My Inner Hata: Good. That means no one can have a career ending injury yet. Wait, is anyone still enamored with The Star Boyz?
Shill: My main thing is I can't figure out why fans won't even give these guys a chance. It is really irrational when you think about it. Unfair.
Hata: Who hired them? Where is their track record for turning a franchise around? We are talking about a three-year failure and a rookie nobody who rode Ozzie's coat-tails. What do you want, a Cleveland Runner-Up Parade TM? Maybe Omar can take a day off spring training and visit as grand marshal for you.
Shill: C'mon. Randy Lerner has had some rough breaks. Wasn't it you defending him just a few months ago as the type of owner you want in many ways? Keeps his mouth shut and writes big checks?
Hata: That was before his latest coaching and GM search, and the staff layoffs I still find incomprehensible given other expenditures, but mostly the search and the hires.
Shill: Why so negative when the slate is blank?
Hata: There are many reasons. In my mind, to err is human. To repeat the same dumb decisions and mistakes as a pro sports franchise owner is "Stepien". This franchise needed a cultural overhaul and the confidence of a strong, proven successful football personality. It needed experience and credibility. Failing that, it needed to bet the present and future on proven competence. That needed to be in place at the top of the organization.
Shill: Right. I agree. Now tell me why they didn't get as close to all of that as was possible given the circumstances of Bill Cowher not showing any interest? Wasn't it you saying that to hire someone with no experience was unacceptable? Wasn't it you guffawing at the prospect of Josh McDaniels if Scott Pioli was a first-time GM?
Hata: It was. I have to grudgingly admit that Mangini didn't sound too bad to me at first, but not in the manner in which he's now here. Look, Randy just went and brought back the Butch Davis structure, and put omnipotent authority in the hands of a coach with no credentials other than working with Bill Bellichick and failing in a brief stint in the NFL. Didn't Randy Lerner tell us that he'd never make that same mistake again? Beyond that, I just don't know what positive qualities he sees in Mangini other than dime a dozen assistant coach X's and O's knowledge. I think I know why Randy is doing what he's doing; I just think it is a blunder of the highest sort.
Shill: All right, I've been waiting to see if you have the ability to ever be objective, yah big angry whiner. Break it down.
Hata: I can see this line of thinking. The Browns are completely out of control discipline-wise for a few reasons. One is that there was a GM undercutting the head coach because he had complete roster control and authority over the coaching staff, along with some personality flaws. The whole organization saw it. Players react accordingly knowing who the real boss is, unless they are Winslow, who is just a rogue talent. Secondly, Romeo made the mistake of believing that everyone can be rational and act like a man. These are 22 - 25 year olds. Some of them are nothing but little boys in reality; some are teen agers at best. It may be offensive to some people, but it is true. In some cases, the brain's outer cortex develops at about age 26, and this is the center of our complex reasoning function. In most cases, they have been hopelessly pampered and spoiled ever since it was discovered they were athletically gifted as people like me place too much emphasis on silly games. Without the right family or another similar structure, this creates young individuals who need quite a bit of guidance and discipline. Romeo thought they should be professionals and be quiet, watch, learn and compete with self-discipline. The problem was a draft centric organization wanted to hand jobs to players to see what the candy they just bought tasted like as they walked out the door of the store, instead of realizing they were really brewing beer and it hadn't fermented yet. Furthermore, there weren't enough talented veterans to police the culture. Seriously, how is Dante Stallworth going to put Braylon Edwards in his place? Charlie Frye? DA? Quinn?
So Randy sees this and understands. But here is where the train jumped the track.
The Davis Era failed in large part because the head coach had too much power, and the personnel department was the lackey. No one was in charge at the top. The Savage Era failed in large part because the GM ran roughshod over the head coach. No one was in charge at the top after the non-football marketing guy was canned. A logical person, one who realized that he had limited interest and engagement with his franchise, and that is being very kind to Randy Lerner, might just conclude that balance, expertise, and objective leadership at the top of an organization is what is really the key to success. Let the head coach do his thing, let the GM do his thing, and put a strong, experienced, executive in charge to ensure the interface and make sure that strategy is executed on the day-to-day, tactical level. Instead, Lerner decided to remain almost delusional and fancy himself as that expert because five years ago he made a fact-finding visit to Bob Kraft or some nonsense. He decided to go on ahead and run to step D before inserting slot A. There was no experienced executive hired. So we now have a complete repeat of the Butch Davis structure. Head coach as czar, titular (I've been waiting about 5 years to use that word) GM in place doing his bidding.
Shill: OK, that analysis makes some sense. But why so negative? Does this work just fine for, oh, only about half of the NFL's franchises?
Hata: Because of a few reasons. My trust and benefit of doubt belief in one Randolph Lerner is shot. Done. Caput. It just feels like he's obsessed with Bill Bellichick and Ozzie Newsome, doesn't it? It is like he's looking to the past wondering "what if" and trying to recreate something that was gone with a secret knock on the door of his late father's jet. Browns' fans get lambasted by you shills for living in the past, but jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick. RAC and Phil? Mangini and Kokinis? That's just coincidence? Are there other NFL organizations?
Shill: So what's wrong with trying to emulate on successful models and fine tuning mistakes? Besides, maybe this was just Phil and RAC's personalities that failed?
Hata: If Randy allegedly liked Bill Cowher so much, why not raid Pittsburgh or that coaching tree? Reverse the cheating from spygate and exchange Kordell karma and Vinitieri karma and BB is Don McCafferty, not Jesus-in-a-Hoodie. Arizona is loaded with Pittsburgh offshoots, and there's plenty of rumors for that as much as Mike Tomlin has vindicated himself, Wisenhunt was the real heir apparent until Rooney was influenced to put his money where his mouth was on affirmative action. There is also the Tony Dungy tree that is starting to yield some of the finest, smartest, and best player-relations' new coaches in the league. They are neither patsies nor dictators and they win. Tomlin is one. There were so many options. What has the BB coaching tree ever done? The Tuna tree has yielded BB, Sean Peyton and Cogs at least. Sparano and Spagnulo may also be for real; we'll see. How'd RAC do here? How is Weiss doing in South Bend? Has the Pats' offense suffered at all in his absence when he got all the credit? Mangini was run out of town in only three years. Why fixate on this bunch? But it seems like from the time of the "press conference" elaborating on the firings of RAC and Opie to the hiring of Mangini, any search process was a sham. Mangini was Lerner's choice, and he became so focused he turned what was a buyers' market into a sellers' market. He paid top Bay Village real estate dollar for an ordinary Garfield Heights bungalow. Plus, he repeated his first mistake when he took over for his late father and Policy began to step aside negotiating his buyout, which was allowing Butch Davis to take complete control of the franchise rather than having balance from the personnel side and strong executive oversight. There was no rational reason let alone need to make Eric Mangini organizational czar.
Shill: So let me get this straight. The Browns need a culture change to instill discipline. They need experience, not a first-time coach and GM. And you aren't giving Mangini any sort of a fair chance because you hate Bill Bellichick and diminish his hall of fame success. Yeah, that makes sense. Your hate consumes you. Use your brain, not your spleen.
Hata: As much as I hate to say it, Shill Boy, I can't completely deny what you say. Look, even in 1994 after BB took three painful years running our legendary favorites out of town and playing boring football, even when he won the last playoff game in franchise history about 15 years ago, he wasn't embraced. The team wasn't embraced. I recall many fans just scoffing at rooting for those Browns. Very few people liked the guy, and then there was that old Pittsburgh curse where the teams with his "tough-preppy-guy" persona punked out anytime they saw black and gold like they were facing lunch money bullies. Even if Mangini wins, and that is a huge "if" to me given what I saw in New York, will this even be any fun? I mean, he just comes off like a prick, you know? An overcompensating "I-never-played-more-than-D-3-ball-at-my-rich-kid-snobby-elite-college-and-I'm-in-charge-you're-not" type of guy. Exactly like his mentor he later turned on.
I don't hate to say it, I admit it.
Shill: Whatever. That's just rationalization for mindless hating and unfairness. Would it kill you to just give him a chance and see even one practice for cryin' out loud? Or has he turned you against the team and even being a fan. But in fairness I will also admit that it is very hard to shill for this franchise. They test my optimism. They make it almost impossible to be enthusiastic and excited. Their ineptitude makes it very hard to not be skeptical at best, even jaded, so I feel you, Hata. The truth is we are in for a rebuild and the only way out of this mess is the way through this mess. Draft well and develop that drafted talent correctly; there are no shortcuts. It is impatience that got us here and impatience that keeps us here. You know that even though you will never admit it. You can't root against Mangini and for the Browns, so what's it gonna be?
Hata: I get that. I see you working. You are not all wrong. But first off, I point you to the patron saint of misguided NFL patience, Wayne Fontes. Patience is no guarantee of results. Period. But this rebuilding thing... This sounds like I'm a metro-sexual instead of a Muni drunk, but I'm not emotionally ready to accept another rebuild yet as a fan even as I know it is reality. I was so geeked for us to take the next step after the 10 - 6 mirage and so many seasons of rudderless suck. I knew we had some problems. I knew we needed some tinkering. I know it ended in yet another double-digit loss season, another new coaching and GM change, and another Appalachian title. But another full rebuild? Ugh. I don't know if I can take it. And that's another thing. "Word is" (royalties to Roger) that during the interview process Mangini made his case for the job by selling Lerner on the concept that the team didn't need a rebuild, whereas Scott Pioli said the reboot button needed to be pushed in order overcome the Browns' blue screen of death. We'll see. Maybe trading Winlsow and letting Jones go are anomalies. Maybe this free agent market did suck and standing pat was the right move. It sure feels like it. But it also sure feels like if a rebuild is to be the case then Lerner got hoodwinked, again, and he didn't put an experienced executive in place to monitor this situation while he runs with the Zelda and F. Scott set in the Hampton's and jets off to enjoy some futbal. Sing it with me now, "ah-lay, a-lay, a-lay..."
Shill: And in the end after your class hatred, so what? Is it so incomprehensible that Mangini is simply consistent? You are relying on third-party sources. None of them were there. Maybe it went something like this from Mangini to Lerner: "You know, this team may or may not be far away from being good, but you can't tell. Between the lack of discipline and the prima donnas running the asylum as inmates, you'll never know. What this team needs is a kick in the butt and some hard work that re-instills the fundamentals and toughness to compete in this smash-mouth division. The selfish players need to be traded for whatever we can get no matter how talented they are, the dead wood beholden to the former GM needs to be tossed, and those who stay need some professional coaching up because your coordinators and position assistants were political hires by the GM. With those things your may not be that far away. The problem is we're going to need a season to do that and evaluate, and then we'll know the next concrete steps to take. But there is no avoiding the process and the time and patience to do it right." Tell me, Hata, how is that consistent with saying you need a full 53 man turnaround that will take five years because all the problems are talent related? Maybe that's why the coach got the job and not the GM?
Hata: I've thought that. Part of me actually believes it. I guess I just need to suck it up and face the facts. We have a joyless, smug, arrogant football administration who will even make winning seem like following a war if we are even lucky enough to win. We are facing another 1991, 1999, 2005, where we have no realistic hope to do anything positive that matters this season on the field. We are playing for draft picks and experience. I'm sick and tired knowing that I have to watch this crap, AGAIN, as a guy who grew up on the fan-friendly Coach Sam and Kardiac Kids, and Bernie's crew that inspired annual title hopes. I know that this is what I'm getting. It ticks me off at Lerner like you would not understand, what with your naïve optimism, you goofy Pollyanna. This is the NFL, not Annie off Broadway. Still, the alternative is to go to the dark side like most of the rest of northeast Ohio, and I'm not doing that.
Shill: You'd better not. Who else am I going to give this seat on the bandwagon I'm holding while you sulk and moan?
Hata: You know I'll be on that train. The Browns are my Hotel California. It's in my DNA from The Cleveland Experience TM. Even as I expect the worst and no longer even hope for the best, you know deep down I still believe in a Browns' Super Bowl win in my lifetime. If it comes courtesy of Eric Mangini, I won't think twice about popping that cork. I hate to admit that.