Rebuilding a Franchise:
2. The Cleveland Browns Hire Eric Mangini
Eric Mangini was hired to be head coach of the New York Jets in 2006. He came in with huge expectations, mainly due to being a Bill Belichick assistant, and did nothing to dispel those expectations when he took over a terrible Jets team and got them to the playoffs in his first year. Mangini became the talk of the town, was referred to in the press as the “Mangenious” for his coaching acumen, and even parlayed that fame into a guest spot on the hit TV series The Sopranos. After a setback in 2007, he and his friend, GM Mike Tannenbaum, crafted a plan to fasttrack the teams run to a championship in 2008 with a number of big free agent signings and trades, which culminated in the acquisition of Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre. Things went great for the Jets until a supposed injury to Favre left him with a dead arm and the Jets stumbled to a 9-7 finish.
Feeling fan pressure, owner Woody Johnson convinced Tannenbaum that it was in the best interests of the franchise to move on from his friend and bring a new head coach into the organization. It was one of the cleanest partings in the NFL. Mangini understood and quietly cleaned out his office after being given the chance to address his team one last time. Many felt Mangini got kind of a raw deal and saw the real Mangini as the miracle worker from 2006 and as the guy who coached the Jets to a 8-3 record before the Favre injury. One such team that felt that way was the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns quickly went after Mangini and Tannenbaum was quick to lend a helping hand. He gave a glowing recommendation for his friend. It was so impressive that the Browns basically conceded full power to Mangini to run the organization. They hired a GM, but the GM was a friend of Mangini's and more in a position to help Mangini with certain moves during the times when Mangini was going to focus on coaching.
Tannenbaum now had a new trade partner to work with, one that he worked so closely with that it would be as if he was negotiating with himself. He knew that Mangini had interest in certain players on the Jets roster and he knew exactly what kind of player Mangini did and did not like. He knew the way Mangini treated the draft and how he valued selections within the draft. Tannenbaum knew Mangini was a no-nonsense guy from the Bill Parcells school that needed to bring in “his guys” to make his program work. Mangini immediately began signing Jets free agents such as LB David Bowens and LB Eric Barton and the Jets knew they had some major bargaining chips.
The Jets were hot for USC QB Mark Sanchez on draft day 2009, but there was no chance that he would be on the board at number 17. The call was made to Mangini. The Browns already had two QB's on the roster. Derek Anderson was due a hefty bonus and Brady Quinn was still waiting for an opportunity to prove he was worth a first round draft pick. Mangini was part of the team that passed on Matt Leinart all those years ago so the Jets had an idea he wanted no part of Sanchez with so many other areas to fill. The Jets offered the 17th pick and the 57th pick in the draft, which is nowhere near the firepower normally needed to jump into the top 5 in the draft. But Tannenbaum was able to sweeten the pot by offering players that Mangini loved. DE Kenyon Coleman was a Mangini favorite as was S Abram Elam, a player Mangini signed to an offer sheet that offseason which the Jets matched to retain him. The deal was made and the Jets got their franchise QB they had been desperate to find.
,br /> The Jets and Mangini were still not finished. The Jets next had their eye on WR Braylon Edwards of the Browns. Edwards was a tremendous physical talent who never lived up to his lofty draft status and had worn out his welcome in Cleveland and did not have the personality to play under Mangini. Jets head coach Rex Ryan was familiar with Edwards since Edwards routinely put up big numbers against his Ravens defenses and knew the type of presence he could be in the right environment. Edwards had hit the skids in 2009 averaging under 35 yards a game and clearly wanted out of Cleveland as well. It was an easy match. The Jets this time offered their 3rd and 5th round picks along with LB Jason Trusnik, a special teams player, and WR Chansi Stuckey, starting simply because of no depth at the position.
Both of the acquired players flourished in New York. Sanchez has led the Jets to back to back AFC Championship games and flashes the looks of a real franchise building QB. He shows the ability to be a great player in the clutch, leading the Jets to numerous fourth quarter comebacks in 2010 and nearly pulling out a late game miracle in the 2010 AFC Title game. Edwards proved to be a much more complete player than anyone gave him credit for and was a big part of the 2009 run. In 2010 Edwards was the best Jets receiver and one of the better deep ball threats in the NFL. Whether he will be back or not in 2011 is an open issue, but he played a vital role in the two year run and development of Sanchez.
How did Mangini fare? Not too well. His hiring proved to be one of the worst in Browns history. He stripped them of a number of talented players in an attempt to rebuild the team. His picks he received for Sanchez could have led to the draft of QB Josh Freeman or WR Jeremy Maclin, but he continued to drop down in the draft and gain selections via trades with the Eagles and Buccaneers. The selections gained by Sanchez turned into C Alex Mack, LB David Veikune, CB Coye Francies, and RB James Davis. Mack was just selected as a Pro Bowl replacement while Veikune and Davis were both released in 2010. Francies is a deep bench player. So essentially Mangini traded away a potential franchise QB for a potential Pro Bowl center. The Edwards deal netted the Browns a backup guard and a safety who could not make the team and was waived before the first game of the year.
That move essentially spelled the end for Mangini who lost all his personnel power after just one season. By the end of 2010 he lost his coaching job. The real losers were fans of the Browns. The Buccaneers ended up with a potential franchise QB, the Eagles got a great young WR, and the Jets went to back to back championship games with a potential franchise QB and very solid 900 yard a year receiver. The Browns got a center and years and years of could have been's as they watch the players they passed on flourish with other teams. And all of the parties involved have Eric Mangini to thank for it.
Did Cleveland need a new start? They probably did. They really did have to move Edwards and Winslow because both carried too much baggage with the team, but he would have been better off moving Edwards early like he did Winslow. Edwards value dropped the longer he stayed there. The Jets made the same mistake with Vilma. The problem was the Browns just got no value. Think about it. When the Jets had the 4th pick and the Saints the two the Saints basically wanted a ransom to move up two spots. To move from 17 to 5 the Browns took a mid 2 and a bunch of junky vets. That is not how you build a team.
It is difficult for me to say, but I believe in the NE Patriot way. I believe in Hoarding draft picks, trading down for more picks, teams working as a team, few stars, medicore guys working together to create a better team silently in lock step.
One of the things that you bring out is that Rex can manage exceptional talent. The Jet way is merging a team concept with Star players. Cro,Holmes,Edwards and Scott are all Divas and head cases, but Rex creates an enviornment where they can perform and flourish. Rex and Mangini are good coaches that can get the best out of an UNDFA,but Rex can maximise the talent of a gifted player. High priced talent sells PSL's, creates a buzz. great for marketing a team, but it also translates into wins and success on the football field.
Slowly Rex is getting me to turn from the Dark side.