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The Mangini Way: A Recipe For Success

Michael HeinbachCorrespondent IJune 15, 2009

BEREA, OH - MAY 02:  Head coach Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns looks on  during rookie mini camp at the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex on May 2, 2009 in Berea, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Eric Mangini was chosen to be the next coach of the Cleveland Browns for many reasons, but the biggest might be the fact that he's the polar opposite of the man he replaced, Romeo Crennel.

Players respected Crennel and defended him through last season's downward spiral which led to his eventual firing. But even the casual observer could see the Browns lacked discipline, focus and accountability, and that was a direct reflection of Crennel's coaching.

Though Crennel was thought of as a players' coach and his guys loved him for it, the positive results never came.

Enter Mangini, the Browns' fourth full-time head coach since the team's rebirth in 1999.

Through rookie minicamp, OTAs, and the mandatory mini-camp that concluded last weekend, players, the media, and fans alike got a glimpse of the how the Browns' new regime runs team activities much like a boot camp.

No longer are players standing around during practice, waiting for the next drill or their turn to participate. Workouts are now choreographed to maximize efficiency and players are expected to be in the right place at the right time at all times.

NFL referees were at practices calling penalties during drills and all players, from veteran team leaders all the way down to undrafted rookie free agents, are held accountable for their miscues. Anyone who errs, be it being flagged for a penalty, turning the ball over, or making the wrong read, is sent away to run laps. If Mangini reminds his troops of their toughest gym teacher from grade school, he's getting his point across.

Thus far, offseason workouts have put a strong emphasis on specific game situations, most notably the two-minute drill. Mangini knows the difference between a 7-9 team and one that heads to the playoffs with an 11-5 mark can be the proper execution of the two-minute offense during the course of several games.

Even when Mangini sent his players away at the end of mini-camp for seven weeks before veterans report to training camp July 31, he gave them a little food for thought.

"I told the guys, β€˜You don't want to just head off to the beach, throw on some suntan lotion and pick up a book,'" Mangini said in a press conference last Saturday. "The book you want to pick up, if you are, is the playbook. You want to be studying and making the information that you have been given just second nature. So now you are not thinking, you are reacting and you are playing, and your true ability comes out and you give yourself the best chance to be successful."

Mangini went on to say, "The same thing physically, you need to maintain the level of fitness that you have currently and improve upon it, because it is a challenge, physically, during camp and then moving into the season."

Mangini's disciplinarian approach is exactly what the Browns were in need of, but it only works when everyone on the team subscribes wholeheartedly.

In the draft and though free agency, Mangini added not just talent, but intelligent players willing to take a team-first attitude.

Mangini added to Cleveland's roster six former New York Jets, who played for him in the Big Apple, including veteran linebacker Eric Barton and safety Abram Elam, to help the team make the transition to life under Mangini's leadership. The Browns drafted more of the same, hoping that smarts and the proper attitude will overcome what the team may lack in physical attributes.

The Mangini way might not immediately transform an underachieving team into a playoff contender like he did in 2006, his first year with the Jets when he turned a 4-12 team to one that made the postseason. But know for certain he's going to get the most out of every player at every position on the team.

There's little doubt that when the Browns hit the field for their season opener Sept. 13 at home against the Minnesota Vikings, Browns fans will see team ready to play to its potential.

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