What were our honest expectations of the Browns this season? 5-11? 6-10? Maybe 8-8 at best? Head coach Eric Mangini has this team at 5-7 with four games to go, and there are a wide variety of improvements over the team that was 1-11 at this point last season.
Yet, the talk continues to center around Mangini’s job security and the prospects of him coaching Cleveland in 2011 and beyond.
Why is that? Why is Mangini’s job status dissected more than the team itself?
The answer is simple:
Jon Gruden. The golden head coaching candidate for any team is dangling out there on Monday Night Football, just biding his time until he decides he is ready to unleash his scowl on the league once again. Sure, he knows Mike Holmgren from his days back in Green Bay, but it would have to come at the expense of a coach who, at this point, doesn’t deserve to get fired.
Since the Browns started 1-11 in 2009, the team has gone 9-7, beating some good teams in the process. The team has been competitive throughout the 2010 season as they have battled through the toughest schedule in the NFL and some definite building blocks are beginning to take shape in the form of rookies like Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, and Colt McCoy.
So why is Mangini’s job in jeopardy? The prospect of landing Gruden would be enticing, but only if the team was in a state of complete disarray. Even if Gruden was coach now, there’s no guarantee that he could do any better with the talent that is on this team. The most you can ask for is that the team plays hard and stays competitive, and that’s exactly what the Browns do under Mangini.
The Browns have to give Mangini another year at the helm to truly see where this team is heading. Three years in the current NFL is more than enough time to collect talent to be competitive and potentially make a run at the playoffs. And if the Browns continue to improve in 2011, where is the justification to dump Mangini for a coach like Gruden?
At that point, Browns fans might have to get used to seeing Mangini on the sidelines.