To say the news that Eric Mangini being retained as head coach of the Cleveland Browns is shocking may be the understatement of the year.
Regardless of where you came down on Mangini as a coach, the fact that Mike Holmgren was going to put his own stamp on the team led most to believe that Mangini was a goner.
Two strong-willed men from entirely different coaching philosophies meant, in most people’s eyes, that the two would not co-exist.
Perhaps even as surprising as the decision that Mangini will stay is the fact that Holmgren is not going to force-feed him a new offensive (or defensive) coordinator who is more in tune with Holmgren’s system.
There are two schools of thought on what prompted "The Big Show’s" decision to keep Mangini (and his staff).
One is that Holmgren’s decision had more to do with saving face than anything.
If he lets Mangini sink with his own guys, then it will be easier to fire him and replace him with someone off the Holmgren tree.
On the other hand, if he had fired Mangini and replaced him with his own guys after a four-game winning streak, Holmgren (and Lerner) would have big trouble on their hands if the team started out slowly.
The Browns did show improvement from the beginning to the end of the season. If there was a perceived step backwards, Holmgren would have egg on his face.
The second theory is that this was strictly a football-related decision.
Any fan who is being honest with his (or her) self, would realize that the Cleveland Browns are in a better position on January 7, 2010 than they were on January 7, 2009.
In 2009, the team was going into the off-season after a 4-12 season with the personnel cupboards bare (except for a few talented, but questionable character players), very few draft choices, and very little salary cap space.
Now fast-forward to the present.
The team improved its attitude, won its last four games, got rid of its malcontents, acquired 11 draft choices, and freed up salary.
The team is unquestionably better off today.
I would like to believe that Holmgren’s final judgment was more in line with the latter theory than taking a more sinister approach.
In the end it does not matter. Mangini is Holmgren’s guy…for now.