life. He seems to think that the secret to creating a great football organization is to pick qualified people and get out of the way, and with Lerner that means getting completely out of the way.

But life isn’t that simple, and management certainly isn’t that simple. Problems always arise. Sometimes they have to do with personalities, other times they have to do with flawed strategies. In the end you need a strong person at the top who can oversee what’s going on and ask the tough questions. The person at the top has to be willing to get his hands dirty. He has to be a problem solver, and he has to demand accountability from the GM and the head coach. That has never happened in Berea under Lerner’s watch.

You don’t have to get involved like a Daniel Snyder. Rather, you have to stay on top of what Mangini and Kokinis are doing, and grill them about things that don’t seem to make sense.

The quarterback situation is a prime example. I was willing to give Mangini the benefit of the doubt, but it’s obvious now that the process he used to select and then announce a starter only days before the opener blew up in his face. As the owner, Lerner should be on top of this situation. What’s the plan? Instead, Lerner has no clue what’s going on. That’s a stunning admission.

At least Lerner seems to realize that he’s utterly incompetent to oversee the Browns, as he made vague references to needing help. But, his statements are complete gibberish:

He indicated that he wasn’t ready to give up on Mangini despite being obviously distraught about the state of the team. But he did strongly indicate that it’s time for him to bring in a football authority who can help straighten out this mess.

“There’s absolutely no question about that,” he said. “The highest priority that I have is a strong, credible, serious leader within the building to guide decisions in a far more conspicuous, open transparent way. I can maybe defend decisions by saying I’ve sought advice and I’ve brought people in, and we’ve gone to see people — and I think my highest priority is to have a stable figure that represents the voice that explains the decisions.

Huh? It’s not a matter of explaining decisions. Sure, the Browns could use that, but before that happens you need someone who understands the long-term strategy.

Here’s another gem:

“We need as many credible, serious eyes and ears assessing this situation as is possible,” he said.

No, you need to take control a be a leader and manage the situation. You don’t need a bunch of other “experts” telling you what to do. You’ll get all sorts of different opinions and that will just confuse the situation. Sit Mangini and Kokinis down and grill them about what’s being done now and what’s the long-term plan. If you buy into their long-term approach, then have the guts to go out in public and defend it.

The Browns are pitiful right now, but they have added draft picks and have managed the cap well. These performances would be much more problematic had the Browns gone out and spent a ton of money on free agents. In that respect last season was a much bigger disappointment. Rookie wide receivers rarely make an impact, so the Browns should benefit from having Robiskie and Massaquoi getting experience this year, as painful as that has been to watch. Alex Mack is also learning on the job but should be an anchor on the line for years. Today we also saw some inspired play from the defense. Few good teams are built overnight.

As for the current situation, it’s obvious that Brian Daboll and Mangini have no idea what to do on offense. Long-term, the Browns will likely have new quarterbacks next season, but we need to see some progress with the offense to get this season under control. Perhaps some changes need to be made with the offensive staff? Perhaps they need to commit more to Cribbs and the running game? Perhaps running a couple of screen passes or roll-outs would help slow down all the blitzes that are killing the Browns? A good manager would be grilling Mangini about these things and demanding some changes.

Perhaps the only solution is to hand the reins to Bernie Kosar. Hell, why not pay him $5 million per year to run things and handle the management issues? Bernie can certainly use the money, and Lerner hands out money like candy.

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