Montana and Rice .
Goose and Maverick .
Mike Freeman and Greg Doyel .
The thing that makes every great duo special is the sacred reliance each member has on their respective counterpart. Joe Montana's greatest never transcends the pages of history without Jerry Rice making acrobatic catches downfield. Take Goose away from Maverick and he becomes another hot-shot pilate gunned down out of the sky. Without Greg Doyel as the punch line of Mike Freeman's jokes...well...I'd rather not imagine the consequences.
The Cleveland Browns' management pair of Eric Mangini and George Kokinis (affectionately known as "ManKok") may not be as proven as their counterparts, but they certainly have the makings of another historic duo. With the recent free agent signings coming out of Berea, one has to question whether this duo...really is a duo at all.
Just how much "Kok" goes into the "ManKok" regime?
The Browns have signed a total of four free agents this offseason (LB David Bowens, DB Hank Poteat, TE Robert Royal, and DT C.J. Mosley). Out of the four, Bowens, Poteat, and Mosley all played under Eric Mangini in New York. The fourth, Robert Royal, played against Mangini two times each season in his three year tenure with the Buffalo Bills. While nothing in the NFL can be assumed with 100 percent certainty, it looks like Mangini alone, not Kokinis, was responsible for the recent additions to the Cleveland Browns' roster.
On the surface, everything seems to be working out just fine. All four players are high character veterans who understand Mangini's system and appear willing to buy in. Both the head coach and GM are saying the right things, and the Browns appear to be moving in the right direction.
...or are they?
We've seen this before from failed regimes of the past. Whenever the dominant member of the head coach/GM tandem is wrong, the franchise takes a step in the wrong direction. Butch Davis and Phil Savage were not united with their respective partners in crime, and the decision-making process suffered as a result. In each instance, both men signed players they knew on a personal level while neglecting various second opinions along the way. Each series of such moves turned out to be catastrophic, and the Cleveland Browns suffered as a result.
Now it is possible George Kokinis played an active role with Mangini in signing all four players. It is possible Kokinis and Mangini reviewed free agents together and collectively decided on landing these ex-Jets. It is even possible Kokinis came to such a conclusion himself and Eric Mangini simply went along with it
Possible, but not probable.
Everything rumored to be true about Eric Mangini indicates that this will be his football team. Mangini's personal media lockdown of the comes from the Belichickian school of censorship. Mangini's head-strong personality coupled with the mild-mannered nature of a rookie GM screams out dictatorship. The order in which the two men were hired leaves no room for partnership. As the days go by it's becoming clear just who is steering this ship, and there seems to be only one captain.
Even if this duo isn't quite as dynamic as originally intended, there is no reason for Browns fans to panic. "NFL Monarchies" have worked in the past and continue to do so today. Patriots' coach Bill Belichick may be surrounded with good football people, but when it comes down to it, he alone has final say on all team decisions. Cowboys' owner/president/GM/czar Jerry Jones has done an adequate job fielding a competitive football team over the years, and he too gives the final word on all football operations. As former monarch Bill Parcells constantly likes to remind us: who better to shop for the ingredients than the cook of the meal himself? It is very possible for Mangini to follow his predecessors in re-building the Browns with complete authority over the football decision-making process
Eric Mangini has put his royal fingerprints all over the Cleveland Browns. The Mangini/Kokinis tandem has definitely shown us more "Man" than "Kok," but all hope is not yet lost. It remains to be seen how effective this regime will function, but we know this much is for certain - a great deal of the burden will fall upon the well-rounded shoulders of a fourth-year football coach.
They might not be Sanford and Son , but if new Browns management can succeed where others have failed, they will be praised and revered.
And that couple might be the most important pairing of them all.