Mangini awaits Holmgren

Published 1:37 am Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BEREA — Eric Mangini would be wise to clean off his desk and tidy up his office. There’s still time for the Browns coach to fit in a haircut and shave.

Mangini needs to be ready.

His new boss is coming.

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Team president Mike Holmgren was set to arrive Monday night to begin an overhaul of Cleveland’s football operations. Holmgren is expected to meet on Tuesday with Mangini, whose turbulent first season with the Browns climaxed with a surprising four-game winning streak.

Mangini isn’t planning to show Holmgren a PowerPoint presentation or hand him a packet of statistical data to illustrate the progress he’s made with the Browns. Mangini doesn’t believe he has to convince Holmgren of anything. This is not some impress-me-with-your-resume interview.

“I have a job,” Mangini said Monday. “I’m proud of the job we’ve done.”

Mangini doesn’t feel he’ll need to sway Holmgren to his side.

“It’s not going to be my approach,” he said. “It’s answering the questions honestly and really having a good, open discussion about the things we did this year and anticipation of how things will operate moving forward. Just more two guys sitting down talking about things as they are and things as they will be.”

Mangini, who said he has spoken to Holmgren at least once a week over the past few weeks, has no gut feeling about his future. When asked if he would argue that he needed more time to fix the Browns, Mangini promised the conversation would be civil.

“We aren’t going to be arguing,” he said. “That’s not going to be my approach. I feel good about the things that we did. There was a rationale to all of the decisions. Things were thought out, and some of them were right and some were wrong, but there was a reason why we did the things we did.

“Mike has a lot of experience. He’s been through really good years, some years that weren’t as good. He appreciates the things that go into that. It’s just a function of him looking at it and feeling comfortable with the direction we’re heading and the idea of us heading there together. I respect him as a person and as a coach and it’s good when you can sit down with another coach and talk through ideas.”

The Browns did make strides under Mangini. But were they enough to please Holmgren? And can two football men with philosophical differences coexist?

It’s Holmgren’s call.

Cleveland’s offense finished No. 32 — dead last — in league rankings, and the Browns’ defense was 31st. Injuries took a toll on the team and the trades of playmakers Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards certainly influenced the team’s ablity to move the ball consistently.

But those moves were made by Mangini, who for the first time since taking over the Browns last January, described the situation he inherited in Cleveland as “a mess.”

“We had four draft picks,” Mangini said, outlining the problems he was handed by the previous regime, “limited money to move forward in free agency. We pretty much had to cut someone to sign someone. The building had to be redone. There were a lot of other areas that had to be addressed. It took time. It took a lot of energy. It took a lot of hard work and we’ve made a lot of strides in those areas.”

There were some missteps along the way. In trying to instill discipline in the Browns, Mangini was criticized for being brutish and heavy-handed. He fined players for minor offenses like failing to park in their designated spaces and he made them run laps for mistakes during practice.

He also was ripped for mishandling Cleveland’s quarterbacks. Mangini made Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson battle for the starting job throughout training camp before choosing Quinn as his opening-week starter against Minnesota. Quinn played 10 quarters before he was benched for Anderson, who lasted five starts before he was demoted.

Mangini said he wouldn’t have handled the situation any differently.

“There were two players that both had really strong arguments to start,” said Mangini, who has three years left on his contract. “I wanted to set up a situation that was fair to both guys. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with creating an opportunity for two really good players to make their case to start.”

“I think both of them grew. I think both of them learned.”

After watching tape of Sunday’s 23-17 win over Jacksonville, which gave the Browns their first four-game winning streak since 1994, Cleveland’s players packed up their belongings and headed in different directions unsure when they would see each other again.

A team comprised of many strangers at the season’s start, the Browns bonded and finished strong. There were hugs and handshakes. Tight end Robert Royal had teammates sign his helmet, several players took home jerseys and wide receiver Mike Furrey loaded up a bag of cleats he planned to give to kids.

As the Browns departed, the buzz around the locker room centered on Mangini.

In recent weeks, some players pledged their support for a coach they may have misjudged. Others were noncommittal.

Defensive lineman Corey Williams walked away not knowing who he’ll play for next.

“I have no clue,” he said. “The person who knows is Holmgren. Whatever he decides to do, that’s who we’ve got to go with. We’ll sit around and see what’s going to happen.”