Did the Raiders Make a Tough Decision that Mike Holmgren Couldn’t?

Many wanted to laugh at the Raiders’ new GM Reggie McKenzie for firing the coach, Hue Jackson yesterday after one season of 8-8 football.  From where I sit it looks like it could be entirely reasonable.  Granted, a lot will depend on who the Raiders hire and what they do next year, but given our own experiences with the Browns and Mike Holmgren, it doesn’t look totally crazy to me.

Mike Holmgren has all but admitted that he wasted a year by keeping Eric Mangini around for an extra season.  Ultimately by hiring Pat Shurmur and pretty consistently referring to this past 4-12 campaign as “year one,” Mike Holmgren is basically saying that he started his project a year later than the one in which he arrived.

Now in fairness to Eric Mangini, I don’t think we can call his second year with the Browns a total waste.  It was another year where Mangini reinforced what it meant to practice and play with discipline in the NFL.  On the heels of Romeo Crennel’s reign I would have a tough time just calling it a waste.

That being said, the team only won five games and they gave valuable playing time to guys like David Bowens and others who were never going to be a part of the Browns future.  They didn’t give playing time to Jayme Mitchell meaning that Tom Heckert didn’t know as early as he could have that Mitchell is a backup at best for the Browns.  Finally, they gave guys like Colt McCoy and Mohamed Massaquoi experience in a system that they eventually wouldn’t even be running.  From that perspective outside the control of Eric Mangini and assuming that Holmgren would eventually run the West Coast Offense and a 4-3 defense, the Browns absolutely wasted a year.

That’s just water under the bridge now at this point for Browns fans, but keep it in mind with regard to the Raiders.  I know that team has been something of a joke toward the end of Al Davis’ life.  They became a laughing stock due to some of their moves.  The move that most recently raises the eyebrows though was executed by Hue Jackson after Al Davis’ death.

Coach Hue Jackson was scared about the future after losing QB Jason Campbell to injury.  In what terrified Browns fans due to its overwhelming help to the Bengals, he traded his 2012 first round draft pick and a conditional 2013 first rounder for the Bengals’ disgruntled QB Carson Palmer.  To think that we complain about the second round of the 2009 NFL draft that Mangini botched with Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi and David Veikune.

So Reggie McKenzie made a difficult decision in removing a coach who delivered an 8-8 season.  McKenzie, who comes most recently from Green Bay, presumably has a plan that he hopes to enact that runs differently than Hue Jackson.  In that respect it actually takes a bit of bravery to remove a guy who seemingly had the team on a path to relevancy now with a new QB and coming off of a 500 season.

Sometimes leadership is hard because the right decisions aren’t always easy to make.  We’ll see if McKenzie made the right decision in Oakland removing Hue Jackson, but we already know that given his goals, objectives and ambitions Mike Holmgren failed to make the hard decision in Cleveland upon his arrival.  It cost the Browns at least one year.  As every year looms larger and larger the further we get from 1999 it appears all the more wasteful.

  • Anonymous

    I think Hue Jackson’s press conference after the final game where he blamed everyone but himself and demanded that he have more control over the organization “to make sure it didn’t happen again” may have helped make this decision.

  • Maybe it was obvious that Jayme Mitchell stinks and that’s why he didn’t get any playing time last year? Or it could be the fact that he had no place in the defensive system in place.

    Trading for a 4-3 defensive end when you’re running a 3-4 is mind boggling at best. The fact that they even made this move in the middle of the season suggests that Mangini was gone no matter what, and that Holmgren simply wanted to buy a year and pretend like that year never happened.

    I do agree with this post though. At least McKenzie has the stones to be honest about his intentions, and I respect him for that.

  • Truth.  I would just say that new GM could have carried that scapegoat for one more year to buy himself time.

  • DonFelder

    Holmgren kept Mangini for one reason: to buy himself time. Most people recognized that was at least part of his motivation when he did decide to give Mangini a year (at the time, I thought it was 70% to buy time, 30% to be classy to Mangini–now I think it was 100% the former). 

    Props to McKenzie (although Jackson has since come out saying that the decision was truly Mark Davis’s) for not hiding behind scapegoats. 

  • Harv 21

    Well, since Mangini’s instilling of discipline didn’t visibly carry over into this year (like, how many snap counts were forgotten between the huddle and snap?)  I’m not sure what silver lining there was from the year of Dead Man Coaching. But the Raiders are not a good example of anything for anyone. That organization’s dysfuntional decisions, whether hiring, firing or drafting, emanated directly from the dark recesses of  Al Davis’s strange brain. Reggie McKenzie is tasked to completely dismantle that, ASAP.

  • Anonymous

    Jackson made an incredibly boneheaded decision against the Browns this past season.

    The Raiders had a 24-10 lead with about 5 minutes left in the game and were on the Browns 5-yard line. Instead of kicking a chip-shot FG to put the Raiders up by three scores, he went for it on 4th down and didn’t get it. The Browns then scored a TD to make it 24-17 and had a shot at maybe tying it at the end.

    Dumb, dumb, ego macho move.

  • No doubt it bought Holmgren time, but I really think his belief in the coaching fraternity kept him from firing Mangini after a single year.  I know there was some self-interest involved, but I don’t think Holmgren is some evil dude.  I think he really wanted Mangini to grab that job and make it impossible for him to fire him.

  • Steve

    This right here. It’s absolutely laughable to sit here and complain about Jayme Mitchell’s playing time. The only complaint should be that it was obvious that the front office had no interest in helping Mangini “win enough games”.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I think the truth is a little of both. I think he was torn on whether to keep Mangini around, did feel that Mangini ended the year on a nice note and that it would be right to fire him, and the coaching fraternity you noted. But I think that he also saw the opportunity to hold off impatient fans a bit longer. They needed to pick up talent, and felt that drafting defensive players while they starting setting the stage for everything else would allow them to do so. By waiting a year and calling this year Year One, he let them have two years of drafts before the first year of Shurmur, a year which can also be blamed on things like no training camp, injuries, no OC etc.

    Next year, Shurmur will be coaching with a training camp, with a scheme in place, with an offensive coordinator – and with three years’ worth of Heckert draft picks. Right or not, the front office obviously believes this should show a ton of progress next year – and in just Year Two! That will keep fans happy, and let them continue their path.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Except without draft picks, buying that year isn’t going to help any.

  • deuce

    I agree with mgbode, this guy pointed fingers like a kid facing detention. I think his ego and arrogance got him fired, nobody wants to deal with someone cocky. This guy may have went 8-8, but he didn’t build what he had. He did get 8-8 out of them, but only after overpaying for Palmer. I do have to agree with the point of the article though, McKenzie knew what he needed/wanted to do and did it. None of this year 1 of a 5 year plan garbage we’re being sold. And I also think that making a move for Mitchell while running the 3-4 made as much sense as drafting a 3-4 NT to convert him to a 4-3 DT. Why do the Browns insist on drafting guys to change them? (K Wimbley) Why not just draft a guy who’s playing style and technique are already involved with the system your running? I know! It’s because the Browns change systems, coaches, and QB’s every year so they need players that can just wear a jersey while they continue to bring in one of the highest revenues in the league with a below average product.

  • I will say this:  at least McKenzie said his peace on the subject and gave a straight-forward answer.  You may disagree, but you know where he stands and you know why he did it.  No double talk, no “maybe that was a wasted year,” and you knew it wasn’t someone trying to sell you ice in Alaska.

    If we only had that kind of communication from this regime my blood pressure would be normalized.

  • ben

    I sort of feel for the Raiders. They were well on their way to a great season, and then their football-world fell apart. 

    The whole “Mangini-era” (if you can even call it that) was botched from the very start. Hired as HC immediately after being fired. Hand picking the GM. Firing the GM. Losing authority. Coaching for a guy who doesn’t want you there. Mangini’s drawn out exit was par for the course.

  • ben

    Amen on the changing a player’s position thing. It drives me nuts. 

  • I find it hindsighting of the highest order to knock Holmgren for keeping Mangini another year. Sure, NOW we know the 4 wins at the end of the season was fools gold, but the Mangenius supporters would’ve howled loud and long if he had been dispatched then. Heck, they are even peeping out from their hiding places right now, even after he got the chance to save his job.

    I was no Mangini supporter, not in the least, but he deserved the extra year he got while Holmgren evaluated the rest of the operation. It’s easy to look back and say it was a wasted year now. Maybe some of you hindsighters can help me at the blackjack table AFTER the dealer turns over his cards.

  • The complaint has little to do with Jayme Mitchell and more to do with an organization not being at all on the same page from my point of view.  That’s what I was getting at more than anything else.

  • Anonymous

    what did we trade for him anyway?  a 7th rounder?   as Joy Behar would say, “who cares!?”

  • ben

    it’s sad that the dysfunction of the Cleveland Browns is on a level w/ the Oakland Raiders 🙁

  • 6th round pick.  minny drafted mistral raymond.  he started at safety for them five games as a rookie.  got himself nominated for rookie of the week in last week.

    it was a smallish bad trade but still, another bad trade by heckert.

  • Anonymous

    If only that were true. The Raiders were in the Super Bowl less than ten years ago. We’re not really in the same ballpark, sadly.

  • Anonymous

    If Mangini deserved to keep his job after ’09, he more than deserved it after 2010 after showing such improvement from the year before.

    He should have never been kept if he was going to be held to the impossible standard that he was held to. That’s the problem.

  • Anonymous

    “another bad trade by heckert”  you mean non-trade??  how dare he not trade a future 1st rounder for Briggs or Osi!!!?!?!?!  

  • Shamrock

    It’d just be nice to see these new guys be ahead of the curve rather then behind it. For me all they do is react and react slowly. They stamp out one fire only to have another arise. I never thought I’d see Holmgren in this kind of position. I don’t see much of a plan if any which is part of the frustration. I’m tired of being told to be patient it just reminds me more and more of the Indians promising to do something if they became competitive. I’m still waiting.

  • It doesn’t matter what they traded for him. They made a move on a guy that was a horrible fit for the defensive system in place.

    I wouldn’t expect someone that quotes Joy Behar to understand that though.

  • Some just want to put Holmgren in a no-win situation. If he had dumped Mangini after the first year Holmgren would have been criticized for acting rashly.

    He took his time, evaluated the situation and made his decision accordingly. Finally, someone in Berea is not making snap judgments and yet people still complain.

    And for all the discipline that Mangini supposedly instilled in the team, the Browns still averaged 10.6 penalties a game under Mangini; the number was 11.5 a game this year, so it’s not as if it was caddy day at the pool under Shurmur.

  • Anonymous

    well actually i was quoting Fred Armison’s version of Joy Behar, but good point..  

    but yeah, how dare he make a trade for a player they liked for a 6th rounder?!  and how dare he not fit the defensive system in place!?!!   and most of all, how dare he miss on it!?!!  i guess that will be the first time a GM misses on trying to find a diamond in the rough.  

  • Anonymous

    Ha! I thought this article would be about Holmgen needing to fire Shurmur now.