The ground that Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini is walking on might be firm as of today, but it could begin to give way sooner than anyone expected.
Mounting losses are never good for coach-player relationships. They can turn worse if the coach is an unwavering disciplinarian, which Mangini proved to be in three seasons with the New York Jets and now early in his tenure with the Browns.
Coaches don't have to be a "player's coach" to navigate through difficult times. As former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar once said: "show me a player's coach, and I'll show you a losing coach."
Being Mr. Nice Guy might play well in the locker room, but it's a quick way to turn a bad season into a disastrous one. A coach should never let players coast through rough times by massaging their egos and telling them everything will be good.
At the same time, coaches need to realize professional athletes are different than they were decades ago. Towing the hard line just to prove a point - as meaningless as it might be - is often counter-productive for the team and suicidal for a coach's job security.
Mangini recently went to the extreme with his discipline when he fined a player (reportedly safety Abram Elam) $1,701 for failing to pay for a $3 bottle of water when checking out of a hotel prior to a road preseason game. Mangini strongly defended his decision, saying he wants players to act the way most mature adults in any walk of life act.
"I don't like taking a player's money, but the rules are in place because we have a very diverse group of people," Mangini said. "The rules are set up to make sure we can operate as effectively as possible. They're clearly laid out. They're clearly explained. I don't ask anyone to do anything that anybody else in society isn't asked to do."
Mangini's hard-line stance probably isn't playing well in the locker room, especially coming off two losses in which the Browns were clearly overmatched. You also can be sure that Mangini's actions are being talked about - and not in favorable ways - in the front offices of the other 31 NFL teams.
The problem with the fine is that it came to surface publicly a few days after Mangini was fined $25,000 for his part in the Jets not placing quarterback Brett Favre on the injury list when he had a torn bicep late last season. It's a classic case of do as I say but not as I do.
Another strange decision by Mangini dealt with retired players Brant Boyer and Kimo von Oelhoffen, both of whom were coach's assistants during training camp. Mangini liked what he saw of both and decided to retain their services - at a salary of $20,000 each and without traveling privileges. Bye bye Brant and Kimo.
The more that comes to light about Mangini's style of relating to players, the more you have to wonder if there's truth to a recent report that stated some agents are telling their clients to stay away from Cleveland. If the Browns plan to sign some of them, they might have to overpay in the estimation of those agents.
It might work out well in the long run for Mangini and the Browns, but the exit from the starting gate has been bumpy, to say the least. And to think part of the reason is a $1,701 bottle of water.
Doesn't anyone know that tap water is better for you and far less expensive?