"I like the man a lot," Browns president Mike Holmgren was saying about Eric Mangini on Monday, explaining why he decided to fire him after two seasons as head coach. "He is a hardworking, bright, caring guy.
"Unfortunately, this is a business at times, and even though it wasn’t the only factor, I want to win here. We want to win here in Cleveland, and we did not win enough games this year.”
The Browns were 5-11 in 2010 on Mangini's watch, just as they were in 2009. There is no doubt they are miles behind the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North.
How much of that is Mangini's fault can be debated, though the Browns' many problems can't all be pinned on him, and a good deal of them began before he got there in 2009. However, when the Browns got off to a terrible start a season ago and owner Randy Lerner hired Holmgren to run the team's football operations, Mangini had lost most of his leverage, and he had lost the luxury of having a lot of time to lead a turnaround of the Browns. The four losses to finish the 2010 season didn't help Mangini, but winning all of one game in September, October and November combined a year earlier was what ultimately doomed him.
So now what for Mangini? He had two years left on his contract, and he figures to be paid for those years, so worry not for him on that front. He doesn't turn 40 until Jan. 19, and with five years of head-coaching experience from stints with the Jets and Browns to his credit and his work as the Patriots' defensive coordinator before that, he has a wealth of valuable experience and skills to draw upon.
Some of Mangini's best work as a head coach came this season; look no further than the Browns' upsets of the Saints and Patriots. The Browns improved in 2010, and the team played hard for Mangini, who had his club well-prepared. All things considered, I believe Mangini got a lot out of the Browns in his second season.
Given another NFL head-coaching job, I believe Mangini could do well. He has shown he can put together the makings of a good coaching staff, as Rob Ryan (defense) and Brad Seely (special teams) were very good hires. However, the Browns' offense was horrible a season ago, and though better in 2010, it was hardly at the level that it needed to be for Cleveland to be a contender in such a tough division. We know Mangini understands defense very well and puts the proper emphasis on special-teams soundness, but if he gets another chance, he's going to need to get it right in the third phase of the game. Again, you can argue that some of the Browns' offensive problems were out of his control, and you would have a point, but the offense's problems didn't help his cause, especially when working under Holmgren. Another area in which Mangini needs to improve: game management.
The detail-oriented Mangini would be a very good defensive coordinator, should he decide to take that route. I found this interesting: PFW's Texans correspondent John McClain of The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Texans head coach Gary Kubiak had reached out to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis regarding Houston's defensive-coordinator vacancy before Lewis decided to re-sign with Cincinnati.
In my view, Mangini also merits strong consideration by the Texans, and I believe the former Patriots secondary coach could very much help a defense that had all sorts of issues vs. the pass. If the Texans are thinking big, Mangini fits the bill of someone who could help fix their defense.
Of course, Mangini may be squarely focused on getting another head-coaching job. He would be an intriguing collegiate coach. The question would be whether he could recruit.
I'm not sure where Mangini ends up, but I know this: I don't believe he's over his head as a head coach, and I know he can run a defense. If he learns from all of the experience he's garnered in a career that's already taken him to great heights at a relatively young age, sustained success as an NFL head coach isn't beyond his scope.