Mangini & Kokinis…Godspeed.

I’ve been thinking for a few days about I feel (and should feel) about Eric Mangini and George Kokinis, and still haven’t come to a solid conclusion. It’s only fair to look at this front office pairing after stepping back and trying to remove emotions from the equation. Sure, we all would’ve loved to have Cowher running the sidelines and Parcells running the show upstairs, but a lot of times this just isn’t reality. No matter who came out of Randy Lerner’s search for coach/GM, there was going to be a sea of skepticism and debate. The media has not been very forgiving up to this point, but the Browns have certainly not helped themselves by coming across as un-fan-friendly and slightly smug in recent weeks by staying so quiet.

Randy Lerner conducted a very thorough search after speaking with several league executives in and around the NFL. Cowher immediately took himself out of the equation, and Scott Pioli made it well-known to Lerner that he intended on tearing apart everything and entering a fullblown rebuilding project. Lerner felt that there was too much talent on the team, and I think most would agree with that sentiment. There really weren’t any other coaches available that I would have gone after. Unfortunately, we’re going into this one off-season too soon. That being said, I feel that Eric Mangini is a very solid choice for this organization moving forward. He brings a no-nonsense attitude, demands respect, and preaches discipline and accountability…characteristics that have been solely missing from Romeo’s disciples in recent seasons. It also certainly helps that he has three previous years of head coaching experience. Going into this Sunday, 9 out of the last 10 Super Bowl winning coaches won the championship with their second team. He’s a mini-Belichick in every sense of the word, and is a very intriguing choice. Those complaining that he’s simply a “Belichick disciple” may someday be proven right, but I feel he will be a far better coach that Romeo Crennel based on his demeanor and attitude alone (not to mention it’s impossible for his in-game coaching decisions to be any worse).

Goerge Kokinis, on the other hand, is quite the wild card. I sincerely hope that Kokinis is able to come in let his voice be heard, rather than simply carrying out Mangini’s orders. In listening to his introductory press conference today, he indicated that one of the reasons his announcement took so long is that he wanted to make sure that he and Mangini still fundamentally agree on their ideologies. They spent a lot of time in the last week discussing their off-season strategies, as well as thoroughly breaking down the current Browns roster. But Kokinis did stress in his press conference that he will be have final say of the 53 man roster, which is a good start. Kokinis has an extensive background in current NFL rosters, meaning he would specialize in free agency and trade avenues in the coming off-seasons. This is why it’s so unfortunate that he felt that he would not be able to work with T.J. McCreight, the former director of pro personnel whom “resigned” Friday night. He had been in charge of the Browns scouting after Savage’s ouster, meaning Kokinis will quickly need to get acclimated with draft preparations and find a replacement for pro personnel.

Bottom line? This won’t be Romeo/Savage part II. Mangini will not be in over his head on Sundays, and Kokinis will (hopefully) not spend all of his time trying to carry out personal agendas behind the backs of the HC and owner. These two know what kind of players they want, and should, repeat should, form a solid tandem. Phil Savage was a super scout, but failed miserably when in charge of front office personnel. I am, however, still concerned about the overall structure of the organization. A new director of pro personnel will be hired soon, and is rumored to be James “Shack” Harris, who was most recently in the Jacksonville front office. But if Kokinis doesn’t assert himself, then both guys will be reporting directing to Randy Lerner, who is not a football guy. The lack of a team president overseeing the HC/GM is a very risky proposition. This team has needed a football guy as team president ever since it returned to the league.
Anyone who tells you that they know how this combo is going to fair is pulling your chain, because it’s impossible to tell for sure. There’s not much we can do but be a little skeptical, take a wait-and-see approach, and hope for the best. But one thing is absolutely set in stone…Randy Lerner had better have gotten this right. The ramifications will be catastrophic for the organization and his ownership, so here’s hoping his research was done well.


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