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Mangini heads back to where he began

Published: Fri, January 9, 2009 @ 12:07 a.m.

The former Browns ballboy returned to his roots when he was introduced as Cleveland’s new coach.

BEREA (AP) — Introduced for the first time as Cleveland’s coach, Eric Mangini stepped to the podium and his football life flashed before him.

This is where it all began.

“I feel like I should be getting some coffee or picking up some towels or something,” he joked.

The ballboy returned as the boss.

Mangini, fired by the New York Jets after their season finished with a December nosedive, took over the rebuilding Browns on Thursday, completing a personal and professional career circle that started with him running errands in the early 1990s as an eager underling for then-Cleveland coach Bill Belichick.

The 37-year-old Mangini now has his dream job, the one he had a tough time convincing his mom was remotely possible when he came to Cleveland 14 years ago.

“I was a 23-year-old ballboy and I had to explain that to my mother,” said Mangini, who signed a four-year contract. “I had student loans and it was a hard sell. I kept telling her, ’Mom, this is the Cleveland Browns. Do you understand? THE Cleveland Browns.”’

Although he left to work in other NFL hot spots like Baltimore, New England and New York, those Cleveland memories never left Mangini. So when Browns owner Randy Lerner called him last week for an interview — one day after the Jets dumped him after three seasons — Mangini knew it was time to return to his roots.

“It was the same feeling, that same level of pride,” he said. “It was the Dawg Pound. It was Jim Brown. It was all those special things with arguably the most storied franchise in NFL history. I remember thinking about the fans and I thought, all fans love football and love their team. And the difference is that Cleveland fans, they live football.”

Mangini, who agreed to a four-year deal, is inheriting a team with talent, but one that went 4-12 and didn’t score an offensive touchdown in its final six games under previous coach Romeo Crennel. Mangini hasn’t been on the job long enough to break down Cleveland’s roster, but he made it clear what types of players he wants.

“I look for guys that are smart. I look for guys that are tough. I look for guys that are hardworking and I look for guys who are competitive,” he said. “And I don’t mean just a little competitive. I mean they want to win whether they’re playing checkers or in a sack race. And I want guys that are selfless.”

Lerner did not speak at Mangini’s news conference, but he outlined his reasons for hiring Cleveland’s 12th full-time coach in an e-mail response to The Associated Press.

“Some coaching experience was critical as well as a background that included mentors and programs that had won,” Lerner wrote. “Further, it was clear that Eric understood the hunger and urgency that we feel in Cleveland especially since he had worked at the Browns at the beginning of his career.

“Finally, there is some reason to believe that young coaches can hit their stride following their initial NFL coaching experience. Based on that, we felt that Eric gave the Browns a strong chance of winning.”

Lerner took the unusual step of hiring his coach before finding a general manager to replace Phil Savage, fired last month. Lerner has interviewed Scott Pioli, New England’s vice president of player personnel, but indications are Pioli will stay with the Patriots.

Mangini’s choice would be George Kokinis, Baltimore’s director of pro personnel, and his longtime friend. Lerner is expected to meet with Kokinis as early as Sunday.

“He’s got tremendous substance,” Mangini said. “That being said, what ultimately is important is to get the very best people we can get in here to fill each of the roles, whether it’s GM, head coach or any in the organization.”

Mangini would like to hire Jets quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll as his offensive coordinator and plans to talk to Oakland’s Rob Ryan about running his defense. Mangini also would like to keep Crennel, one of his closest friends who was fired as Browns coach after going 24-40 in four years.

“I learned a ton of football from him and I’d love to have him here,” Mangini said.

As for his time in New York, Mangini, who was just 34 when he was hired by the Jets, said he enjoyed his experience but sidestepped direct questions about his ouster. He was dubbed “Mangenius” after leading the team to 10 wins in his first season, but what turned out to be his final year was marked by a 1-4 finish and a supposed rift with quarterback Brett Favre.

Mangini didn’t point any fingers and said he had no problem with the Jets’ summer acquisition of Favre, a trade that pushed out starting QB Chad Pennington.

“Any of those decisions, I was intricately involved in and I really enjoyed my time with Brett,” he said. “He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback and came into a really challenging situation. I respected how important it was for him to be one of the guys and fit in with the team. I really like the time I spent with him.”


1Buci01(12 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

To Whom It Concerns;
This hiring of Eric Mangini, is a real slap in the face to all of the long time Browns Fans ,that has suffered through the years with a team that has a losing record.My reasoning is this, I am one of many I believe that thinks this pipeline to New England needs to STOP.The last coach came from there and look at the results,a Losing season once again.
The idea of the tie in with the coach at New England that sure didnt help the Browns any and benched Bernie Kosar just doesnt set well I believe.
Yes i know that coach is from Struthers but that doesnt cut the butter with me.
He definitely hurt the Browns along with the previous owner that tried to Steal the Browns and move name and all to Baltimore,until the league said NO !!!
To many other good coaches out there that would have been a better choice in my eyes .
Respectfully Buci01

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2DoctorGonzo(728 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

As Browns fans we should cheer for our pro bowl players only when they are laying on the ground with season ending injuries, that will show the owner that we are real fans and we have big brains.
If you feel the hiring is a slap in the face you probably needed one anyway. This is the most logical hire they have made since they came back in 1999.

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3JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm with the Doc. I will be disappointed if Crennel remains on staff in any capacity as has been suggested, though. Hopefully Howard Hughes, er, Randy Lerner can bring on a forward-thinking GM to compliment the coach's approach.

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4scrooge(563 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The first couple comments are from totally uninformed anti-fans. Doc and jeff have it right.
Mangini is not a loser-2 of 3 winning seasons is not a loser.
We finally have a coach who has dealt with spoiled millionaires instead of an assistant or (worse yet) a college coach.
Kokinis will be the GM as soon as he's available. The 2 guys roomed together when they were here before so the chemistry will be much better than Crennell/Savage.
Mangini will most likely trade Winslow and possibly Edwards - doesn't go for the cry babies on his team.
EVERYONE'S position will be up for grabs-from QB to punter so nobody will be able to skate thru an unproductive year like the last.

Let's be patient and see what the draft and free agency brings. I for one am optomistic-heck we still beat Cinci (once) last year right? How much worse can it get??

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