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Mangini's back, but questions remain for Browns

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Posted Jan. 07, 2010 @ 5:31 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Eric Mangini will be back as the Browns' head coach in 2010, the club announced Thursday.

Said team president Mike Holmgren in a statement issued by the Browns: "Over the past few weeks Eric and I have had a chance to talk on a number of occasions including our meetings over the last two days. I was able to gain some tremendous insight into his thought process and philosophies, and came away from our meetings very impressed.

"In my opinion, Eric has gained the respect and admiration of players, coaches and others in the organization, and with him continuing to lead the team I feel that we are headed in the right direction. Working together, our goal is to build on the strong tradition of this franchise and help get the Browns back to the playoffs."

The Browns were just 5-11 in Mangini's first season with the club, and Mangini's job security was widely thought to be tenuous, but they finished strongly, winning four games in a row to close out the season. And Holmgren, who said he would keep an open mind about Mangini's return, decided to bring him back.

"I want to thank Mike for the opportunity to not only meet with him and share my thoughts and vision on what it takes to lead a team, but also to continue what we started here," Mangini said in a statement. "I believe we made some real, tangible progress throughout the course of the season, culminating with wins in our final four games. I feel as though the culture and mindset that we established this year have laid the foundation for success in 2010 and beyond, and I'm looking forward to working with Mike and a general manager in making this happen."

The PFW spin

In his first press conference upon being hired by the Browns, Holmgren said something interesting on the topic of potentially having to replace Mangini after just one year.

"Eric and I talked about this, I'm not a big fan of the quick hook," Holmgren said. "I would never do that with quarterbacks when they played for me. I really don't think one year is enough to prove what you're trying to get done.

"Sometimes you go into situations and because of things that you have no control over, all of a sudden the team is suffering. Sometimes you have control over situations and poor decisions are made and that's another reason teams [suffer]."

Well, the Browns suffered through the first three-quarters of this season, but in the final four games, they looked like a different team. They got after opposing quarterbacks, notching 16 sacks. They featured a physical, relentless running game that racked up 900 yards. They beat Pittsburgh, a foe who has dominated them since they returned to NFL play in 1999, for the first time since 2003.

In short, the Browns looked like they were capable of competing in the AFC North, a division won by the Bengals, who stormed into first place by being rugged. In those final weeks, the Browns made clear progress, and Mangini made his case to stay.

While questions about Mangini's future are cleared up, many others remain. Coaching staff changes can't be ruled out; the Browns announced that Mangini would return but said nothing about his assistants. Also, the search for a new general manager continues, with Eagles GM Tom Heckert having already interviewed and Seahawks director of pro personnel Will Lewis reportedly scheduled to interview Friday. There is also the matter of whether to rework RS-WR Josh Cribbs' contract; he has made no secret of his wish for a new deal.   

And, above all is, it will be fascinating to see if the Mangini-Holmgren relationship works for the long term. The Browns have tried to find a managerial model that works, to no avail, and this one may be the most interesting of all. Here we have Holmgren, a former head coach, exercising full power over football decisions, and his first call was to retain Mangini, a head coach who has a reputation for craving power.

Much of Mangini's first year in Cleveland went so poorly that it seemed a real long shot that he would be back for a second try. Against the odds, he's back, the result of a strong finish and Holmgren's belief in his on-field leadership.

 

PFW has launched its brand-new NFL Draft Newsletter series, with the second issue now ready for mailing. Produced by PFW's player personnel department under the direction of Nolan Nawrocki, the series consists of four information-packed issues. For more info or to subscribe — click here for PDF e-pub or here for print format.

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