Monday, January 3, 2011

Cleveland Browns fire Eric Mangini as coach after second 5-11 season

 The Browns coach was fired this morning in a meeting with President Mike Holmgren. He had two years remaining on his contract at an average salary of about $3.9 million, according to previous reports.
 Holmgren is scheduled to address the media at 1 p.m.
Unlike a year ago, when Holmgren met with Mangini over a few days to decide his fate, this inquisition didn't take long.
 Two NFL sources speculated that Holmgren himself would take over as coach, returning to the sideline for the first time since he left as Seattle coach following the 2008 season. It's possible that he would seek to retain defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and special teams coordinator Brad Seely.
 Holmgren took a one-year sabbatical from coaching in 2009 and then was lured to the executive suite as Browns president on Jan. 5, 2010. Prior to formally accepting the job, Holmgren said in a radio interview that coaching the team was an option welcomed by owner Randy Lerner if Holmgren so desired.
 Holmgren opted not to coach in 2010, instead focusing on rebuilding the Browns' football and business operations. He reduced Mangini's authority but brought him back to coach despite well-known differences in football philosophy. Those differences -- most notably on offense -- widened in the one year they worked together. While Holmgren acknowledged "his way" wasn't the only way to win, he often winced at and privately criticized the Mangini offense coordinated by Brian Daboll.
"This decision was not easy for me, and it was one into which I put a great deal of thought," said Holmgren. "Although we have made improvements this season, my responsibility is to ensure that we establish a program that will allow this team to compete at a championship level. That will continue to be our goal in everything we do. I want to thank Eric for all of his contributions to the Cleveland Browns, and wish him and his family the best of luck in the future."
"The experience coaching the Cleveland Browns the past two years has been tremendous," Mangini said. "I appreciate the opportunity that the Lerner family gave me. I have a deep respect for the players that I have coached the past two years and how they have made a profound difference in changing the culture - a tougher, smarter, more competitive, selfless team that never gave up. Our goal was to build a team for long term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal, and have provided a strong identity for this football team and have helped to create a positive foundation upon which the organization can continue to build.
"I feel strongly that the Cleveland Browns are headed in a very positive direction and greatly value the commitment and exceptional efforts of the coaches, players and everyone in the building that I’ve worked with in trying to help achieve our goals. My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed living in the Cleveland community and appreciate the support and passion of the fans. I know Mike and Tom are also dedicated to building a championship caliber organization and wish them nothing but success."
 Holmgren tried to mentor Mangini and also offered the guidance of senior advisor Gil Haskell, his long-time offensive coordinator in Green Bay and Seattle, as a resource for Daboll. But Daboll at times seemed put off by the presence of Haskell, according to a team source. And the offensive product didn't improve. Holmgren was particularly critical of the passing game in his only public comments all season in November.  When Mangini failed to improve on his 2009 record, falling to 5-11 again with four season-ending losses, Holmgren decided to make a change. The emergence of rookie Colt McCoy as a potential franchise quarterback influenced Holmgren to consider the job himself.
 If he moves to the sideline, Holmgren would install the West Coast-style offense he learned under Bill Walsh and employed in Green Bay to take the Packers to the playoffs six times in seven seasons as coach in the 1990s. They reached the Super Bowl following the 1996 and 1997 seasons, winning one of them against the Bill Parcells' New England Patriots. Holmgren moved on to Seattle for 10 seasons and took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl following the 2005 season. They lost to Pittsburgh.
 Holmgren has always called the offensive plays as head coach. Haskell could serve again as his offensive coordinator. A source said that Holmgren would have an interest in adding UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow, with whom he once worked at Brigham Young University. Another possibility is Miami Dolphins receivers coach Karl Dorrell, said the source.
 Mangini's .312 win percentage (10-22) ranked 11th among the 12 full-time coaches in Browns history. Only Chris Palmer, the first coach of their expansion era, did worse (5-27, .156). Mangini's immediate predecessor, Romeo Crennel, had a .375 mark (24-40) in four seasons.
 Mangini's separate 5-11 seasons came about in different ways. In his first year, the Browns were a franchise-worst 1-11 before winning their last four games. That winning streak earned Mangini a second season.
 Amid higher expectations boosted by several player acquisitions and a solid draft orchestrated by new General Manager Tom Heckert, the Browns proceeded to lose their first three games in 2010. They were 1-5 when they embarked on successive monumental upset wins over defending champion New Orleans (30-17) and future No. 1 AFC seed New England (34-14).
 The season turned in an overtime loss to the New York Jets. The Browns lost three key players to injury in the game and had possession of the ball in the final minute of overtime with the score tied, 20-20. Instead of maintaining possession and settling for a tie, the Browns tried to move from their 2-yard line and wound up punting with less than a minute to go. The Jets won when Santonio Holmes scored a 36-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in overtime.
 That loss started a 2-6 tailspin. Included in that run was a 24-20 loss at Jacksonville despite seven defensive takeaways, a 13-6 loss to 2-10 Buffalo, and a 19-17 loss to 2-11 Cincinnati. In all, the Browns had seven losses by seven points or less.
 Mangini was a surprise choice of Lerner when he was hired 11 days after being fired as coach of the New York Jets following the 2008 season. Mangini was 23-26 in three years with the Jets. His overall mark as a head coach was 33-48 (.407.)
 After he concluded his second season with a 41-9 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, Mangini declined to say his plans if he were fired.
 "I think that I just look at things and evaluate things," he said. "You learn from your mistakes, you learn from just the process. I feel lucky for the opportunity to continue to grow in this role and in this job and I think that will continue. In terms of what could happen, we'll have to see, but I am really happy with the things that I've been able to learn

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