AFC North: Mangini hiring 09
|Al Pereira/Getty Images|
|Are the Browns spinning their wheels by hiring their second former Patriots assistant in four years?|
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Let's start by saying I have no qualms with the Cleveland Browns hiring Eric Mangini. He is the most qualified and experienced head coach Cleveland has hired since returning to the NFL in 1999.
Still, this entire process feels like 2005, and this has to scare some Browns fans.
For instance, Cleveland hired another former assistant from the New England Patriots. Think Romeo Crennel four years prior.
The Browns reportedly are interested in Baltimore Ravens personnel type George Kokinis to be general manager. Think Phil Savage four years prior.
Get the picture?
Mangini, with two winning seasons with the New York Jets in three years, has proved to be a good head coach who should improve with time. And although Mangini and (likely) Kokinis get along and deserve opportunities based on their own merits, repeating history is always risky if it didn't work the first time.
The previous regime consisting of the Bill Belichick disciple (Crennel) and Ravens front-office worker (Savage) combined to go 24-40 in Cleveland.
If the new regime of the Belichick disciple (Mangini) and Ravens front-office worker (Kokinis) struggle this time, the Browns can blame only themselves for repeating the same formula.
For the past week, folks back home in Cleveland have been inundating me with questions about Eric Mangini and whether they should be excited or concerned about him becoming the Browns' next head coach.
|AP Photo/Tom Mihalek|
|After interviewing Eric Mangini, the Browns essentially called off their coaching search.|
As a former member of the Fair Hooker fan club and somebody who has closely followed Mangini's time with the New York Jets, I can say I'm at least mildly enthused.
Browns fans might jump to the conclusion they're taking on some other team's rubbish.
Here are three reasons, based on Mangini's performance with the Jets, that he is the right choice for Cleveland:
1. The Jets' 9-7 record and late-season collapse aren't all on him.
Although the Jets flatlined down the homestretch under Mangini's watch, many of the reasons were out of the coach's control.
Some of his last images on the Jets sideline were of pained exasperation, wondering what in the heck Brett Favre was doing. As Mangini's close friend Teddy Atlas, a boxing trainer and ESPN analyst, noted to the New York Post, Mangini went into 2008 intending to base the offense around running back Thomas Jones, but "the whole plan, the whole blueprint got thrown out the window when Favre came."
Mangini also had the respect of his players.
"I still feel bad," Jets tackle Damien Woody said. "I just feel like there's no reason this team shouldn't be in the postseason right now.
"He shouldn't have gotten fired. As players, we let him down. We didn't play our best ball down the stretch. We had everything in our control, and we let it slip away from us."
2. Mangini showed flashes of what he can do.
Mangini's record in his three seasons with the Jets was 23-25. But he often was better than mediocre.
In his rookie season as head coach, he took over a team that had gone 4-12 the previous season and guided it to 10-6 and a trip to the playoffs.
The Jets returned to 4-12 last season, and the "Mangenius" label was replaced with "Mangidiot" -- among other names.
The Jets' front office made a concerted effort to turn the franchise around and compete with the New York Giants and New York Yankees for the Big Apple's attention by spending $140 million on such free agents as guard Alan Faneca, Woody, fullback Tony Richardson and outside linebacker Calvin Pace and trading for Favre and nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
That was a lot of patches to quilt together, and Mangini handled the task for much of the season. The Jets became Super Bowl darlings after defeating the New England Patriots and previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans on the road.
They were 8-3 and playing with remarkable balance. Jones was running like an All-Pro. The Jets threw when they wanted. They throttled opponents with an impenetrable run defense.
Although it all unraveled with four losses in New York's last five games, Mangini managed to assemble a heap of new parts for a significant portion of the season.
3. Mangini's obviously indefatigable.
While the Jets still are hunting for his replacement, it says something about Mangini that he already has found a head-coaching job.
When he was fired, it seemed a safe assumption Mangini would need to undergo career rehabilitation as a defensive coordinator or position coach somewhere. Most coaches don't get fired from their first job and make a lateral move, and Mangini still had the Spygate stigma to deal with.
Yet one day after he was fired, Mangini was able to shake off the biggest setback of his career and dazzle Browns owner Randy Lerner in an interview that went so well the team essentially ended its search.
"He has a vision of what it takes to win a championship, and he's got a lot of football ahead of him," Woody said.
"I couldn't be happier. Eric's a great guy, an excellent young coach. He's always on top of the details, from the smallest things to the big picture. I think it's a great fit for Cleveland. Eric's the type of coach to get them back on track."
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Cleveland Browns have formally reached an agreement with Eric Mangini to be the team's head coach, sources told ESPN's Michael Smith on Wednesday. The team has planned a news conference Thursday in Berea, Ohio, to announce the hiring.
Here are three things Mangini must now ponder after taking the job:
1. Who is the GM?
The Browns have hired a head coach before the general manager, which is an odd way of doing things. Mangini reportedly has his GM in mind in George Kokinis of the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns are waiting for Baltimore to grant permission before formally conducting the interview, but the job is most likely his. The two have a good relationship, and it's vital that the pair gets along.
2. What to do with the quarterbacks?
Toward the middle of last season, quarterback Brady Quinn was labeled the starter for the foreseeable future by the old regime. Does any of that change? Quinn and Derek Anderson had nearly identical passer ratings in 2008. Perhaps Mangini wants to look at both young signal-callers with his own eyes before reaching a determination. He may also like having the quality depth of two quarterbacks to protect the Browns from injury. If that's the case, another training camp battle could be brewing in Berea. It's also possible that Mangini could stay the course, stick with Quinn, and eventually trade Anderson, who wasn't happy about losing his job lin 2008. After dealing with the Chad Pennington-Brett Favre saga in New York, more QB controversy could be the last thing Mangini wants in his new gig.
3. Is 2009 a rebuilding year?
Anderson, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and receiver Braylon Edwards did not perform well this season. Had Savage and Crennel stayed, it's possible they would have been on the trade market. Mangini must decide whether his first year with the team will be spent starting over or trying to build off its near-playoff run in 2007. The Browns, for the most part, are young, with other core players such as Quinn, left tackle Joe Thomas and return specialist Joshua Cribbs. But offseason decisions with Winslow, Edwards and Anderson will give an early indication where this team is headed.