Black Monday began a little after 10 a.m. ET when the Browns fired head coach Eric Mangini.
In two seasons with the Browns, Mangini had a record of 10-22. This season, the Browns had some highlights, including wins over the Saints and Patriots. But a four-game losing streak to end the season punctuated by a 41-9 loss to the Steelers spelled the end of Mangini's tenure in Cleveland.
"This decision was not easy for me, and it was one into which I put a great deal of thought," Browns president Mike Holmgren said. "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," said Mangini, who spent three seasons as Jets head coach before being hired in Cleveland. "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."
The way we see it
The speculation about a potential return to the sideline for Holmgren, who coached the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI and led the 1997 Packers and 2005 Seahawks to conference championships begins in earnest. The head-coaching hire will be his call, and it's clear he can coach the team if he so chooses. John Fox and Jon Gruden are among the names who have been speculated to be potential head-coaching candidates in Cleveland, according to multiple media outlets.
Fixing the offense will be the top priority for whomever takes over for Mangini. The Browns finished last in the AFC in yards gained per game (289.7) and points per game (16.9 ppg). It is a near-certainty the offense will be much more Holmgren-influenced in 2011.
Mangini's tenure in Cleveland started terribly, with the Browns losing 11-of-12 games. The poor start likely doomed him from the beginning, as he soon lost a good deal of the power he had been given by owner Randy Lerner. GM George Kokinis, hired to work with Mangini, was let go in November 2009, and when Lerner hired Holmgren to run the Browns' football operations, it appeared Mangini would be one-and-done in Cleveland. However, the Browns won four consecutive games to close out the '09 season, and Holmgren decided to retain Mangini.
The Browns again started slowly this season, losing five of their first six games, but then they rallied with their most inspired play of Mangini's tenure, knocking off the Saints and Patriots, fighting the Jets to the end in a heartbreaking OT loss and winning 4-of-6 overall to improve to 5-7.
But the Browns would not win another game, losing to the Bills, Bengals, Ravens and Steelers in succession, with the first two defeats especially tough to take, as both Buffalo and Cincinnati finished with 4-12 marks. Also, the losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh were cold reminders of how far Cleveland has to go to compete with the best teams in the division and conference.