Monday, January 3, 2011

Browns fire Mangini after promising start to season turns south

NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reports that several league executives believe John Fox, coming off a nine-year stint with the Carolina Panthers, stands at the front of the line to replace Mangini. The Browns are also eyeing Jon Gruden as a potential replacement.
Mangini met with Browns president Mike Holmgren on Monday morning in what many anticipated would mark the end the coach's tenure in Cleveland.

"This decision was not easy for me, and it was one into which I put a great deal of thought," Holmgren said in a statement. "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."
Mangini released a statement Monday expressing his gratitude to the organization.
"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 (Heckert) are also dedicated to building a championship-caliber organization and wish them nothing but success."
La Canfora reports that if Fox were to replace Mangini, he would likely be joined by Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
If they pursue Gruden, the former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, La Canfora reports that the job may not be a perfect fit in Gruden's mind -- despite his admiration for Browns owner Randy Lerner and Holmgren -- because Cleveland lacks the right offensive personnel.

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In his final postgame press conference as coach of the Browns (5-11), Eric Mangini told reporters Sunday, "Thanks for being patient with me. I tried to be better this year."
Sunday's 41-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped Mangini's record with the Browns to 10-22 in two seasons.
The Browns improved in several statistical areas in 2010, but went 2-6 following surprising upsets over the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. They were unable to sustain the momentum, dropping their last four games, including three losses to division opponents.
Players came to Mangini's defense before and after the Pittsburgh loss.
"This is my ninth year and I've never been a part of something like this," defensive end Kenyon Coleman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "This team is a family."
Josh Cribbs also spoke out for Mangini: "I feel like one man can only do so much," he said. "This is the biggest team sport there is. You're asking one man in two years to turn a football team that hasn't been winning into one of the greatest football teams. I mean, it takes some time.

"I believe in what (Mangini) stands for. It's hard to make a change. I'm tired of rebuilding."
Cribbs said that Mangini told the team after the loss that he loved and appreciated them.
"We went out there and played hard for him throughout the year," said Cribbs. "He was appreciative of the opportunity we gave him."
Mangini -- who started in the NFL as a 23-year-old ball boy with the Browns during Bill Belichick's tenure with the team -- was introduced as coach in January 2009. His team started 1-11 before reeling off four wins -- including a shocker over Pittsburgh -- to close the 2009 season, a surge that impressed the newly hired Holmgren enough to give Mangini a second year. On Monday, Holmgren decided against a third.

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