Minicamp is officially over for the Cleveland Browns, as all of our players got a taste of how head coach Eric Mangini runs a football team. There is extra emphasis placed on the following three sections:
The specific item missing from that list is "physical talent". We know all too well that players can be billed as physical specimens, only to have a Homer Simpson brain. Physical talent can only take you so far; Mangini is aiming for the three sections in the list to improve team chemistry and fundamentals to the point that when we're down by four with under two minutes to play, fans won't have to scream at their television sets about Kellen Winslow jumping offsides or Derek Anderson throwing a pick. We'll calmly drive down the field and score the go-ahead touchdown...because we're prepared for it. It seems so obvious that a team would have that preparation, but it hasn't seemed that way for quite awhile. We haven't had many touchdown-winning drives since the Tim Couch/Kelly Holcomb playoff season.
Head coach Eric Mangini spoke with the media again after Saturday's practice. You may read the full transcript of the press conference here. Here are the highlights, along with some thoughts:
(Opening statement) – “Good morning everybody. How we doing? Today we finished up minicamp here this morning. We had another segment planned for this evening, but the deal with that was, if we went out and had an excellent practice, they’d get three chances to get the next practice removed. If it was above average it would be two, and if it was okay, give them one, depending. They got two chances and they nailed it on the first. It was going to be an o-lineman catching a punt and then a d-lineman catching a kickoff. The first one you probably saw was a warm-up to give Rex (Hadnot) a chance to really assess where the ball was going to go and make his adjustments accordingly.
He nailed the second one. I talked to them about that this morning. That’s really how it is always going to be, you have to create opportunities for yourself to be successful. When those opportunities come up, you have to be able execute on the opportunity. They are not always going to show up in a conventional fashion, just like it wasn’t this morning.
“Where we are right now is, I thought we had a good group of voluntary minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp in terms of install, in terms of the amount of information that the guys were exposed to, getting to know the players, them getting to know us, them getting to know the process, the system and all of those things that you go through when you are with a new team. There was a lot of good work done and obviously there is a lot of work to do.”
“I expressed to the players how important this time was between the end of mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp. You don’t want to just head off to the beach, throw on some suntan lotion and pick up a book. The book you want to pick up, if you are, is the playbook. You want to be studying and making the information that you have been given just second nature. So now you are not thinking, you are reacting and you are playing, and your true ability comes out and you give yourself the best chance to be successful. The same thing physically, you need to maintain the level of fitness that you have currently and improve upon it, because it is a challenge, physically, during camp and then moving into the season. Those were points of emphasis that I worked on and talked about with them this morning. I’ve just seen a lot of progress in the past in this block of time between mandatory minicamp and training camp. Hopefully we will see the same progress here.”
Thoughts: Sounds pretty fun to send an offensive lineman out there to catch a punt, given the circumstances. In the right situations, I can imagine these type of things work towards building team chemistry. I echo most of what Mangini has been saying; I think I need to go back and read Romeo's press conferences to see if he ever said any of this stuff. I just don't recall him saying it off the top of my head.
(On if Derek Anderson will be ready for training camp) – “Yeah.”
(On Derek Anderson’s injury) – “He’s just got a little bumps and bruises.”
(On if he is willing to say a quarterback has taken the lead) – “You are right I am not going to say it.”
(On if Quinn still has the slight edge he had on the first day of OTAS) – “That was based on the offseason program leading up to that point. I’d say that we are going to go into training camp as [motioned with hand as even]."
Thoughts: Mangini is still mum on the quarterback situation, and I'm sticking with my belief that Mangini will choose Quinn. Not that I would be against Anderson starting -- I still think if he improved portions of his game a little bit, he could be a very effective quarterback again. Mangini doesn't have to do what the fans want, but the majority of fans want Quinn to play over Anderson. Starting Anderson has a much larger risk of fans and/or players forming a mutiny against Mangini. Compare that to Quinn, who, even if he struggled, would not have as big of an impact on Mangini.
You never know though. Mangini emphasizes the little things, and if he sincerely believes he can adjust Anderson's game, we just might see him starting.
(On if you can get a feel for the pass rush in minicamps) – “It’s harder in OTAs to do that because there are some games that you run, defensively, that are based on collision. You may want to come in and pick one of the offensive linemen, come and hit their shoulder and then ricochet off them and let the other guy wrap around. You can’t simulate those types of things. Some of the blitzes where you bring a guy off the edge and the back has to step up and pick him up, we’ve coached these guys to once you’ve hit your assignment, slow down let the offensive player get there and get their assignment right, and avoid any collisions without pads, avoid anybody falling at anybody else’s knees or hitting the quarterback or that type of thing.”
Thoughts: Yep, you'd hate to have a player's helmet go right into a quarterbacks knee in a minicamp session.
(On staying on the same page with George Kokinis) – “The best thing about that relationship and the important thing about that relationship is our ability to disagree but not be disagreeable. There is going to be times where we may not see things eye to eye but, I respect George and if he has a different idea, I am going to go back and look at it, analyze it and see the other side. If I have an idea that he may not agree with he will do the same thing. At the end of the day, we’ll come back in, hash it out and move forward. Whatever decision we make is always going to be a collective decision. That is how the relationship is set up and I can’t see it being any different at any time.”
Thoughts: They'd be lying if they said they agreed wholeheartedly on everything. Just as long as they don't disagree on everything, alas Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage, things should be OK in year one.
(On how you establish authority) – “The most important thing to me, and to any coach, is that you show the players that you can help them be successful. You show them that you can help them become a better player. One of the things that I always do in my one-on-one and talking to the team, is anything I do is always going to be to help the team improve. I may push them, it may be pushing or yelling or whatever it is, but those things are always done in order for them to be the best possible player they can be.
That’s what my job is. My job is to make them the best possible player that they can be. Sometimes it’s loving them up, and sometimes it’s not loving them up. But the most important thing and my responsibility, is to help them improve every single day. I think when players know that that’s what your objective is, and it’s not about power structure, it’s not about rules, it’s not about anything. It’s about a shared common goal of making them successful and making us successful."
(On if the teams IQ level is where you want it to be) – “We haven’t given any SATs yet. I might try it. It’s hard to say where we are because we’ve given a huge volume of information. We have definitely taken the approach of expose the group to as much as they can handle, and even sometimes more than they can handle. We see what’s absorbed, and be able to take a step back and say, ‘Ok, these are the areas we really need to concentrate on.’ In talking to the guys this morning, there is so much that they can do between now and training camp to keep getting the information down better; spend an hour a day, 45 minutes a day, some sort of period of time each day and go through it.
Maybe it’s one coverage that day; maybe it’s one play that day and really understand it. They have access to everything that is in-house in terms of film and the playbook and things like that. They can watch a video while they are on the treadmill, we’ve got it everywhere. They log onto the internet, we have a place where they can study. It’s there and it’s easy in terms of accessibility. What’s important is to take a chunk each day and work on it. It’s totally different doing it now than it is in two-a-days. You are tired, there is a time crunch. Do a little bit each day and it’ll pay off huge dividends."
Thoughts: The word around the Browns locker room seemed to be that the players respected Crennel. Crennel was never a bad guy, he was just a bad head coach. Hopefully some of our more egotistical players don't get ticked off too much by Mangini's policies and demeanor. That seemed to be the case originally with Shaun Rogers and Shaun Smith, but things have since cooled down.
(On if he thinks Brett Favre will play this season) – “I have no idea. I haven’t talked to him or anything. Whatever he decides I wish him well."
(On if he has thought about possibly facing him in Week 1) – “I have not thought about that at all."
(On if Brett playing would surprise him) – “I haven’t talked to Brett. I don’t know what he Brett is doing. I’ve been working on the other B-word, Browns."
(On if he would possibly welcome him to come and work as a consultant if he doesn’t play for Minnesota) – “Yeah, he would be welcome to come up and help out. There would be no problem with that. There is nothing to read into that. That is all it is. If he wants to come by, it would be great. There is nothing else to read into that, zero. Zero"
Thoughts: I like him thinking on his feet with the third bold-face sub-headline there: "I’ve been working on the other B-word, Browns." Brett Favre has zero chance of being out quarterback, and I'd say the chances of him visiting our training camp are slim to none. Just a polite response from Mangini toward the media. Favre should probably worry more about rebuilding his relationship with the fans of Green Bay instead of assisting all of the other teams in the league.
Don't forget to check out Terry Pluto's weekly column from today's Plain Dealer. In this morning's column, Pluto again acted as my body double, showing love for Jerome Harrison, agreeing about players practicing in the rain, enforcing discipline, and hoping to see Joshua Cribbs utilized as much as possible this season.
The next few weeks are going to be fun. I'm going to set up a training camp preview schedule, where "X" number of days will be dedicated to the players who will be competing at each position this year (projected depth charts, etc).
Training camp practice officially begins on August 1, 2009.