Thursday, January 8, 2009


QUESTION: What do you get for going 23-25 in three seasons and failing to make the playoffs from a position of 8 and 3?

ANSWER: The sack, swiftly followed by a four-year contract from another team.

New York Jets fans are still in mourning after another season that promised so much yet ended in failure.

So they might not exactly be rejoicing at the news that coach Eric Mangini was out of work for precisely nine days.

There were those who thought Mangini might struggle to land another head coaching position, particularly after he “shopped” his mentor, Bill Belichick, during the videotaping scandal known as Spygate in 2007.

Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner was not among them. Lerner interviewed Mangini the day after he was fired by the Jets and was so impressed by what the 37-year-old had to say that he soon became the front-runner for the job.

On Wednesday, Mangini, who began his NFL career with Cleveland 15 years ago as an intern in the PR department, was introduced as the Browns' new head coach.

Only time will tell whether it’s a good appointment. Once dubbed “Mangenius” in New York, the former defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots was found wanting as the Jets lost four of their last five games.

But what I can tell you right now is that Lerner is nobody’s fool. The one-time investment analyst also happens to be chairman of English Premier League soccer club Aston Villa.

Mangini gets second chance in Cleveland

Villa, European Cup winners in 1982, had fallen on hard times in subsequent years. But, shortly after taking over the Midlands club in 2006, Lerner lured one of Britain’s brightest coaches – Martin O’Neill – to Villa Park.

Now, less than three years later, O’Neill’s team occupies fourth place in the table and is threatening to break the stranglehold on the top four positions by Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Mangini led the Jets to the playoffs in his first season in charge. If he can repeat the feat with the Browns this year, then he will be hailed a hero.

After going 10-6 in 2007, the Browns were a big disappointment in 2008, ending up 4-12, despite upsetting reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants 35-14 in week 6.

They finished the season with six straight losses, so it was no surprise then when head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage were both fired.

Ironically, after a season in which he had a quarterback – Brett Favre – thrust on him by the Jets’ owners and management, Mangini has another issue to resolve: who starts in that position for the Browns in 2009.

The Browns used four starting quarterbacks last year: Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski.

Anderson, who signed a new three-year contract in February, 2008, started the season as first choice in the position.

But on November 3, the Browns announced that he would be benched in favor of Quinn, the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

Quinn sustained a season-ending finger injury after just two games as No. 1 quarterback. Now Mangini must decide whether to go with youth or experience.
Lerner clearly has faith in him making the right decision. Why else would he award him a four-year deal?

And after being ridiculed for his coaching by many Jets fans on the New York talk radio shows, Mangini may yet find redemption in Cleveland.

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