NFL: Holmgren, Mangini to meet on Wednesday
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio — Browns coach Eric Mangini held onto his job for at least another day.
New team president Mike Holmgren said Tuesday — his first official day running the team — that Mangini, who had an eventful first season, has a legitimate chance to return with the Browns.
Holmgren only met briefly with Mangini on Tuesday. Holmgren said he will have "The Meeting" with Mangini on Wednesday and hopes to have a decision made by the end of the week on the coach's future.
Holmgren didn't want to rush Mangini into an important, career-defining meeting so soon after the completion of the season.
"I asked him to think about a few things this evening," said Holmgren, an NFL coach for 17 seasons with Green Bay and Seattle. "I did give him a list of things to think about for our meeting. In fairness to Eric, I was a coach for a long time, it's important he understands where I'm coming from and I understand where he's coming from. The only way you win in this league is when the coach and general manager are on the same wavelength. That's the only chance.
"When egos get in the way, it destroys the team. My goal is to have everyone thinking in a like manner, going in the same direction. Let's put the egos aside."
Holmgren was asked if Mangini had a realistic chance to stay.
"Absolutely," he said. "Otherwise I wouldn't have set the meeting up. I don't dance too much. I appreciate people that shoot straight. We're going to have a meeting. Maybe a couple of meetings this week."
Holmgren also said that Philadelphia general manager Tom Heckert will interview for Cleveland's GM opening.
Heckert was granted permission to interview with the Browns last season, but the team instead hired George Kokinis, who was fired in November.
Holmgren, who was hired by Browns owner Randy Lerner on Dec. 22, said he has other GM candidates lined up for interviews but did not reveal any names.
The Browns started 1-11 but won their final four games, a surge that helped Mangini's case to return. The winning streak is Cleveland's longest since 1994 under then-coach Bill Belichick and it may have shown Holmgren that Mangini has the Browns pointed in the right direction.
Holmgren is the only member of Cleveland's front office deciding Mangini's fate. Lerner hired Holmgren, who led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title, to preside over his team without interference. Holmgren said recently that it would only take him "a little while" to determine if Mangini will be back for a second year. He promised not to be swayed by winning streaks — or losing skids.
Mangini said on Monday that he had no gut feeling about his future, but that he was proud of his accomplishments since taking over the Browns, who finished 5-11, one game better than their 4-12 mark in Romeo Crennel's final season as coach. Mangini described what he inherited in Cleveland as "a mess."
From the start, Mangini attempted to instill discipline into the Browns but some of Cleveland's players rebelled against his coaching methods, complaining about the length of practices and amount of contact. A few Browns filed grievances with the players' association against Mangini. He famously fined one player $1,701 for not paying for a $3 bottle of water during a hotel stay.
On Nov. 2, the Browns fired Kokinis, who had been hand-picked by Mangini. Kokinis recently filed for arbitration against the team, saying it did not allow him to fulfill the duties outlined in his contract. He's seeking more than $4 million in compensation and damages.
The off-the-field issues served as a backdrop during Cleveland's horrendous start, which was complicated by a muddled quarterback situation.
But the Browns regrouped down the stretch and played inspired football. The Browns began their season-ending flourish with a nationally televised win over Pittsburgh, snapping a 12-game losing streak against their rival. Behind a rugged running game, they followed with wins over Oakland and Kansas City and concluded Mangini's first season with a snowy 23-17 win over Jacksonville.
In the closing seconds, Browns players dumped Gatorade over Mangini's head, perhaps the most surprising moment of any during his 12 months on the job.