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Mangini out as Browns coach

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Associated Press
January 4, 2011
— As Eric Mangini packed picture frames and two years of football into boxes, Browns president Mike Holmgren was already looking for his replacement.

One day after another lost season, the search was underway in Cleveland for a new coach, the one as Holmgren put it, “can eventually someday lead us to the championship. That is my only goal.”


Attention Jon Gruden, John Fox, Jim Harbaugh, Marty Mornhinweg, Brad Childress and others: Holmgren may have you on his list.


For now, though, Holmgren doesn’t have his own name on it. But that could change.


Granted a second season by Holmgren, Mangini was fired on Monday, dismissed less than two years after being hired by owner Randy Lerner, who was convinced he had found the next Bill Belichick. The Browns went 5-11 for the second straight season, and although they showed some significant progress under Mangini, it wasn’t enough.


During a morning meeting, only hours after an embarrassing 41-9 home loss to Pittsburgh, Holmgren thanked Mangini for his efforts. Then, he told him his time was up.


“It’s difficult,” Holmgren said. “I’ve never had to do this before. I like the man a lot. But I want to win here. We want to win here. We did not win enough.”


At 10:04 a.m., the Browns released a statement announcing the coaching change. By 11 a.m., Holmgren was sending request forms to NFL teams asking permission to speak with their coaches. Holmgren did not reveal names of any potential candidates.


He doesn’t have a timetable to name Cleveland’s fifth coach since 1999. Money, he said, is no object.


Only weeks ago, Holmgren hinted about a return to coaching. He hasn’t ruled it out, but the 62-year-old with three Super Bowl visits on a sparkling 17-year Hall-of-Fame-worthy resume, insists he’s enjoying his executive role. Still, the bug hasn’t completely left, and Holmgren may coach again.


“I’ll always be a coach,” he said. “Heck, people in the building call me coach. To tell you right now that I would never coach again, whether it’s here or any place, that probably wouldn’t be honest. As of right now, I am the president of the Cleveland Browns and my job is to find the best coach available, the right coach for this job. That’s what I am trying to do and that does not include me right now.”


Holmgren has not yet spoken with Fox, whose contract was not renewed in Carolina, or Gruden, the former Tampa Bay coach and ESPN analyst who worked under Holmgren in San Francisco and Green Bay. Mornhinweg, Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator, is also from the Holmgren coaching tree and a close friend.


All are probable targets.


According to several reports, the Browns have contacted the New York Giants about talking to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.


Mangini’s two seasons in Cleveland were marked by losing streaks, flickers of hope, key injuries and far too much drama for a franchise still looking for a foothold 12 years into its expansion era. The Browns didn’t have any luck, either.


All three quarterbacks suffered high ankle sprains this season, with injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace pushing rookie Colt McCoy into the starting lineup at least one year early. McCoy was supposed sit and learn but he handled the assignment like a seasoned veteran, and when the Browns stunned New England on Nov. 7, it appeared Cleveland had arrived.


Instead, the upset only triggered a slide. The Browns went 2-6 down the stretch, losing their final four games. Cleveland struggled in close games, going 3-9 in tilts decided by 10 points or less. Sunday’s loss dropped Mangini to 2-10 in the AFC North.


Holmgren was left with little choice but to cut ties with Mangini, who has two years left on a contract worth a reported $8 million. Mangini’s assistants remain under contract. Holmgren gave them the rest of this week off and will meet with the staff again next week. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan may interview for the Panthers’ open position.



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