Posted on: January 14, 2010 9:00 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2010 10:29 am

Chiefs Future Relies on Jets Past

The year was 1997.

The Spice Girls were still spicy, Family Matters still mattered, and every guy I knew couldn't stop talking about Kate Winslet - whose tastefully displayed tatas made the Titanic one of the highest grossing films in box office history. We were Mmmbopping with Hanson while Monica Lewinsky bopped on something else. The Cleveland Browns had turned black in Baltimore and Brett Favre stood atop the football universe (some things never change).

Despite all of the history and nostalgia , 1997 was an important year for several NFL franchises, but none moreso than the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kansas City was home to one of, if not the most complete teams in NFL history. Will Shields and Rich Gannon along with Donnie Edwards and Derrick Thomas lead the Chiefs to a 13-3 record and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Kansas City eventually lost to the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos, 10-14, a loss which began a run of misery one of the league's most beloved franchises.

The Chiefs would hover around .500 and miss the playoffs in each of the following three years.

Chiefs fans today can draw on 1997 as a marquee year for their franchise. Even though what they had cooking in Arrowhead was special, it was a recipe brewing in the Big Apple by the Big Tuna which laid the foundation for the Chiefs you see today.

Simply put, 1997 New York Jets were the 2009 Kansas City Chiefs.

Chiefs GM Scott Pioli worked as director of pro personnel for the 1997 Jets. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley was only concerned with coaching Jet receivers like Dedric Ward, Kansas City's current wide receivers coach. Likewise, assistant head coach Maurice Carton coached running backs and Chiefs wide receivers coach Richie Anderson was a running back.

This past week the Chiefs added two more former Jets to their coaching staff in Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Weis held the same position with the Jets thirteen years ago while Crennel coached the defensive line. For Crennel, the connection to the 1997 Jets played a large part in his decision to join Todd Haley's staff.

"It is good to be back around those guys," Crennel said of his return.

"On the offensive side of the ball I have worked with Bill Muir, Maurice Carthon, Richie Anderson, and Charlie Weis. With Todd (Haley) here, I know Scott (Pioli) and Chris Caminiti in administration and Dave Price, the trainer. All of that was important in my decision to come here and try to help build the program."

Now the pieces for the program are in place, results must follow.

Kansas City's coordinators combine for over 59 years of experience coaching at the professional and collegiate levels. General manager Scott Pioli has won multiple championships with the Patriots and has had a full year of work on the roster. The Pioli, Weis, and Crennel tandem has won Super Bowls with the Patriots, so there will be tremendous pressure on Haley to immediately produce results.

Thanks to a team of the past, the future looks bright in Kansas City. As long as the Chiefs stay healthy and productive, Todd Haley will give fans reason to party like it's 2010.

Or perhaps like it's 1997.

Posted on: November 13, 2009 12:18 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2009 10:09 pm

Wade Dunks on Varejao

Every so often, a moment in sports occurs which transcends life and enters the halls of immortality.

During Cleveland's 111-104 victory over the Miami Heat, we bore witness to such a moment.

During the first quarter of the game, Dwyane Wade grabbed a rebound off a LeBron James miss and started on a fast break. The Cavs were in transition defense and everything appeared to be going fine, that is, until Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao decided to be a hero.

Varejao stepped in front of Wade to contest his shot and...well...

...that happened.

Now I'm not sure what Anderson Varejao said to Wade before the game started, but no one deserves that. Varejao has a family. He has an image. He has...feelings.

Varejao should sue Wade for defamation of character.

Dwyane Wade needs to apologize for taking such reckless actions with the basketball. Such a dunk was irresponsible and the league should put measures in place to prevent such things from happening in the future.

Posted on: November 9, 2009 2:01 am
Edited on: November 9, 2009 2:11 am

Mike Holmgren A Poor Fit For Browns

The Cleveland Browns’ search for front office stability continues onward.

The latest name to surface in the discussion is former Packers and Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren.

According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Lerner has expressed interest in hiring the 17-year veteran coach. If Holmgren were to accept the offer, he would likely be appointed Executive Vice President of Football Operations, a role he has held in previous stops in Green Bay and Seattle.

Randy Lerner has indicated the need for a “strong, credible leader” to assist and oversee football operations, and Mike Holmgren appears to fit the bill. Holmgren’s experience and fresh perspective would prove invaluable to the Cleveland Browns, but that’s about as far as it would go.

 Assuming Randy Lerner holds true to his word and retains Eric Mangini throughout the 2010 season, one has to wonder – how would a Holmgren/Mangini tandem peacefully co-exist over the duration of a full NFL season?

The outlook certainly looks grim.

During his time with the Packers and the Seahawks, Mike Holmgren served as the single authority on all things football. His role as a head coach included the title of executive vice president which essentially gave him complete control of the organization’s football operations.  

If Holmgren agreed to a job in Cleveland, he would be asked to work closely with Eric Mangini. Mangini's absolute control over the Browns was publicized in the controversial firing of George Kokinis - the executive Mangini handpicked eight months earlier. Several sources indicated Kokinis and Mangini did not see eye-to-eye on football decisions, a rift which cost the general manager his job.

Mike Holmgren and Eric Mangini have no experience coaching together at any level of football, so it is unlikely the pair would be able to function cohesively on the same staff.

So where could the Browns go from there?

One candidate Randy Lerner may eventually reach out to is former Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Newly appointed consultant Bernie Kosar has played under Schottenheimer in the past, and would likely provide Lerner with a ringing endorsement of his former head coach. Schottenheimer’s ties to the Lerner family and experience with the organization would make his transition into the Browns front office relatively seamless.

More important than anything else, Marty Schottenheimer and Eric Mangini have a working relationship. Marty has worked in professional football as a coach and a player for more than 35 years.

He made his coaching debut when Mangini was three years old.

Eric Mangini has confided in Marty Schottenheimer in the past, and seems to genuinely respect the 66-year-old former head coach.

“I know Marty pretty well and I like Marty a lot,” Mangini said.

“I talked to him a lot when I was in New York with Brian (Schottenheimer). I feel very good about our relationship and I feel very comfortable with it.”

Marty Schottenheimer’s experience would complement Eric Mangini’s youth and fervor, giving the Browns the unified management tandem they have lacked since their return to the NFL in 1999.

Randy Lerner will likely interview experienced candidates such as Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, and Rich McKay in his search for the next executive VP of football operations.

If Lerner intends on going forward with Eric Mangini as the head coach, Marty Schottenheimer seems like the most logical option to oversee future football operations.

Posted on: November 5, 2009 2:05 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2009 2:13 pm

Browns GM Search: "Capwoman" to the Rescue

The Cleveland Browns appear hopeless. They have lost seven of their first eight games, fired their general manager during the bye week, and the injuries are stacking up like firewood. Fans are on the verge of a protest and national media types are calling for Eric Mangini’s immediate resignation.

The Browns are in desperate need of a hero.

Or a heroine.

Enter Dawn Aponte, Cleveland Browns Vice President of Football Administration.

Never heard of her? You’re not alone. Aponte is the woman responsible for working behind the scenes to handle the contractual affairs of the Cleveland Browns. In her current role with the team, Aponte’s duties include handling player contract negotiations, player cost budgeting, league compliance, and salary cap management.’s Peter King once referred to Aponte as “Capwoman” for her extensive knowledge of the salary cap and the legal ins-and-outs of the NFL.

Aponte’s responsibilities are already similar to that of a general manager. With a vacant management position and an owner desperate for change, look for Dawn Aponte to get the first shot at filling the vacant general manager position.

It would be “Capwoman” to the rescue.

During an era in professional football where the collective bargaining agreement is in shambles and an uncapped year seems more like a reality each day, who better to handle those demands than a salary cap expert?

In an interview with the Plain Dealer’s Tony Grossi, camera-shy owner Randy Lerner was asked about Dawn Aponte and her future role with the organization.

“Dawn is a very talented executive and a good person,” Lerner said.

“My hope is that her role and impact will grow within our organization.”

A promotion of this magnitude would certainly classify as growth. Dawn Aponte is currently the vice president of football administration – a role with similar albeit different duties to that of a general manager. The learning curve may be steep, but then again the Browns have nothing to lose.

Randy Learner has always been sensitive to the public image of his Cleveland Browns. Hiring Dawn Aponte to take over as Browns’ general manager would not only be a great public relations move, but it would shift focus away from the toxicity that has become associated with jobs surrounding Eric Mangini.

Aponte would become the first woman to hold the title of NFL general manager – a story which would deflect attention away from the 1-7 football team she would inherit. Aponte has had experience working with Eric Mangini in New York, and that makes her one of the few people flexible enough to step in and take over where Kokinis left off.

From an internal standpoint, this move makes perfect sense for Eric Mangini. A first-time GM means Mangini would likely retain authority on all personnel and football decisions. From an external standpoint, Randy Lerner looks good by evoking change at the outcry of the fans, all while appearing progressive enough to break down barriers which may have been in place.

It’s a win-win situation.

Hiring Dawn Aponte won’t solve the team’s seemingly endless string of problems on the field. What it would do is equip the Browns with the personnel needed to move forward in the face of a fiscally challenging era of professional football.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 4, 2009 8:44 pm

Eric Barton Done For Season?

There have been reports Browns inside linebacker Eric Barton will miss the rest of the season with a severe neck injury. True to form, Browns head coach Eric Mangini would not confirm the severity of Barton's injury, but did confirm Barton missed practice on Wednesday.

"Eric, like any of our players, is going through tests and we'll see where it is," Mangini said.

"That's where we are right now, just testing and evaluating, then we'll make a decision."

Barton is one of the few players to start all eight games for the Browns on defense. He trails D'Qwell Jackson by one for the team lead in combined tackles with 58, including numerous tackles for a loss which occurred in critical situations.

Mangini did not specify who would replace Barton on defense.

The likely scenario is to have veteran David Bowens take over for Eric Barton at one middle linebacker spot. Rookie Kaluka Maiava would start in place of Bowens (who filled in for D'Qwell Jackson) and Jason Trusnik would continue to play as the strong side outside linebacker.

With Eric Barton and D'Qwell Jackson gone, the Browns would be without both of their starting inside linebackers and defensive captains.
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 28, 2009 1:13 am
Edited on: October 28, 2009 1:25 am

Believe In Eric Mangini's Process

A 1-6 record.

Four offensive touchdowns in the first seven games.

One of the most lopsided point differentials in the NFL.

It's easy to look at Eric Mangini's Cleveland Browns and write this year off as another wasted season. The Browns have failed to generate everything from points to a pass rush, and many Cleveland faithful have given up on the team as a result.

Except for me.

Why? Because this season, in all of it's fallibility, isn't about 2009.

It's about 2010 and beyond.

If you ask Eric Mangini about the Browns' horrendous start to the season, it won't be long until you hear him mention the word, "process." Mangini has spoken of this process since the beginning of training camp, but has yet to specify exactly what that process entails. He did, however, shed some light on the situation Monday during his weekly press conference with the media.

"Any time you take over a new situation with a new group, you understand that it's a process," Mangini said.

"You can't lose sight of that. You can't lose sight of what is important. To me, that's improvement, that's progress, and I really felt that over the last three weeks we had made a lot of progress, in terms of how to play the way that we want to play."

Eric Mangini's process centers on two important concepts: progression and improvement. In order to bring a winning football team to Cleveland, Mangini will rely on his players' continued development as Browns.

Browns owner Randy Lerner hired Eric Mangini because he too believes in the process. Lerner witnessed Mangini take over the talentless 4-12 New York Jets and transform them into one of the surprise teams of 2008. Through patience and hard work, Mangini's process has worked in New York.

The only question is, when will Mangini show results in Cleveland?

"I don't have a timetable set up, but what you are looking for is continued progress," Mangini said.

"When I took over, it was really the same sort of approach, it was understanding that are a lot of things that need to be addressed and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. There are some things that you can do short term and some things that you can do long term. Some things that you can address today or tomorrow or the next day and other things that you have to move towards as you go. Being part of this experience in three different places, I guess it would be four, I understand it's different everywhere you go and there are different challenges everywhere you go."

"It is a process."

That brings us to the 1-6 Cleveland Browns. If fans can take anything away from the slow beginning to the 2009 season, it's that Eric Mangini's process has already begun.

Rookie wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have already begun their progression into the fast-paced world of professional football. Rookie center Alex Mack is improving every week, and rookie linebacker Kaluka Maiava has been inserted into the starting lineup in place of the injured D'Qwell Jackson.

With so many young players holding starting spots on the roster, it is clear Eric Mangini is in this for the long-haul. The core group of young players will progress this year, and the Cleveland Browns will be better for it in the long-run.

As for the present?

"I don't think that anybody is pleased with where we are right now," Mangini said.

"We are going to work at it as diligently and as deliberately as we possibly can. The mistakes are going to be addressed. The mistakes are going to be analyzed. We're going to put a plan in place to fix them,"

"There is a commitment to that [and] that's not going to change."

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 20, 2009 9:02 pm

Belichick Broke Code By Running Up The Score

Last week's Patriots/Titans game sparked an interesting debate in football communities across the nation. The Patriots exploded for 35 points in the second quarter and entered halftime leading Tennessee 42-0. It was clear New England was the superior team and there was virtually no chance for Tennessee to come back.

So what does Bill Belichick do with a six possession lead and the ball to start the half? He keeps his starters in the game only to see them score again. He goes for it on 4th & 4 late in the fourth quarter. He has backup Matt Hoyer throwing the ball deep with a 53 point cushion.

Simply put, Bill Belichick ran up the score.

After taking some time to collect my thoughts, I wondered: is that OK?

The argument goes, "if you don't like it, do something and stop them." I get that. These are professional football players and they are paid to play the game. I also understand a team could get hot and score points at any time.

These are both valid arguments, but I just don't buy into them.

There comes a point in a game where you stop throwing the football and ease off the accelerator. Belichick's team had the game comfortably won and there was no reason to deliberately embarrass the other team.

Players and coaches alike abide by a code consisting of several unwritten rules:

  1. Thou shall not speak of another man's contract.
  2. Thou shall not discuss internal affairs with outsiders.
  3. Thou shall not interfere with another man's money
Running up the score is directly in violation with the third and arguably most important rule. Every player, coach, and assistant on the Titans' sidelines will be forever associated with that 59-0 loss at the hands of the Patriots. People's careers, wages, and lives depend on the outcome of these football games. For Bill Belichick to play with otherpeople's livelihood at his discression is wrong.

There is a time and a place for everything.

Throwing the ball deep into the fourth quarter goes against every rule held in the NFL fraternity.

And if he continues doing that, he may not be in that fraternity for very long.
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 18, 2009 11:27 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2009 11:32 pm

Week 6: Steeler Weak

The Cleveland Browns lost this game.

This time, there are no excuses. No complains. The Browns ran in to a stronger football team and they came up short on their own accord.

This was as pure of a loss as I have ever seen.

Unlike in weeks past, the Browns have no one to blame but themselves. There were no questionable field goals or muffed punts. No inexperienced quarterbacks or experimental receivers. The Browns’ best 53 played their best game against Pittsburgh, and the better team won.

Offensively, the Browns were unable to develop any rhythm in the passing game. Dropped balls and inaccurate passes seemed to be the call of the day, and such mistakes will not get the job done against the tough Pittsbugh football team. The score did not allow Cleveland to successfully run the ball late, but they may have found something with Cribbs in the wildcat. He averaged well over 7 yards per attempt from the formation.

Defensively, Cleveland could not find a way to get to Ben Roethlisberger. The pass rush was non-existent at times, and any time you give that kind of a quarterback that much time, bad things will happen.

Ten From The Gentledawg

10. Brandon McDonald is the weakest link in this secondary.

I have suspected this for some time and today’s performance confirmed my suspicions: Brandon McDonald is a very beatable cornerback. He did not have a good game today. McDonald seems to have lost confidence as he gave too much cushion on several of his assignments. He did not hold containment on a few outside runs and he was consistently beaten in zone coverage. Although the Browns played a very talented group of receivers today, I would have liked to see better play from McDonald.

9. League-wide officiating is at an all-time low.

Like virtually every NFL game played this year, a few questionable calls directly impacted the final score of the game. With athletes becoming faster and stronger, the margin of victory in this league has become slim. It’s up to the referees, umpires, and line judges to make sure they make the right call and I’m not sure that was done today. Over the past three weeks, we’ve seen: a missed field goal decide the outcome of a game, a phantom roughing the passer call, and a blown call on 4th and inches.

8. Derek Anderson's lack of pocket presence is concerning.

As a quarterback, Derek Anderson has the intelligence to run the offense and the arm strength to make all the throws. The one thing Anderson lacks which prevents him from becoming an elite quarterback is pocket mobility. To put it bluntly, Anderson is about as graceful as an ostrich. When plays break down and he is forced to improvise, Derek Anderson appears lost. I’m not asking him to be Michael Vick back there, but Anderson should have the vision and awareness to manipulate the pocket and keep plays alive with his legs.

7. Eric Mangini has brought about change in Cleveland.

There have been few positives to take from the beginning of the 2009 season. One thing the Cleveland Browns can pride themselves on is their disciplined play and outstanding game management. Questionable plays are being challenged. Timeouts are saved for crucial situations. Personnel has been shuffled in and out without any delay. These things may seem insignificant, but they are the foundation for a consistent and competitive football team.


6. Brian Daboll is settling in as the Browns' offensive coordinator.

There were several elements of this week’s game plan which indicate Brian Daboll is becoming more comfortable in his role as offensive coordinator. Daboll did a great job of getting the most out of his personnel. With Rex Hadnot and Floyd Womack both healthy and active, Daboll was able to move Hank Fraley and Eric Steinbach around to create favorable running and passing situations. Defending against Pittsburgh’s complex zone blitzing scheme is no easy task, and I thought Brian Daboll at least had the right schemes in place to help do so.

5. Tight end depth is a major issue for this team.

In addition to a nagging finger injury, Robert Royal came up lame with a leg injury during the third quarter of today’s game. Steve Heiden did not play due to bad knees and Greg Estandia has been a non-factor. For the Cleveland Browns to develop rhythm and consistency in the passing game, they will need to figure out a way to gain some sort of production from this position. With Tuesday’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, Kokinis may see it fit to improve the team by adding a tight end to the roster.

4. The Browns missed Kamerion Wimbley on defense.

Kamerion WImbley has been one of the reasons Cleveland has been the driving force behind what little pressure the Browns have generated thus far, and his presence was greatly missed against the Steelers. Jason Trusnik did not impress in his debut performance on defense. He was unable to win any of the one-on-one battles with offensive lineman – an absolute must for generating pressure. Wimbley is a key piece to Rob Ryan’s defense and the Browns will need him at his best to compete.

3.The Josh Cribbs contract situation baffles me.

It is rare to find a talent like Josh Cribbs. It’s even rarer to see that talent want to stay in Cleveland. Cribbs continues to prove he is worth every penny of any restructured deal he reaches with Browns management. According to Yahoo Sports, Cribbs’ base salary for the 2009 season is $645,000. If the Browns can afford to pay backup lineman Billy Yates $1,186,720, they should find a way to restructure a new deal for arguably their best skill position player on offense.

2. Mohamed Massaquoi is the new Braylon Edwards.

Take away the selfish disposition and the Hollywood aspirations, and Mohamed Massaquoi is a carbon copy of Braylon Edwards. On the field, Massaquoi is the inconsistent big-play receiver who struggles to make simple receptions. Over the past two games, Massaquoi has unofficially dropped six catchable passes. My biggest concern with Massaquoi is his effort level when plays break down. He seems to make halfhearted attempts to come back to the ball and his route running appears lackadaisical at times. He is still a rookie, but these problems must be addressed as soon as possible.

1. The Cleveland Browns are close to playing for next year.

Another L in the loss column means the Browns are one step closer to playing for next year. If this play continues then it may be time to take an extended look at some of the young talent on this roster. Young players like Coye Francies and David Veikune may deserve playing time if only to give them playing experience for the future. Eric Mangini will continue to play veterans, but if this goes on any longer, it may be time to start looking at 2010.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or