Former intern climbs ladder
Jets coach Eric Mangini started out as a go-fer for Bill Belichick 12 years ago.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- He was a go-fer, an earnest, wet-behind-the-ears public relations intern for the Browns who ran off copies and whatever errands needed to be run for coach Bill Belichick.
Hey, a guy's got to start somewhere.
That was 12 years ago. Eric Mangini has come a long way in his NFL career.
Today, he'll be back where it all began.
Mangini, the NFL's youngest head coach who got his professional start on the bottom rung of the league's ladder, will face his first employer as the New York Jets (4-3) take on the Cleveland Browns (1-5), who underwent a major shakeup on their coaching staff this week.
While studying abroad in college, Mangini spent a year coaching a semipro team in Australia before taking a job as a ball boy with the Browns in 1994. He later joined the club's P.R. staff, but wanted to be more involved.
"When I got through with my job at night, I was looking for anything to do and help out the organization," he said. "Bill [Belichick] gave me some projects at that point and I did them as best as I could. At the end of the year, he asked me to stay on as a coaching assistant."
The rest is history, and the 35-year-old rookie head coach has fond memories of his early days.
"Cleveland was a great experience for me," said Mangini, the brother-in-law of Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. "I really loved the town and living there. It was my first opportunity and was a special time in my life."
Mangini's homecoming will include another special reunion with Browns coach Romeo Crennel, a close friend whom he worked with in New England and who unsuccessfully tried to hire him for his staff.
The pair first worked together with the Jets from 1997-99 under Bill Parcells, and later for the Patriots on Belichick's staff. When Crennel returned to New England after a year as Cleveland's defensive coordinator, he didn't have a place to stay while his house was being built. So Mangini and his wife, Julie, invited Crennel to live with them for five months.
When Crennel was hired by the Browns before the 2005 season, he tried to hire Mangini as his defensive coordinator.
"I thought I had him for a minute," Crennel said. "But Belichick had a chance to talk to him last. Somebody once told me, 'If somebody can talk you into something, somebody can talk you out of something.' So Belichick talked better than I did."
Crennel spent part of this week explaining Maurice Carthon's ouster as the club's offensive coordinator.
With Carthon game-planning and calling plays, the Browns (1-5) have the league's lowest-rated offense, which produced just 165 total yards and 10 first downs in last week's 17-7 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Carthon, whose personnel moves and play selection were second-guessed by Browns fans and players, has been replaced by Jeff Davidson, the club's offensive line/assistant head coach, who also has connections to Mangini. They spent four seasons together with the Patriots and this past off-season Mangini tried to hire Davidson as his offensive coordinator.
"Jeff is a real smart, detailed and hard-working guy," Mangini said. "He is innovative. One of the things that impressed me about Jeff was that even though he came from the offensive line background, he was always trying to learn about the passing game."
Davidson will now use the knowledge he has gleaned to get the Browns' offense out of its rut. Fortunately for him, his first game as coordinator is against the Jets' 30th-rated defense.