CLEVELAND -- Eric Mangini. Steve Spagnuolo. Scott Pioli.
Rich McKay. One by one, Browns owner Randy Lerner is checking off
the names at the top of his lists.
Seeking an experienced NFL coach and football executive to
repair his team, Lerner will interview Mangini, the fired New York
Jets coach in New York before he speaks with other candidates, a
person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the interview.
Mangini was dismissed Monday by the Jets after they lost four of
their last five games and missed the playoffs.
Lerner has also set up a Wednesday interview with Pioli, New
England's vice president of player personnel. McKay, Atlanta's
president and one-time GM, is expected to be interviewed on
The Boston Herald reported that according to a source, Lerner is prepared to make what was described as "a huge" financial offer to Pioli -- an offer that would also give him full control of football operations.
Spagnuolo, the New York Giants' defensive coordinator, could
meet with Lerner as early as Wednesday. He is also scheduled to
interview with the New York Jets during the Giants' first-round by
week in the playoffs.
The Browns are in complete rebuilding mode after coach Romeo
Crennel and general manager Phil Savage were fired following a 4-12
season that began with playoff expectations.
Lerner is not wasting any time in trying to fill the openings.
He understands he needs to act quickly because he's competing with
several other teams, and things can change quickly as evidenced by
Denver's firing of Mike Shanahan, which rocked pro football
The Browns' interest in Shanahan is not yet known.
Lerner, who lives on Long Island, has scheduled meetings with
other coaching candidates, including Tennessee defensive
coordinator Jim Schwartz, and New England offensive coordinator
Josh McDaniels, who played college ball at John Carroll in
Cleveland and could come in a package with Pioli.
Another name surfaced in Cleveland's coaching search: Iowa's
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen reported that if Pioli is hired, one of his top choices for coach would be Ferentz, who worked with Pioli in Cleveland for three seasons.
Ferentz said he hasn't been contacted by the Browns.
"I've gotten into the habit of not commenting on that," he
told the AP in Tampa, Fla. as the Hawkeyes prepared for Thursday's
Outback Bowl. "I've got a great job. I'm happy here. I've been at
Iowa 10 years, so not much else to say on that topic."
Pioli and Mangini both began their NFL careers in Cleveland
under coach Bill Belichick and spent several seasons together with
Mangini, who started out as a public relations assistant with
Browns in 1994, went 23-26 in three seasons and made the playoffs
once with the Jets. However, after starting the season 8-3, the
Jets lost to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami down the
stretch, costing Mangini, who was dubbed "Mangenius" just two
years ago in New York, his first head coaching job.
Lerner was unaware of Mangini's firing when he met with
reporters at Browns headquarters in Berea on Monday. But after
learning of the 37-year-old's ouster in New York, Lerner indicated
he would approach Mangini, who had one year remaining on his
contract with the Jets.
Mangini has ties to the Cleveland area. He is the brother-in-law
of Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro.
McKay was removed as Atlanta's GM last year in the wake of the
Michael Vick dogfighting controversy. He has been running the
club's business operations with his priority getting the Falcons a
"Rich is an important part of the success of the franchise,"
Blank told the AP. "He's responsible for all the business side of
our operations, helps [GM] Thomas [Dimitroff] tremendously with the
salary cap and all of the [contract] negotiations, and he's
responsible for helping us as we go on a journey for a new stadium
and a whole variety of other things.
"We're hopeful Rich will stay in Atlanta and we certainly
believe that, but on the other hand, we have to let the process
take its course."
A Mangini-Pioli reunion in Cleveland would be interesting. The
Belichick disciples worked closely in New England, where they were
part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. But their relationship was
tested after the infamous "Spygate" episode when Mangini accused
the Patriots of videotaping the Jets' defensive signals during the
2007 season opener.
Lerner wants to make sure they've patched up any differences
before moving forward.
Mangini's hiring could also lead to Crennel staying with the
Browns, perhaps as their defensive coordinator. Crennel told Lerner
he was open to staying, depending on who was brought in to replace
him. Crennel and Mangini worked as defensive assistants on
Belichick's staff in New England from 2001-2004.
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.