Report: Lerner to interview Mangini for Browns’ job

Published 3:35 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eric Mangini. Steve Spagnuolo. Scott Pioli. Rich McKay. One by one, Browns owner Randy Lerner is checking off the names at the top of his lists.

Seeking an experienced NFL coach and football executive to repair his team, Lerner will interview Mangini, the fired New York Jets coach in New York before he speaks with other candidates, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the interview.

Mangini was dismissed Monday by the Jets after they lost four of their last five games and missed the playoffs.

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Lerner has also set up a Wednesday interview with Pioli, New England’s vice president of player personnel. McKay, Atlanta’s president and one-time GM, is expected to be interviewed on Thursday.

Spagnuolo, the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator, could meet with Lerner as early as Wednesday. He is also scheduled to interview with the New York Jets during the Giants’ first-round by week in the playoffs.

The Browns are in complete rebuilding mode after coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage were fired following a 4-12 season that began with playoff expectations.

Lerner is not wasting any time in trying to fill the openings. He understands he needs to act quickly because he’s competing with several other teams, and things can change quickly as evidenced by Denver’s firing of Mike Shanahan, which rocked pro football circles.

The Browns’ interest in Shanahan is not yet known.

Lerner, who lives on Long Island, has scheduled meetings with other coaching candidates, including Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who played college ball at John Carroll in Cleveland and could come in a package with Pioli.

Another name surfaced in Cleveland’s coaching search: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.

The Boston Herald reported that if Pioli is hired, his first choice for coach would be Ferentz, who worked with Pioli in Cleveland for three seasons.

Ferentz said he hasn’t been contacted by the Browns.

‘‘I’ve gotten into the habit of not commenting on that,’’ he told the AP in Tampa, Fla. as the Hawkeyes prepared for Thursday’s Outback Bowl. ‘‘I’ve got a great job. I’m happy here. I’ve been at Iowa 10 years, so not much else to say on that topic.’’

Pioli and Mangini both began their NFL careers in Cleveland under coach Bill Belichick and spent several seasons together with the Patriots.

Mangini, who started out as a public relations assistant with Browns in 1994, went 23-26 in three seasons and made the playoffs once with the Jets. However, after starting the season 8-3, the Jets lost to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami down the stretch, costing Mangini, who was dubbed ‘‘Mangenius’’ just two years ago in New York, his first head coaching job.

Lerner was unaware of Mangini’s firing when he met with reporters at Browns headquarters in Berea on Monday. But after learning of the 37-year-old’s ouster in New York, Lerner indicated he would approach Mangini, who had one year remaining on his contract with the Jets.

Mangini has ties to the Cleveland area. He is the brother-in-law of Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro.

McKay was removed as Atlanta’s GM last year in the wake of the Michael Vick dogfighting controversy. He has been running the club’s business operations with his priority getting the Falcons a new stadium.

‘‘Rich is an important part of the success of the franchise,’’ Blank told the AP. ‘‘He’s responsible for all the business side of our operations, helps (GM) Thomas (Dimitroff) tremendously with the salary cap and all of the (contract) negotiations, and he’s responsible for helping us as we go on a journey for a new stadium and a whole variety of other things.

‘‘We’re hopeful Rich will stay in Atlanta and we certainly believe that, but on the other hand, we have to let the process take its course.’’

A Mangini-Pioli reunion in Cleveland would be interesting. The Belichick disciples worked closely in New England, where they were part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. But their relationship was tested after the infamous ‘‘Spygate’’ episode when Mangini accused the Patriots of videotaping the Jets’ defensive signals during the 2007 season opener.

Lerner wants to make sure they’ve patched up any differences before moving forward.

Mangini’s hiring could also lead to Crennel staying with the Browns, perhaps as their defensive coordinator. Crennel told Lerner he was open to staying, depending on who was brought in to replace him. Crennel and Mangini worked as defensive assistants on Belichick’s staff in New England from 2001-2004.