Does the Holmgren/Heckert Regime Have a Fatal Flaw?

We’re almost 2 years in to Mike Holmgren’s reign at the top of the Cleveland Browns organization, and signs of progress are not overwhelming.    Many people are beginning to wonder if this organization is like all the others that have come before them, which is to say they were heralded from the beginning but ultimately failed to produce a winner.  

Many thought this group was different, so far that hasn’t been the case.  Sut it’s worth taking a look at what went wrong with the previous regimes for comparison’s sake.  Why did they start off with promise, only do go down in flames.  Most importantly, do Holmgren and company share any of the fatal flaws that there predecessors had?

Al Lerner/Policy/Palmer:  This group was probably the least dysfunctional, but also the least successful.  The fatal flaws with this group where most inherited though.  So much so you could write a whole book about it, but someone already did.  Not enough prep time, not as many resources as previous expansion teams,  no talent, and a coach that was probably better suited to be an assistant didn’t lead to many wins.

Lerner/Policy/Davis:  This was probably the most successful grouping in the bunch, sadly cut short by the passing of team owner Al Lerner in 2002, the middle of what would be the team’s only playoff season since coming back.  Butch Davis could coach, Policy held things together, and Lerner provided the cash and was a stabilizing force.  From 3 wins to the playoffs in two season was a major accomplishment, and it’s actually hard to believe the success didn’t continue.  Few thought that after losing to the Steelers in early 2003 we would still be waiting for a return to the playoffs in 2011.

But things unraveled quickly after Lerner’s death.   Butch Davis took on more responsibility and Carmen Policy left.  Davis was in way over his head trying to play coach, GM, president, and everything else.  This was when the dysfunction of the Browns truly began.  Remember when Ron Wolf was hired as a consultant for like a day?

Butch Davis was a good coach who could have succeeded had he just stuck to coaching.  You can’t blame him though, that has to go to the owner (now Randy Lerner) who allowed it all to happen.

Savage/Crennel.   The first truly new era since the Browns came back, and this group actually looked like they knew what they were doing at first. You could tell that Phil Savage brought a more professional approach to the front office, and there was more preparation and thoughtfulness that went into many of his decisions.  Savage’s biggest accomplishment was certainly that he brought in the most talent of anyone in the organization since the return.  Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs, D’Qwell Jackson, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards and Shaun Rogers were all premier players at one time or another, and owe their start to Savage.

It’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing that lead to his downfall, but the search for a franchise qb, and going through Dilfer/Frye/Anderson/Quinn along the way didn’t help.  Neither did sticking with Romeo Crennel who look painfully like he should be a defensive coordinator.   Soon the professional shine was gone, as was Savage and Crennel.

The final nail in the coffin was trading away the future and locking up free agents that didn’t produce to huge deals.  Firing off an expletive-laden email to a fan didn’t give the powers that be much confidence either.  Had Savage found a franchise QB, or hired a more suitable coach he certainly had the pieces to be successful.

Eric Mangini (with George Kokinis and Mike Holmgren   How many games did Kokinis stick around for?  Mangini’s fatal flaw was his personnel management and the 2nd round of the 2009 draft.  With 3 picks in that round the Mangini failed to get an impact player.  What should have been a great young core for the team turned into a giant whole.  He also failed to get much in return for trading away productive players like Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

Much like Butch Davis, it seems like Mangini could coach.  He was easily the most prepared and hard-working coach the Browns have had since ’99, and he made the most of what little talent he had around him.  The problem is he was the reason there was such little talent.

Holmgren/Shurmer:  Most regimes the Browns have had running the show left too much to one person.  The current group is a three-head monster of a Coach, GM, and President.  They are the opposite of what hasn’t worked for the Browns, but so far the results have been exactly the same.

Which leads me to one conclusion-- If this group can bring a winner, the problem  is at the very top.

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