Can Mangini fix the Browns?

February, 11, 2009
2/11/09
12:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Chris from Cleveland: People say the Browns are dysfunctional, overrated, and unable to perform at an NFL level. Yes, the Browns are overrated, but were only dysfunctional under the regime of [coach Romeo] Crennel and [GM Phil] Savage because they did not discipline players as they should have been. When Braylon [Edwards] started dropping the football, Crennel just sat back and said "you'll get it next time.” Eric Mangini brings a much-needed sense of discipline to the Browns organization. The Browns' talent level is very underrated and had a bad year in 2008 because of a bad coach in Crennel. I think that all the Browns need to become a contender in the AFC is an in-your-face coach who has been to the playoffs before. Say what you may, but this is true.

 
  Al Pereira/Getty Images
  Eric Mangini takes over a team that was 4-12 in 2008.

That was a letter I received in my mailbag recently in regards to Eric Mangini taking over the Cleveland Browns. It was thorough and well thought out.

As far as things panning out the way Chris anticipates, that remains to be seen. The Browns are already on their fourth head coach in the past decade, an average of a new regime taking over the team every 2.5 years.

Mangini is the latest to try to turn around one of the NFL's consistently struggling franchises. Since returning to the league in 1999, the Browns have just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance. Cleveland's overall record in that span is 54-106, which includes seven double-digit losing seasons.

Can Mangini fix the Browns quickly?

"I didn't come in with a lot of expectations, because I've learned from my first experience is that it doesn't matter what you expect," Mangini said. "You find a lot of things that don't fall in line with that and a lot of that's things you never really thought about. What I did do is come in with an open mind and the intention of analyzing and making decisions based on the information that we gather."

Before the end of the regular season, the Browns hired an independent firm to do a study on the team's roster. A major question was how many players on Cleveland's roster could start for all 32 teams in the NFL?

According to the study, the firm came to the conclusion that just four players -- nose tackle Shaun Rogers, left tackle Joe Thomas, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and receiver Braylon Edwards -- had enough talent to start for all 32 teams. It was one reason the Browns let go of general manager Phil Savage, who spent four years putting the team together.

Still the 'Man-genius'
Year Team Record
2006 N.Y. Jets 10-6*
2007 N.Y. Jets 4-12
2008 N.Y. Jets 9-7
2009 Browns ?
*Playoffs

More than 60 percent of the team's money is tied into the offense, yet that unit finished 31st in yards and 30th in points scored last season. The defense was never great under former head coach Romeo Crennel. The highest ranking Cleveland had in the past four years was 16th in total defense.

Enter Mangini and new general manager George Kokinis. It will be their job to reconstruct Cleveland's roster to fit their identity.

At the moment, the Browns have no identity. During their 10-6 season in 2007, Cleveland was a high-scoring offense with a deep passing attack and a bruising running game. Last year the Browns could do neither with any effectiveness.

Look for Mangini to bring in his type of players. Most likely several former New York Jets and possibly some former New England Patriots should invade Cleveland in free agency.

Kokinis also comes from the Baltimore Ravens, so Cleveland could have some interest there as well. Both Kokinis and Mangini will work closely together in remaking the roster.

"We believe in the same things, the same core values of players, people and all that it takes to build a championship-caliber organization," Kokinis said recently.

The Browns began the purge by cutting seven players earlier this week. That could be just the start as most teams turn over rosters significantly upon the arrival of a new coach.

Who's the Man in Cleveland?
The new regime in Cleveland will have to choose a quarterback. Here is a look at Brady Quinn (left) and Derek Anderson's 2007 stats:
Player Games Yds CMP% TD INT Rating
Quinn 3 518 50.6 2 2 66.6
Anderson 10 1,615 50.2 9 8 66.5

Cleveland's biggest question is addressing the quarterback situation. The Browns have two young quarterbacks in Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn who feel they are starting caliber. Anderson began last season as the starter before being benched in favor of Quinn. Both signal callers wound up on injured reserve.

The Browns have three possibilities: They can trade Anderson, keep Anderson and make him the backup, or open up a quarterback competition next summer. Mangini isn't showing his hand, but it's likely the Browns are shopping Anderson before his guaranteed roster bonus of $5 million is due in March.

Add into the mix that Cleveland also has current star players such as Edwards, Winslow and return specialist Joshua Cribbs who are all interested in re-working their contracts. The team also had major chemistry issues in the final season under Crennel, such as calling each other out for quitting during the season.

  Mangini introduced
  NFL.com Video
  New Browns coach Eric Mangini discusses his vision for the franchise.

All of this is quite a cleanup job for Mangini. But as the past decade in Cleveland has proven, nothing is ever easy for the Browns. That is a major reason why they hired a tireless worker in Mangini.

"I think that what my goal is, is to instill the philosophy that I have and instill the culture that I believe in," Mangini said. "Everybody has a different approach and I'm going to instill my approach and things that I believe in and things that I've learned.

"The one thing that I really believe in is that every year is its own year. After going to the playoffs in my first year in New York, one of the things I said in my press conference was it was a great year and there were a lot of things I was proud of, but you don't get to start at 10-6. You're 0-0 just like every other team and you don't start at 4-12, you don't start at 5-11."

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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