Vince Grzegorek at Scene posted a quote yesterday from a former “player” for the Cleveland Browns, Nate Jackson. You don’t remember the tenure of Nate Jackson as a member of the Cleveland Browns? I am guessing I might be able to find him if I search old roster moves on NFL.com, but he doesn’t have any stats applied to his name since 2008. Apparently, though, he was on the roster of the Cleveland Browns last year in Eric Mangini’s final year in Berea. Here’s the quote.
I was only in Cleveland for one week, but as I wrote last year, I was there long enough to figure out that his coaching style was so interactive as to be intrusive. He peppered his players with fourthdownulator-esque studies, made them memorize those figures, then called upon them in meetings and forced them to stand and recite them. Players were visibly shaken by the process. This was not the football they knew. They had notes scattered about their laps and desks, nervously hoping they wouldn’t be asked to stand and tell Mangini what percentage of the time field goals are made by a left-footed kicker from the right hash-mark facing south with an east-to-west wind in the second quarter of Thursday night games in November. It’s hard to play your best with these things on your mind.
Mangini was a bad head coach. He couldn’t reconcile his scientific approach to the game with the real-time lack of science that was needed to play it. He took it too far and lost his team.
The first thing that anyone will say about this quote is, “Who is Nate Jackson?” Even I poked fun at that prospect in the opening paragraph. So does this invalidate the criticism? Not completely. It also doesn’t mean that Eric Mangini is definitively an awful NFL mind or coach. It might mean that without change in style that Eric Mangini will never be suited to being a head coach.
One of the biggest rumblings about Eric Mangini from some of the players who played for him was that he didn’t treat them enough like men. Obviously, we wouldn’t want to take Braylon Edwards word for it, because he barely proved he deserved to be treated like anything more than a petulant child when he was here. Then again, in the pre-season when reporters asked Alex Mack how camp was going and how different things were, the somewhat uncomfortable, yet relieved smile. Same with Joe Thomas celebrating his new deal as he praised Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert’s direction. It was my opinion at that time that he was going as close to the line as he could in criticizing the past without doing so directly.
There is no question that being a popular head coach with your players isn’t necessarily the be-all end-all in terms of being successful. In fact, you need look no further than Mr. Popularity Romeo Crennel for a guy who failed miserably by trying to be everybody’s best friend. Still, I think there is something to be said between working guys hard with discipline and also taking it to a level that seemingly many players considered public shaming and embarrassing them in front of their peers.
Nate Jackson’s story speaks to that, and Alex Mack’s earlier comments about having to be called out in film study in front of the entire team instead of just in smaller individual position group meetings. Being a disciplinarian and maintaining control of your team is one thing, but when it potentially alienates players, how valuable can it be?
Nothing is ever simple though. One thing you can say for Eric Mangini’s teams is that they never seemed to quit on him. They didn’t quit in his first year as they beat the Steelers and won out on a four game win streak. Maybe you can say the team quit on him the last game of last season as the Steelers crushed the Browns 41-9. That’s probably flawed logic too as that Browns unit was so banged up it’s hard to make that case.
In the end, it isn’t important, except for the die-hards who obsess about everything related to the Browns. The only thing that matters now is that Pat Shurmur keeps his team from quitting on him as he looks to implement some semblance of a cohesive offense in the second half of the season against some really tough opponents. If he doesn’t, we might read articles smashing him a few years from now written by Thomas Clayton.