Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vox Lox (week 17): On Mangini


I've never struggled so much with my opinion of a coach in Cleveland. I usually come to conclusions quickly and rarely waver. As a lifelong fan of The Human Rain Delay, I thought John Hart should keep Grover, even after Boston beat us three straight in the '99 ALDS. I wanted Fratello forever, regardless of how many fans abhorred seeing the Cavs grind out ugly wins. I disliked Silas and Romeo from Day One. Liked Mike Brown and Butch Davis instantly, but their flaws began to drain me-- and I felt relief when they were terminated. I spent lots of energy hating on Charlie Manuel and Belicheat, but they both went on to feed me shitburgers. I fondly reminisce about John Lucas, even though I always knew he was more mascot than coach. I love Manny Acta's PR skills, but we all know he was hired to be fired (sooner, rather than later). I miss Marty's "gleam" and love Gary Waters' mid-major dream. Bottom line, I know who I'm down with and who I want to run outta town.

But damnit, I don't know what to make of Eric Mangini. He's a bit too practical (like all Capricorns) and secretive to energize a fan base, but his methodical and selfless approach is too disarming for the Vox to truly criticize. We see shades of the Mangenius with brilliant game plans in blowout victories, and then he quickly turns into a slave for field goals during indigestible losses. I never know if I'm riding with Mangini, or if I want to derail the tracks. I couldn't jump on the bandwagon when he shredded the News (Orleans & England) the same way I couldn't jump off of it when he found ways to lose to the Bengals and Bills. I'll admit I like Coach Mangini, and not just because my middle name is Eric. He listens to Biggie and 2Pac, counts Tony Soprano as a friend, and seems to understand the religion of Browns football in Cleveland. Also, unbeknownst to each other, we were simultaneously working off our pot bellies in early 2010 (consequently, I can't disqualify Eric with my recent theory that fat coaches can no longer win Super Bowls. Bill Parcells, thanks to Scott Norwood in 1991, will go down as the last out-of-shape HC to win a championship. How do you sell the virtues of sacrifice and work ethic to your players if you don't have the discipline to trade your doughnuts for a few minutes on the treadmill?). The team always plays hard for him, even if it's for a coach that had a heavy hand in their awful start. Yes, the Bucs and Chiefs ended up being much stronger than anticipated, but the Browns made no second-half adjustments in either loss. And, at some point during week 3, Mangini had to realize that Eric Wright had no business trying to cover Anquan Boldin. At 0-3, our season was essentially over before it began.

Nevertheless, I dare any Browns fan to give me a better alternative and explain why? Jon Gruden, playing to the camera with his cartoonish faces and football bravado, is now a product-personality of ESPN. Because he's demonstrative, affable and won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson at QB...well, he's currently billed as a potential savior. I'll argue Chucky inherited Tony Dungy's team just as they blossomed into one of the great defensive squads of the modern era and won the title in what was a down year for the NFL, team talent-wise. John Fox? Reunited with Delhomme? Over my dead body; you might as well bring Romeo and Trent Dilfer back. Mike Holmgren? He was the only head coach with a winning record to actually lose to Crennel's Browns in 2007. And the Big Show may have lost all three Super Bowls he coached in had it not been for Desmond Howard and clueless Pete Carroll on the opposite sideline. See, the problem with most fans trying to talk football is that their perceptions come from ESPN's reality. The perception is that Mike Ditka was a great football coach. The reality is that all he had to do was get out of the way and watch one of the most dominant teams in the history of pro sports fulfill their inevitable destiny (for my GenY readers: the '85 Bears were so unstoppable, they made a video letting you know they were headed to the SuperBowl three months beforehand. Could that ever happen now? Live forever, Jim McMahon). Coach Ditka would eventually do his own version of Katrina on the New Orleans Saints franchise. But he was immortalized by an SNL skit and that unsightly sweater vest, and ESPN is selling you on those memories every time they let Ditka pretend to provide intelligent analysis.

So, yes, it's no secret I like substance over style when it comes to my football coaches, but at what point do I tire of this "process" Mangini so often speaks about? He strikes me as patient. But I'm out of fucking patience. Sixteen years without a playoff victory will do that. And, yet, if this were a town hall meeting...I'd be Barbara Hershey on my way to the podium to bury the coach, only to change my mind at the last possible moment. Regardless of the result this afternoon against Pittspuke, you'll hear Vox's voice bellowing in the back of the church: Coach stays!

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Giants (-4) over Redskins, 2 dimes
Chiefs (-3.5) over Raiders, 2 dimes
Browns, Pittspuke under 37.5, 1 dime

Last week: 2-2 (-2 dimes)
Season: 30-30-3 (-1 dime)