Cleveland Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini allegedly conspired to deface a depiction of the Browns proud tradition by ordering a mural of Hall of Famers painted over, thus driving a stake through the heart of true Browns fans.
The mural, located inside the team practice facility in Berea, featured Browns members voted into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton including: running backs Jim Brown, Leroy Kelley and Marion Motley; quarterback Otto Graham; and wide receivers Ozzie Newsome, Paul Warfield andâ€ Glue Fingersâ€ Dante Lavelli, who died earlier this week at the age of 85.
As a second-generation Browns fan, Iâ€™m glad I was not ordered to smack a paint brush over the face of Jim Brown. I could not have done it.
â€œI guess Coach Mangini just didnâ€™t like the way the wall looked,â€ said Patrick McMannamon, beat reporter for the Akron Beacon-Journal, who wrote about the whitewash for ohio.com. On Friday, McMannamon told Tony Rizzo, host of â€œThe Really Big Showâ€, WKNR AM-850 that he noticed the new paint job earlier this week.
There must be a reasonable explanation, Rizzo opined. (Besides Mangini showing a latent interest in interior decorating, that is.)
A media source close to the Browns organization confirmed it.
Mangini feels the Browns are not living up to its tradition and wants to start anew, the source said.
Since â€œcoming backâ€ in 1999, the Browns have lacked its own unique identity. Browns gear and clothing are embossed with the Brownie sprite logo reminiscent of its heyday in the 1950s and â€˜60s, to the Kardiac Kids moniker orchestrated by quarterback Brian Sipe in 1980 to the â€œBig Dawgâ€ mascot inspired by defensive linebackers such as Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon in the late 1980s to early â€˜90s in the Bernie Kosar era.
The solid orange helmet â€“ the only lid in the NFL minus a team logo â€“ has been the most outward symbol of the no-frills, just-football philosophy since the Browns joined the NFL in 1950.
The Browns have struggled with its wardrobe, from the traditional all-white uniforms at home and the brown jerseys away, to the garish orange jerseys and the god-awful skin-tight black pants, abandoned after wearing only once in 2007 after a loss. (It looks as if the Browns donated those black tights to the Baltimore Ravens, who had quite a run in those pants before getting tripped up by Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game, Jan. 17.)
Local sportswriters and broadcasters have been critical of Browns owner Randy Lerner for failing to establish a Browns culture from the top down. Lerner, an oft-absent owner who inherited the team from his father, Al Lerner, is a successful businessman with offices in New York and a pad in London to keep his eye on his Aston-Villa futbol club.
Some say Lerner should be in Berea, sleeves rolled up and nose in college rosters. But Lerner is no Jerry Jones. He hires the head coach and general manager â€“ then hands over the reins.
While Mangini has begun to erase the old, he is also setting the stage for a new era under Brady Quinn who holds the fate of Mangini and the Browns in his hands. Letâ€™s hope Quinn will play better than Manginiâ€™s last quarterback for the New York Jets — Brett Farve, who ended a promising season in injury and interceptions.
f not, Mangini could be out of the door, Quinn on the trading block and Browns fans facing yet another cold and grey winter.
While the Cleveland media has promised the announcement of George Kokinis as general manager, as of Friday afternoon no word had come from the Browns. Kokinis, a personal friend of Manginiâ€™s, has already been spotted in Berea, hanging out with Eric at the Browns headquarters, despite still being formally employed by the Baltimore Ratbirds.
After Pittsburgh beat Baltimore in last weekâ€™s AFC championship game, (stop gloating, Mr. MNRC), Kokinis wasted little time cleaning out his desk and heading to Cleveland, according to The Plain Dealerâ€™s Tony Gross.
Mangini added five assistants, four of whom were also on the New York Jets staff for three years. The new hires are Bryan Cox (defensive line), Jerome Henderson (defensive backs), Andy Dickerson (defensive quality control) and Rick Lyle (assistant strength and conditioning).
The fifth coach, quarterbacks coach Carl Smith, actually first showed to coach the quarterbacks under former Head Coach Butch Davis from 2001-03. Smith left the Browns in 2004 to join Pete Carroll’s powerhouse at Southern California as quarterbacks coach. The past two seasons Smith was offensive coordinator at Jacksonville.
“These men are outstanding teachers and their energy and expertise will have an immediate impact on our team,” Mangini said in a press release.
Cox, a 12-year NFL linebacker, joined Mangini’s Jets in 2006, while Henderson, who played eight years in the NFL as a defensive back, joined the Jets in 2006 as director of player development, and moved into coaching the following year.
Dickerson began with New England in 2004 and then followed Mangini to the Jets in ’06.
Lyle, one of coach Bill Belichick’s favorite players with three teams (Cleveland, Jets and New England), also followed Mangini to New York in ’06, according to The Plaind Dealer. He doubled as the team’s nutrition coordinator.
These additions raised to eight the number of assistants hired by Mangini. He previously named his coordinators, Brian Daboll (offense), Rob Ryan (defense) and Brad Seely (special teams).
Vacancies remain at linebacker, offensive line, receiver, running back, tight end and perhaps a few more quality control positions.
No word yet whether Mangini has called for more painters.