New York City sports columnists are among the best reads in our business. They take no prisoners, pull no punches, and make headlines, not friends.
Anyway, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post wrote the following on Dec. 29, the day the New York Jets fired their head coach:
"Weep not for Eric Mangini, who gets a lovely $2.5 million parting gift for turning the Jets into a paranoid police state the past three years. The Jets did the right thing today, the only thing they could have done, whacking Boy Wonder "
From Man-genius to a sarcastic Boy Wonder to whacked, that was Mangini's fate in the Big Apple. Yesterday, he got an even nicer parting gift, a four-year contract as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Perhaps it is the perfect place for him to land, because paranoia has its own office at the Browns' complex in Berea. I'm not sure about the police state part.
Randy Lerner, the owner of Cleveland's NFL franchise, interviewed Mangini the day after he was fired by the Jets and, according to insider reports, walked away with a gigantic man crush. We'll know in a couple years if it was true love or simply lust.
Mangini's resume as a head coach is 23 wins, 25 losses in three seasons. The Jets were 8-3 this year after back-to-back wins over New England and Tennessee and looked for all the world ready to run the table in an AFC East that was without Tom Brady. Instead, Mangini's team lost four of its last five games and missed the playoffs. Thus, he was whacked.
Well, because of that and Brett Favre. You see, the Jets owner also has a man crush, his on a 39-year-old quarterback. Contrary to the kisses he blew in Favre's direction yesterday, Mangini didn't really want him in New York. And in the last month or so of the season, as Favre dealt with either an injured shoulder or tired arm or both, Mangini was helpless to do anything about it. The Jets owner has said publicly he hopes Favre will return in '09 and whacking Mangini was perhaps seen as a step in accomplishing that.
So Favre will be somebody else's problem next season. Mangini will have his own problems and their names are Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow Jr., etc., etc. Mangini said he wants players with character. The Browns definitely have some characters.
Does Cleveland start over (again) or stand pat and see if the talent that appeared to be on hand during a close-call 2007 season will re-emerge?
It is even money that a couple of the four Browns named above would not be in Cleveland in '09 if general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel had returned. But they were whacked too.
"I have a very distinct vision of what I want to build," Mangini said yesterday.
Whatever that vision might be, Lerner swallowed it like a walleye going after a minnow. The owner envisions the Browns swimming with the big fish.
Mangini suggested yesterday that his experiences with the Jets will make him a better coach in Cleveland. As he put it, "There's no Dummies guide to head coaching."
Unfortunately, there is no Dummies guide to owning an NFL franchise either.
Good hire? Bad hire? Who knows? You just saddle up your man crush and see where it takes you.
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