During his season-ending press conference on Thursday, Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren emphasized the organization’s need to “stay the course.”
Is it weird that this statement disappointed me?
Holmgren also said they are not going to “blow everything up.”
When you take a step back from the constant horror that is the Browns, it’s almost funny that that was a relevant point of discussion.
2011 was Pat Shurmur’s first year as head coach and, make no mistake, it was dismal, but he’s not going anywhere. Everyone seems to be pointing to this as Holmgren’s third year with the team, but in truth it’s really the end of his second. He started with five games remaining in the 2009 season and didn’t do anything but eat sandwiches in the press box . He and general manager Tom Heckert have produced two drafts.
It’s still way too early to tell if these guys are all completely incompetent, yet this front office is constantly confronted with the need to define the immediate future.
When did this become Browns fans’ last stand at the Alamo?
Are we really wondering about blowing everything up, or spending a bazillion dollars in free agency next year, or intimating that Pat Shurmur should be fired?
Maybe the news that they plan to hire an offensive coordinator isn’t enough to satisfy the bloodlust we’ve developed over the past four years.
Think about it—this very well could be the most boring offseason the Browns have had since 2008. We’ve seen a major player get hired or fired every year since then. Here’s a recap of that carnage up until now, starting in 1999, and getting pretty aggressive as we arrive at the present:
Head coach Chris Palmer and general manager Carmen Policy oversee the truly pitiful, yet understood, early expansion seasons of the Browns.
Butch Davis is brought in two years later to replace both of them. He takes the Browns to their only playoff appearance of the decade, or the expansion era, in 2001 with a 9-7 record. Then halfway through the 2004 season, he abruptly resigns in the wake of an insane 58-48 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals due to “panic attacks.” His tenure lasted three-and-a-half years.
Randy Lerner’s first hiring period as owner of the team. He rips scout extraordinaire Phil Savage away from the rival Baltimore Ravens to serve as general manager, and hires former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to serve as head coach. This group presides over the team for four years unmolested. Their drama is confined to recurring staph infections, freak injuries, and eventually, naughty e-mails.
They win six games in 2005, four games in 2006, shock the city with ten wins in 2007, then hit rock bottom back to four wins in 2008. After the 2008 debacle, Lerner decides its time to start over. Savage has gambled huge on the draft and lost and Crennel’s gentle nature can no longer contain the overgrown personalities in his locker room.
Lerner hires former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini without realistically considering other candidates and before he hires the team’s general manager. Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis is later brought on board to drive Mangini to work.
In the midst of a 1-11 start, which includes five losses of 21 points or more, reconstruction of the Browns training facilities and total desecration of their sacred scrolls, Mangini abruptly fires Kokinis. The details of exactly why remain a mystery to this day, but clearly, nothing is going well.
After a meeting with Dawg Pound Mike, and amidst a swirl of viral petitions calling for him to sell the team, Lerner is finally pressured into hiring Mike Holmgren to serve as team president. The term “credible leader” is thrown around often, as nobody seems to appreciate that Lerner is terrified of speaking to the media or attending Browns games.
Holmgren gives soothing press conferences and realigns the front office, hiring several key front office business positions, including the general manager, which is kind of important. Tom Heckert is given authority over the draft and scouting departments. Coach Eric Mangini is retained, however, since he’s only had one year to implement his system, and he spent most of it trading away disgruntled players.
After Mangini loses four in a row to close out another disappointing 5-11 season, he is fired by the new president. Pat Shurmur, a rookie coach who allegedly likes exciting football, is brought in to replace him. Following that, Tom Heckert begins purging the team of Mangini’s henchman and trades down in the draft to stack the Browns’ chips for the future.
The Browns will hire an offensive coordinator. That’s it. The fans aren’t used to this.
From the firing of Savage and Crennel, to the hiring of Mangini, to the firing of Kokinis, to the hiring of Holmgren, to the firing of Mangini, to the hiring of Shurmur, we’ve been served four straight years of headline material. All this action has conditioned us to expect immediate revolution after failure. While it pleased me to see Charlie Frye get canned one day after ruining my Browns season opener in 2007, that’s still the mark of failure in itself. Call it knee-jerk reaction, or appeasing the mob.
Of the coaches fired around the league this year, those of the shortest tenure with their teams were still there for three years, longer than Shurmur, and longer than Mangini.
This fact that the Eric Mangini era was as quickly aborted as it started is precisely why the Browns will not be one of those teams that just gets turned around in one year. If history is any guide, two seasons from now will be when we can expect consequences for a lack of results.
Three years is what Steve Spagnuolo got in St. Louis, and what Raheem Morris got in Tampa Bay.
Though the 2007 season is often regarded as a lucky break, it still fell in the third year of the Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel era.
Even in the Eric Mangini era, you could argue his team was vastly improved that second year. They knocked off two Super Bowl contenders and turned those 21-point losses into six-point squeakers. We’ll never know if that squad was poised to take it to the next level in that third year.
Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert’s Browns team has holes too, they know that. And the Browns might even trade down in the draft again, which will surely test the fans’ angst.
It doesn’t matter. Staying the course means working things out and not freaking out.
Browns fans have become accustomed to radical change, maybe mistakingly perceiving it as a window to instant gratification. Sorry everyone, you just can’t fix something this bad without a lot of work.
Go patiently, Browns fans.