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.
Tags: Cleveland Browns