by Michael Lombardi
January 08, 02010
QUOTE: “Man does not simply exist, but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.” -- Viktor Frankl
I was stunned, shocked and surprised -- and obviously wrong -- in my prediction that Mike Holmgren would fire Eric Mangini as Browns head coach. He decided to keep him, albeit possibly for just one year. Nevertheless, Holmgren’s patience may have delayed any progress. For me, having known both men, there isn’t enough common ground in how they run their programs to think this can work. I didn’t think it could work before, and I still don’t think it can work. For Holmgren to get his program moving in the right direction, he needs to start clean. Otherwise, he’s wasting a year in his rebuilding. As he assumes his role as a team executive, he can’t think like a former coach; he must think like an executive, someone who can examine the short- and long-range planning of the organization.
My attitude toward this decision is not based solely on my belief that Mangini is not a good coach. It’s more about feeling that you need everyone in the organization believing in the same philosophy, going in the same direction. Bill Walsh once said about infighting in organizations, “The Civil War was the ugliest war to fight,” and this decision may prompt infighting unless Holmgren is in the building every day to handle the problems that arise. With a new general manager coming into the front office, the Browns will have many different “opinions,” and someone is going to have to manage those opinions correctly. I’m not looking to build and organization of people who think just one way, but I want a building full of people who share a similar philosophy.
For example, my view of football falls in line with the Bill Belichick view, or the Bill Parcells view, but that doesn’t mean we agree on every move — we just agree on the overall philosophy of team building. With Holmgren never having been just the team executive, this will require that his coach share his vision, his blueprint and his thought process, or else there will be too many bumps in the road.
So why did Holmgren keep Mangini? For one, it allows him to revisit this decision next year when the coaching landscape might be very different. It also allows him to be above any blame since whatever goes wrong next season will put Mangini in the line of fire. It also gives him time to see if he gets the urge to return to coaching, and if he does, he can easily remove Mangini and go back to the sidelines one more time. So there are more compelling reasons for Mangini’s return than just the four-game win streak and the sensitivity for coaches.
Here’s what Lions GM Martin Mayhew had to say about the team: “It's not nearly good enough. But it's getting better, and that better continue. I would say, obviously, 2-14 is unacceptable. That's not what we're gonna be about. And I think 2-14 really is something that the entire organization needs to improve on. Nobody should feel comfortable or, ‘At least my department did a good job’ or ‘At least we did good.’ ... Everybody is a part of 2-14. And that's something we have to have a sense of urgency about improving. We don't plan on doing that again.”
If he doesn’t plan on doing that again, Mayhew better get some better players on the field. When head coach Jim Schwartz took over, the Lions were so bad in terms of talent, many thought going 0-16 again was possible. Winning two games is not very good, but the Lions have a long way to go to restore the roar, and it starts with Mayhew finding some talent. He was in Detroit during the Matt Millen era, so he’s been a part of the decisions in the past. He must accept responsibility of the lack of talent.
Since Bagdad Bob, has there been a worse public relations man than the Raiders’ John Herrera? Here’s another example of his work:
Herrera, the team’s senior executive, responding to an offer from former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon to help JaMarcus Russell, said that neither owner Al Davis, Russell, coach Tom Cable or the team needs any help from Gannon and that "maybe it's Rich that needs the help."
We know Herrera needs the help, but why lash out at the man who was responsible for the only winning years since the Raiders returned to Oakland from L.A.? Why attack Gannon, who was league MVP and took the organization to a Super Bowl? Because he, like many, think it is time for the owner to stop being involved? I wonder if John and Bagdad Bob have conversations to decide who can make the most ridiculous comments.
Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi
For another take on why Mangini is back in Cleveland, check out this story from Bleacher Report.