- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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As a player, new Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox was once fined $87,500 -- the equivalent of one game check -- for making repeated obscene gestures and shouting obscenities at an official.
He was fined $7,500 for spitting in the direction of a Buffalo Bills fans. Cox also was fined $7,500 for fighting and $5,000 for publicly criticizing an official.
Eric Mangini, the Jets head coach from 2006-08, was a defensive assistant under Bill Parcells for two of Cox’s three seasons in New York. Mangini refused to pass judgment on Cox, the player, before interacting with him.
"He came in with a bad rap, and that was nowhere near the guy who he was," said Mangini, a former ESPN analyst and now a consultant for the San Francisco 49ers. "He was passionate and competitive and cared about his teammates. All that other stuff that you kind of heard about him coming in, none of that was anything I ever saw."
The ’98 season wasn’t Mangini’s only exposure to Cox, the player. Mangini was the defensive backs coach under Bill Belichick in New England in 2001, the one season Cox played for the eventual-Super Bowl champion Patriots.
"The one thing I remembered about being a young coach, Bryan went out of his way to make sure when I was running drills that everyone listened to me the same way they listened to Bill Belichick," Mangini said. "Getting it right was the most important thing, in his eyes.
"Does Bryan cast a big shadow? Yeah. Can he get his point across in a way that has a little more emphasis? Yeah, he can do that. But I don’t think he’s scary at all."
The qualities he saw in Cox, the player, were the reason Mangini gave Cox his start in coaching. Cox was the Jets' assistant defensive line coach from 2006-2008. When Mangini moved on to coach the Cleveland Browns, he brought Cox with him as the defensive line coach.
"He was the type of guy who was coaching the defensive line, but constantly asking about what the secondary was doing and how everything fit together," Mangini said of Cox. "He’s not a guy who sees it one way. He more of a big-picture guy, and that’s what I loved about him."
Mangini also admired Cox’s commitment.
"I started this camp when I was a defensive backs coach for under-resourced kids, and I asked him if he would take part in it, and Bryan did," Mangini recalled. "He did it the first year and said, 'I’ll be back here every single year.' He’s been out there 11 years straight, no matter where’s he’s been.
"And when he comes out there, he does so well with those high school kids. And I always have him speak to the group, because when he talks, he talks from a position of experience and he talks in a way kids can relate to. It’s real."
Cox will get an opportunity to share his expertise with draft prospects at next week’s Senior Bowl as the Falcons' staff will coach the North Squad. It will be head coach Mike Smith’s first opportunity to see Cox in action.
Mangini has no doubt Cox will have an immediate impact on the Falcons’ defensive line.
"Whether it’s a first-round draft pick who needs to have a more grounded approach or whether it’s a young guy who needs a lot of mentoring and patience with technique, Bryan can do that as well," Mangini said. "And even with veteran guy such as Osi Umenyiora, Bryan would be great with a guy like that because he knows what it’s like to be the older guy. So I think he can relate to that in a way that some other guys can’t.
"And one of his values is he teaches the defensive line, but has a linebacker background. And with zone-blitzing and some of the different things that Atlanta does, you have a defensive line coach who has experience in different systems who can adjust and be a part of a much bigger picture."
Based on Mangini’s assessment, the match between Cox and the Falcons could be picture perfect.