Browns Coach Eric Mangini: For All the Bad, There Was Good in the End

Daniel WolfSenior Writer IJanuary 4, 2010

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns stands on the sidelines during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 10, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini just finished his first season with the team, and it may be his only season with the Browns, but for all the drama there was more positives than anyone could have ever imagined at the end of the season.

Controversy was the entire Browns season up until the month of December where the team was able to turn a corner and win their final four games of the regular season.

A list of all the bad things could make this article last literally for 10 pages, but like anything else that is news oriented, the bad news is what everyone remembers and is published the most.

What isn't talked about as much or remembered as well are all the good and positives that came from Mangini in the 2009 season.

First, Mangini changed his approach, by lightening up around Week 13 before the Browns played the Chargers and this also coincided with the news that running back Jamal Lewis was out for the rest of the season.

Was Mangini desperate to make changes because the team was 1-11 at the time and fearing his job?

This sounds like a familiar story, remembering back in 2006, Giants coach Tom Coughlin who is one of the most fierce disciplinarians in the NFL at the time just ended a disappointing season at 8-8 with a lot of controversy and drama in his locker room.

So what did Coughlin do the next year for the 2007 season?

He changed his coaching approach and lightened up his strict ways which turned the locker room around and with the support of his players, the 2007 Giants won a Super Bowl.

This is not saying that Mangini will be leading the Browns to a Super Bowl victory in 2010 (even though that would be an amazing feat), but it is an example to all disciplinarian coaches that they need to lighten up sometimes to get a better response from their players.

Mangini has been very light hearted over the past few weeks, even joking about his infamous 10-hour bus ride to his annual football camp by saying, "Dear guys...no bus rides to Hartford [Connecticut]."

Also, Cleveland.com reported (a few weeks back) that Mangini has lightened up during practices and he was going a little easier on players too.

Okay, so Mangini eased up on his way of doing things a bit, and that may have helped the team to a four-game winning streak, but that was only one positive.

Next, look at what the opportunity sessions has brought (talent-wise) to the Browns toward the end of the year.

Even though the injury to rookie running back James Davis made headlines, the NFL send league officials to investigate and found no foul-play.

These sessions gave young players like TE Evan Moore, LB Marcus Bernard, and RB Chris Jennings the chance to make a name for themselves to the coaches and they all got a ton of playing time due to these sessions.

Moore's first game ever as a NFL player was in Week 13 versus the Chargers and he had six receptions for 80 yards and was an impact in the passing game.

Bernard had 3.5 sacks during the Browns' four-game winning streak and he made his impact felt in Week 14 against the Steelers with two sacks in that game alone.

Jennings was not the starting running back, but he was effective when he gave Jerome Harrison a breather and against the Steelers he ran for 73 yards and one touchdown.

Another questionable decision was Mangini's treatment of the quarterbacks competition, this story has been told many times by many different writers, so the only thing you need to remember is that once Brady Quinn was reinserted into the starting lineup, the team slowly began to change for the better. (This is not an endorsement for Quinn, but it is fact that the Browns got better.)

Moving on to running back Jerome Harrison and the fact that the real issue Mangini hardly played him in most of the game this season is described in these quotes from Harrison himself.

"I never played full-speed in practice, until I sat and talked to Mangini, and we got on the same page."

"I though it was better to save myself for gameday, but Mangini said that playing full-speed in practice would get me more playing time on Sunday."

Now this is paraphrased, but Harrison never took practices as serious as Mangini wants his players to take practice, and once they were on the same page, Harrison exploded in the final three games.

Multiple times this season, Mangini has said that his office door is always open to his players, so despite Harrison not being proactive the fact is that a simple talk to the coach is all that was needed.

Mangini may not be a media angel, but behind closed doors it has been reported (via his national interviews) that his is a down-to-Earth coach who wants to put his players in a the right position to help the team which he did with Harrison.

A player-first coach is a positive for Mangini that was hidden deep beneath all the negatives and drama.

A similar situation happened while Mangini was with the Jets with receiver Laveranues Coles and after they both talked to get on the same page Coles played at a higher level.

A message to all players of the future who may have Mangini as a coach...go talk to him and get on the same page quickly and you get more playing time.

Finally, Mangini caught flak for trading down three times in the 2009 NFL Draft only to draft center Alex Mack.

In retrospect, it looks like Mack was a solid choice and after starting the season off with mistakes, by the four-game winning streak, he was the key to the offensive line overpowering defenses in the running game.

Mack was even being considered by some, like SI.com's Peter King, for AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Many have said throughout the year, that Mangini does not have an eye for acquiring talent via the draft, since he passed up on so many other players that made an impact for other teams and two of the three second round picks for the Browns never panned out in 2009.

In all honesty, Mangini does have an eye for talent, but how quickly that talent is willing to accept his way of coaching is strictly on the player.

Hopefully, 2009 picks like WR Brian Robiskie, LB David Veikune, RB James Davis, and CB Coye Francies will all step up and do it Mangini's way (if he doesn't get fired) and make their own impact on the 2010 version of the Browns.

Now that the offseason has begun, patience and time will answer many questions, but one thing is certain and that is Mangini's turnaround in the second half of 2009 has earned him the right to coach another year for the Browns.

Or if he does get fired, other teams will look at the positive progress Mangini made in the last half of the season and give him yet another chance to coach at the NFL level.

(Article also posted on Dawg Scooper)


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