Mangini lands in Cleveland

January 7, 2009 4:29:42 PM PST
Eric Mangini is the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, a week after being fired by the New York Jets. A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press that Mangini will be introduced Thursday at a news conference at the team's headquarters in Berea. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Mangini's contract has not been finalized.

Mangini reached an agreement on a four-year deal with the club on Wednesday, the person said.

Mangini is represented by agent Ron Shapiro, who is Mangini's father-in-law.

The 37-year-old Mangini began his NFL career as a ballboy with the Browns in 1994 under then-coach Bill Belichick.

Mangini went 23-25 and made the playoffs once in three seasons with the Jets, who stumbled down the stretch to lose four of their last five games and miss the playoffs after an 8-3 start.

Mangini is taking over the job that one of his best friends in football, Romeo Crennel, was just fired from. The friendship dates to the duo's days as assistants with the Jets under Bill Parcells. Mangini was a defensive assistant while Crennel was the Jets' defensive line coach from 1997-99. Mangini followed Bill Belichick to New England in 2000, and Crennel joined the Patriots' staff a year later after a stint as Cleveland's defensive coordinator.

Crennel and his wife, Rosemary, stayed with Mangini and his wife, Julie, for about six months when the Crennels were having a home built after Romeo took the job as New England's defensive coordinator.

When Crennel was hired as Cleveland's coach, he wanted Mangini as his defensive coordinator but Mangini decided to take over Crennel's spot with the Patriots instead.

Mangini was one of four candidates interviewed by Browns owner Randy Lerner, but the only one with NFL head coaching experience - a prerequisite for Lerner, who also spoke with New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

Mangini was fired by the Jets one day after the club finished a disastrous stretch where they lost to Denver, San Francisco and Seattle - three non-playoff teams - in the final month behind 39-year-old quarterback Brett Favre's failing arm and questionable play calling by Mangini.

Lerner fired Crennel the same morning Mangini was let go but he was unaware Mangini, who will be 38 on Jan. 19, was available when he met with reporters. Lerner, who has also been interviewing general manager candidates, wasted no time in going after Mangini and interviewed him the following night in the New York area.

Lerner was enamored with Mangini's potential and believed he would bring discipline to the underachieving Browns. During his interview, Mangini identified Baltimore player personnel director George Kokinis as his preference as GM.

Kokinis is expected to interview with Lerner on Sunday.

After Mangini inherited a 4-12 team and led the Jets to 10 wins in his first season, New York's tabloids dubbed him "Mangenius." But by the end of his tenure in the NFL's largest market, he was being called moody, dour and controlling and he took the fall for the team's stunning collapse.

The Jets spent more than $140 million in offseason additions and traded for Favre, a move Mangini didn't favor but was forced to accept.

Jets running back Leon Washington said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he was pleased to see Mangini land another head coaching job.

"I am really happy for Coach Mangini," Washington said in the e-mail. "I learned so much from him while he had his tenure with the Jets. His hardworking, selfless and competitive approach really helped me...The Browns got themselves a really good coach."

Mangini takes over a Browns team with more talent than Crennel had when he arrived in 2005. Cleveland entered 2008 with high expectations after going 10-6 last year. But beginning with a training camp injury to wide receiver Braylon Edward, who cut his foot while running in his socks after practice, the season unraveled quickly.

The Browns blew back-to-back home games in a five-day span and finished the season 4-12 without scoring an offensive touchdown in their final six games. On the way to their fifth season of at least 10 losses in the past six years, the Browns changed quarterbacks, benching Pro Bowler Derek Anderson in favor of Brady Quinn.

Lerner fired GM Phil Savage following a 31-0 loss at Pittsburgh. He then interviewed Scott Pioli, New England's highly regarded director of player personnel, and had hoped to pair him with Mangini in Cleveland. The two began their pro careers together with the Browns, but their relationship may have been strained when Mangini reported the Patriots to the NFL for videotaping New York's defensive signals during a game.

Mangini's hiring could lead to Crennel staying with the Browns. After his dismissal, Crennel told Lerner he was open to remaining with Cleveland as an assistant, depending on who replaced him.


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