Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Mangini mum on plans for Browns
BEREA, Ohio -- His sweatshirt sleeves were hiked up past his elbows, reflecting a man digging into his work. He's been living in a condominium less than 200 yards from his office, making for a walkable commute through the snow. And except for a dinner with his predecessor, his social life has been nonexistent.
"I haven't been out much," Eric Mangini said with a shrug.
For now, rebuilding the Cleveland Browns is a 24/7 gig.
Less than a month since taking over as Cleveland's coach, Mangini, fired after three seasons with the New York Jets, offered a progress report Wednesday but provided few details about his plans to awaken this slumbering, bumbling franchise. Mangini announced he hired former San Francisco 49ers assistant George Warhop as his offensive line coach and said he has "four or five" spots on his staff to fill.
Mangini was cordial, if not revealing, during a 45-minute news conference in which he addressed topics ranging from getting the Browns up to speed with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers to his football philosophies as well as his early impressions on quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.
For now, Mangini isn't tipping his hand on his preference at QB. Anderson, a Pro Bowl selection in 2007, was benched midway through last season by coach Romeo Crennel in favor of Quinn, who made three starts before undergoing season-ending finger surgery. Mangini said new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has met with both players but that the evaluations are ongoing.
Mangini was asked if it's possible he will keep both Quinn and Anderson, who is due a $5 million roster bonus next month.
"I don't really have it defined in terms of which way it has to go," he said. "I think I'm open to all different possibilities, and not just at that position."
Mangini said he and general manager George Kokinis have spent the past few weeks familiarizing themselves with the Browns' roster. They've spent hours breaking down game tape to rate players, analyzing medical and security reports and figuring out what they have and, more importantly, what they need.
Mangini refused to divulge his priorities for free agency or April's NFL draft. He has only visited with a few of the 64 players under contract and said he is unlikely to conduct formal interviews until the club's offseason conditioning program begins in March.
He recently had a chance to meet with Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers at an awards dinner in Cleveland, but the two men awkwardly passed within a few feet in a backstage area without acknowledging each other. Mangini explained that he didn't realize the 360-pound Rogers was in the room.
"I know that's probably hard to believe considering how big he is and how big I am," Mangini said. "It's like two destroyers missing each other."
Mangini was confident that Rogers would receive a favorable report on him this week in Hawaii from Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
"Kris and I had a great relationship and I think that will be good," Mangini said. "He [Rogers] will be able to ask him some questions about me. I hope Shaun has a great week. I feel really good watching him on tape. I always appreciate 360-pound nose guards. He's powerful, disruptive and has a high motor."
Mangini was reluctant to offer much more analysis on his team. However, he did single out linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, running back Jamal Lewis, return specialist Josh Cribbs and offensive tackle Joe Thomas as players who have impressed him on video. He has also leaned on Crennel, a close friend he worked with in New England and New York, for scouting reports on some of the Browns, who finished 4-12 last season.
Mangini said he expects Crennel to have other coaching opportunities and has not discussed a future role with him on his staff.
"He has got a lot of great insight," Mangini said. "One of the great things about Romeo is that he wants me to be as objective as possible as well. We talked about a lot of different issues and he is as helpful as he can possibly be."
Early in his news conference, Mangini explained his decision to remove a mural of Browns Hall of Famers from a wall near the player's entrance. Mangini said he wants to move the mural to a high-traffic area inside the team's headquarters and that in no way was he trying to distance himself from Cleveland's glorious past.
Rather, he is embracing it.
"I believe in the importance of the history of this organization and the men that have made this team great," he said.
The mural controversy, which sparked heated debate on local sports talk radio, came on the heels of the Browns laying off several employees. Although the team said the job cuts were necessitated by the economic downturn, some pointed to Mangini as the villain for putting people out on the street.
Mangini, who began his NFL career as a ballboy for the Browns, understands that he and Kokinis are being scrutinized for every move they make.
"Any time someone new comes in there's a process of getting to know that person," he said. "I feel really comfortable with who I am and the things I do. I know that everything we do is done for a specific reason -- to give us the best chance to win.
"My goal is to always allow us to move forward, make progress and always do what's in the best interest of the Browns," he said. "I'm very comfortable with who I am and I understand that anytime a new group of people come into a new environment and there are changes, those changes take some getting used to. I feel good about where I'm at."