August 24, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New England Patriots 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Browns: If they hire McDaniels, pair him with another former Patriot

Judging by everything that is going on, it seems like the Cleveland Browns knew they were going to hire Josh McDaniels as head coach before they fired Rob Chudzinski.  As unfair and unpleasant as that may sound, it may sound better than the Browns firing Chud without having a plan in place on what they were going to do next.  Chud is not coming back and while he appeared a capable coach, they have made their decision on that front.  The question is where they go from here.  There are undoubtedly risks with hiring McDaniels that make this both potentially exciting and worrying at the same time that go beyond just the McDaniels part of the equation, but one of the ways that could make me feel much better about this move is if they brought in former Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini to be their defensive coordinator.

Like McDaniels, Mangini is a former head coach, a brilliant football mind and someone with ties to the area.  Mangini had no business being given total control when he was the head coach in Cleveland than McDaniels did while he was with the Denver Broncos.  Both have showed a tremendous amount of acumen for the game when able to focus on what they do extremely well and some of the game plans that Mangini put together allowed a severely under talented Browns team(partly because of mistakes Mangini made picking players) to beat some extremely talented teams.

Mangini is currently working with the San Francisco 49ers and basically working to come up with ways to beat the 49er offense and have their coaching staff work out ways to counter it and win.  There is no questioning how much he knows about the game and those that watched him on ESPN saw how much knowledge he really brought to the table.  Mangini is a grinder and while ESPN was a good job, he wanted to be back in the game and is not the most charismatic person on television, even if he makes up for it with terrific knowledge and information.

Like with McDaniels going to St. Louis and back to New England, the hope is that Mangini has learned from his time with the Browns and New York Jets and gotten better as a coach.  The Browns would only need him to coach the defensive side of the ball and find ways to maximize the talent that has been brought in largely since he left.  Mangini may not be great at picking players but he knows how to utilize them.

Jimmy Haslam was a big reason the Browns moved to the 3-4 defense and the current front office invested significantly in the front seven this past offseason, adding Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo, so while they may not be only willing to use a 3-4 defense, they would probably really like to stay in it.  Mangini’s experience is obviously in the 3-4, having run it with three different franchises.  The added element that makes Mangini potentially more interesting is the experience he has had in San Francisco.

The 49ers are a base 3-4 under Vic Fangio, but they are willing to be multiple with their looks, use a number of different fronts and move players around to put them in position.  It is unclear how much this would have influenced Mangini in how he would want to run a defense, but having the basis of a 3-4 mixing in some of the ideas he might be picking up in San Francisco could make for an effective hybrid scheme in Cleveland.

The Browns have a number of players that are versatile and able to move around including Desmond Bryant, Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, Billy Winn and Barkevious Mingo.  The hope for the Browns is that in addition to critical player development and getting more effective at winning individual matchups is that Mangini would be great at putting them in positions to maximize their effectiveness.

There is one enormous potential stumbling block that could prevent this before it starts.  Mangini and McDaniels both have ties to Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots as both coached under him.  However, it was Mangini who is to have brought the NFL’s attention to spygate and loyalty is huge in coaching circles, even if Mangini was right in what he did.  Mangini may simply be persona non grata with anyone still under the Belichick tent.  If the Patriot pontiff has forgiven or believed Mangini has atoned long enough for his breach of trust and blesses this move, it could be a huge help for McDaniels.

That last issue may make this whole issue a non-starter and McDaniels may have absolutely no interest in Mangini or vice versa as a result.  Still, both coaches are regarded as some of the most intelligent in the NFL.  Both have a great deal in common between where they came from, their respective ages when they took their first head coaching jobs and their acumen for their respective sides of the ball.

The other part of the equation that makes this a potentially attractive pairing is that like with Norv Turner for Rob Chudzinski, Mangini is not likely to get many head coaching calls at this point, so there is the possibility for some stability.  That would require the pair to make it past the 11 month mark on the job, however, which did not work out for Chud.  Still, if the Browns are intent on McDaniels, which seems to be the case, getting Mangini to come back to Cleveland coach his defense could really make for an impressive start to the Browns coaching staff.

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  • Mark Murphy

    A brilliant football mind? Okay, you’ve lost all credibility. Shall we bring back Romeo too?

    • Pete Smith

      brilliant football mind, absolutely. If that costs me my so-called credibility, so be it. Eric Mangini is incredibly smart.

      • Mark Murphy

        Smart sure but not a good coordinator. There’s a reason why he was unemployed for so long and hasn’t got another legit gig.

        • Peter Smith

          Unemployed for so long? He went from the Browns to TV, then from TV to this 49ers thing. Your definition of legit gig may differ from his and he may have ultimately decided to take a step back and go this route to gather himself and learn from his mistakes. One of the reasons people were critical of him was he never had a chance to learn from the Jets. It appears as though he took time to really actually do that; may be far better for it.

        • disqus_q8gkx9RorQ

          What’s the reason? Neither you or anyone else knows if he was offered coaching jobs. Not H.C. jobs but he could’ve been asked to coach in 10 different places as a D.C. for all we know.

          • Sam Gold

            Add to this that he would have lost the money he was collecting from Cleveland if he had accepted another NFL gig while ESPN created no such conflict and added more coin to his pocket. SF was his first foray back into the NFL after the Cleveland monies were collected in full and it surely won’t be his last.

    • Sam Gold

      It’s well documented over innumerable sources the high regard in which Mangini’s football mind is held. His head coaching/talent evaluator skills have many detractors but his football acumen and DC savvy is lauded by countless NFL personnel.

      • Josh Hart

        Sam, the same was said of Chud.

        • Sam Gold

          And Chud was a very good OC. Pete is suggesting we could acquire Mangini’s services as our DC which he has demonstrated an ability to excel.

        • Pete Smith

          I think Chud can coach. I do not think these guys fit behind the scenes based on what I have heard and read, but I absolutely believe Chud can coach.

  • James

    I think Mangini is a better head coach than McDaniels

    • Pete Smith

      That may be, but I’m working on the assumption that the Browns are going to hire McDaniels. So, with that in mind, I really like Mangini with him.

  • disqus_q8gkx9RorQ

    Mangini IS a good coordinator. So is McDaniels. The reason they failed at head coaching is because they were essentially GM, H.C. SCOUT etc. when they were running their teams they had waaaaay too much on their plates. But since they wouldn’t be a part of the F.O. and would be doing what they do best I think that this would be a great pairing. And Mangini still lives here so he does still haves ties to Cleveland.

    • Sam Gold

      I believe it was always Lombardi’s contention that McDaniels would succeed if his focus was solely on the HC responsibilities.

  • Letterman007

    I think the Browns want an offensive mind in the head coaching position! It sounds interesting to hand over the O to McDaniels and the D to Mangini. I don’t see a prpblem with Mangini coming back as the FO is completely different than when he was here!! Let each handle what they do best and don’t over load them!!!

    • Sam Gold


  • Sam Gold

    Another great piece, Pete. This focuses on moving forward and formulating what steps to take to succeed rather than the ongoing diatribe of most sites intent on rehashing, ad nauseum, what didn’t work and why that ensures nothing will ever work.

    • Pete Smith

      Thanks. I feel the same way.