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Justice Is Served


September 21, 2009 12:05 PM

Mangini's Browns no better than Crennell's

It might not matter who coaches the Cleveland Browns these days, because the coach has absolutely nothing to work with. The team was closer to being decent when it returned to town 10 years ago than it is today.

This second incarnation of the Browns, a franchise the NFL recreated from scraps after Art Modell spirited the original off to Baltimore in 1995, hasn’t been much to talk about. Nor is the team’s most recent performance: a 27-6 loss Sunday to the Broncos.

Losing to the Broncos is not unusual; those old Browns did so with regularity. But at least they routinely made a game of things in Denver; at least they went onto the field and looked like a polished NFL team.

Not much in these Browns resembles a polished team. They started the ’09 season with another coach, having hired and then jettisoned past coaches as if holding auditions for "American Idol."

Somebody named Eric Mangini, whom the Jets fired after last season, runs the show now. Since his arrival, Mangini has tried to instill discipline. His hard-driving style contrasts sharply with his predecessor Romeo Crennell's, whose approach mirrored a doting father’s.

No one on this Browns roster will warm to Mangini like a “father,” partly because he’s not much older than the men he coaches. He’s the sternest of taskmasters, a coach from the Bill Belichick School of Coaching, a school whose philosophy brooks no foolishness.

Crennell was also from the Belichick school, which serves as a reminder that not all graduates of Harvard and Yale will end up as successes. Crennell wasn’t, not with the Browns anyway.

To say Mangini has failed would be to judge him before all the tests have been taken. The early evaluation of his work, however, would earn the coach a failing grade.

The sample of his work here is too small: two games with 14 more to go this season. But in those two games – both ugly losses -- it’s been hard to see the product as any better than what Crennell or Butch Davis put on the football field.

The holes in Mangini’s team are everywhere, starting with a quarterback whose play has been tentative and uninspired. As with the coach, putting a letter grade on Brady Quinn now would be unfair. He remains little more than an untutored rookie.

From what Quinn has shown in his two starts, he’s not quite ready for the job. Does anybody think Mangini has a better option than Quinn on the bench?

The last thing Mangini needs is a quarterback controversy, so no need to dust off Derek Anderson’s name from the depth chart, even when some Browns fans might be calling for it.

To play musical chairs with his quarterbacks will merely complicate Mangini’s job, which is to return the Browns to glory, to revisit the days of Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Paul Warfield, Leroy Kelly, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar -- times when pride was as much a part of the organization as its orange helmets.

Since its rebirth a decade ago, the Browns have given their fans little to be proud of, and this season seems to hint thus fair that pride might have to go into hiding as it looks at another losing season.

The last thing Mangini wants is a quarterback controversy, so no need to dust off former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson’s name from the depth chart, even when some Browns fans might be calling for it.

To play musical chairs with his quarterbacks will merely complicate Mangini’s job, which is to return the Browns to glory, to recapture the championship days of Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Paul Warfield, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar -- times when pride was as much a part of the organization as its orange helmets.

Since its rebirth a decade ago, the Browns have given their fans so little to be proud of, and this season seems to hint thus far that pride might have to go into hiding again as it looks at another losing season.

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