Let me just say first and foremost that this will not be a Mangini hatchet job. Then again, it also won’t be written with the evangelistic zeal of one of the many glowing pieces over at Cleveland Frowns. Frowns knows I am joking with him. I am not a Mangini hater through and through or anything like that. Still, I think it is time to face the facts of the situation now that Mike Holmgren has officially been hired as the President of the Cleveland Browns.
Before we get too far, I want to say a few things about Mangini. First of all, I don’t think a single year is a good enough time period to get a feel for a head coach. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that Mangini had to break this team up this year. I don’t know how this Browns team could have carried on with either Kellen Winslow or Braylon Edwards. Those unavoidable trades certainly hurt Mangini’s chances at early success and popularity. In addition, I agree with Mangini’s approach to training camp and practice when a team is as far behind as the Browns were early on in the season. As Terry Pluto has pointed out on multiple occasions, Mangini’s “opportunity” sessions after practice were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Then again, Mangini has done his fair share of things to sink his own ship. Regardless of the circumstances of Kokinis not working out, Mangini didn’t shine as he stepped into the dual role of coach and personnel manager. I was a big fan of a lot of the depth-building moves early on. I was a big fan of trading down out of the Mark Sanchez pick. At the same time, Mangini has made his fair share of mistakes including the handling of the QB situation, his inability to see that Jamal Lewis was officially past his useful playing days, among other things.
None of that really matters, though. I think a reasonable argument can be made either way that Mangini should stay or go. When you line up the positives and negatives, it will be your personal interpretation as to which way the scales ultimately sway. I see a bit of both sides. I recognize many of Mangini’s faults, but I also see some of what he has brought to the table. I do find it a bit suspect that he has had such a difficult time making himself look good on the heels of Romeo Crennel. I also agree with many who think that the media in general likes to smash Mangini because, as John Candy said in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, “I’m an easy target.” I think Mangini might be able to make a case for himself to another football guy who understands the dynamics of working in the NFL.
Ultimately though, I can’t see Mike Holmgren keeping Mangini around even if he might empathize with him over the fact that any coach needs more than a single season to prove their mettle. Mangini really doesn’t make a lot of sense for Holmgren. Mike Holmgren comes into this Browns situation with the same need to produce results that Mangini came into a year ago. Mike Holmgren will do absolutely everything he can to turn the Browns around the best way he thinks he can. Unfortunately for Eric Mangini, I don’t think that process will include a guy from the Belichick tree that likes to run the 3-4 instead of Holmgren’s preferred 4-3. Think about it. Mangini is a defensive specialist. Is he really going to coach a team in a different defensive philosophy? And do you really think Mike Holmgren is going to take the very foundations that earned him this job with the Browns and cast them aside to take a chance on an unpopular coach with differing philosophies? Right, wrong or indifferent, fair or unfair to Mangini, I just don’t see it happening.
And I am not just another Mangini basher trying to sit here and tell you that Mangini “sux and needz to go like yesterday!” In some senses, I think Mangini is a victim of circumstance. Eric Mangini might have been a wild success this year introducing his discipline and renewed commitment to practice if he had a great team president and GM helping him. With a real GM Mangini probably could have added better personnel than just the Jets retreads. Maybe they could have done better reshaping the right side of the offensive line. Maybe they could have done better than Hank Poteat doing Terry Cousin impressions all year long. Maybe they could have had quicker success from their second round picks. And maybe the combination of a real GM and team president could have helped him with the QB decision and giving him the organizational credibility to dump a locker room presence like Jamal Lewis sooner.
It is my opinion that we won’t get to see that from Mangini as a member of the Browns. I am guessing that Holmgren will do exit interviews this season and give Mangini a chance to pitch to keep his job. At the end of the day, I just don’t see it happening. They both have similar goals in turning around the Browns, but I just don’t see Mike Holmgren leaving anything to chance with a guy that he didn’t bring into the organization who doesn’t fit his overall philosophy like a glove. Again, just conjecture on my part at this point.