One thing the Browns have going for them for the 2009 season is the "first-year coach effect."
It's the immediate improvement in a team's record under a new coach in his first season.
The first-year coach effect happens all over the NFL. Last year, significant improvement was seen in Atlanta, Miami and Baltimore under first-year coaches.
The odds are good the Browns will have more wins in 2009 under Eric Mangini than they did in '08 under Romeo Crennel. In fact, since the Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999, every new coach in the AFC North has produced a better record his first season than his team had the year before.
In reverse chronological order:
The Ravens improved from 5-11 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008 under John Harbaugh.
The Steelers improved from 8-8 in 2006 to 10-6 in 2007 under Mike Tomlin.
The Browns improved from 4-12 in 2004 to 6-10 in 2005 under Romeo Crennel.
The Bengals improved from 2-14 in 2002 to 8-8 in 2003 under Marvin Lewis.
The Browns improved from 3-13 in 2000 to 7-9 in 2001 under Butch Davis.
The Bengals improved from 4-12 in 2000 to 6-10 in 2001 under Dick LeBeau.
The Ravens improved from 6-10 in 1998 to 8-8 in 1999 under Brian Billick.
So, Mangini may wind up as the division's most important new "player."
Here's a rundown of how Browns rivals did in the draft last weekend.
Picks: 1. OT Michael Oher, Mississippi; 2. DE Paul Kruger, Utah; 3. CB Ladarius Webb, Nicholls State; 5a. OLB Jason Phillips, Texas Christian; 5b. TE Davon Drew, East Carolina; 6. RB Cedric Peerman, Virginia.
Analysis: They gave up a fifth-round pick to New England to move up three spots to take Oher at No. 23. His fall is directly related to Oakland's surprise pick of Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7. Two teams planning to take tackles, San Francisco at No. 10 and Philadelphia at No. 19, couldn't resist receivers Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, respectively, who were pushed down by Oakland's brain cramp. Oher probably will start at right tackle. Kruger can be an immediate situational rusher and potential starter at outside linebacker. Webb is fast but small. The Ravens failed to find a credible receiver, partly due to the Browns taking Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi in the second round ahead of Baltimore's 57th overall pick.
Picks: 1. OT Andre Smith, Alabama; 2. ILB Rey Maualuga, Southern California; 3a. DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech; 3b. TE Chase Coffman, Missouri; 4. C Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas; 5. P Kevin Huber, Cincinnati; 6a. CB Morgan Trent, Michigan; 6b. RB Bernard Scott, Abilene Christian; 7a. FB Fui Vakapuna, Brigham Young; 7b. DT Clinton McDonald, Memphis; 7c. WR Freddie Brown, Utah.
Analysis: Definitely one of the "sexiest" drafts in the NFL, taking three well-known, highly rated prospects at the top. On talent alone, Smith might have been the best tackle in the draft and could plug in immediately on the left side. Maualuga - barring any off-the-field fiasco - may force Dhani Jones to the outside in Marvin Lewis' 4-3 defense. The Browns will see twice a season the "animal" linebacker they passed up. Johnson has tremendous upside as a pass rusher and will be the No. 1 project of coordinator Mike Zimmer, who compared him physically to Dallas' DeMarcus Ware. Coffman gives Carson Palmer something he hasn't had - a big target at tight end. Huber led the nation in punting two years ago and will displace Kyle Larson.
Picks: 1. DE Evander Hood, Missouri; 3a. G Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin; 3b. WR Mike Wallace, Mississippi; 3c. CB Keenan Lewis, Oregon State; 5a. CB Joe Burnett, Central Florida; 5b. RB Frank Summers, Nevada-Las Vegas; 6. DT Ra'Shon Harris, Oregon; 7a. C A.Q. Shipley, Penn State; 7b. TE David Johnson, Arkansas State.
Analysis: They considered a center, but thought Eric Wood and Max Unger were potentially better than Alex Mack at guard, where a more urgent need exists. So they turned to Hood, which fills a need because their top five defensive linemen all are 31 or older. Urbick could take away the starting right guard spot from Darnell Stapleton, who gave up three sacks in the Super Bowl. Wallace should break in as a returner as a rookie and may replace Nate Washington in the receiving game. There aren't many roster spots open on the Super Bowl champions. Their 2008 draft class, which was mostly "redshirted," returns intact.
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