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Browns fire Mangini – will Holmgren target Fox to replace him?

Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini watches second quarter action against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October17, 2010. UPI/Archie Carpenter

“Black Monday” just seized its first victim.

Following the team’s 5-11 season, the Browns have decided to fire coach Eric Mangini, who had two years remaining on his contract. When the Browns hired him in December of last year, Mike Holmgren retained Mangini hoping that the success the Browns had at the end of 2010 would carry over into 2011. But Cleveland sputtered again under Mangini’s guidance.

There’s speculation that Holmgren will return to the sidelines next season to coach the Browns, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen believes that he’ll remain the team’s President. If Holmgren does become the Browns’ next coach, he’ll install the West Coast-style offense that guided the Packers to two Super Bowls and the Seahawks to one.

If he doesn’t return to the sidelines, there are rumors circulating that John Fox is at the top of Holmgren’s wish list. Fox was informed last week that the Panthers, whom he spent nine years with from 2002-2010, would not renew his contract. He compiled a 73-71 record in Carolina, going 5-3 in the playoffs and reaching the Super Bowl in 2003.

There are many fans and media members that like Fox and believe he can succeed now that he’s out of Jerry Richardson’s claws. But I’m not one of them.

As I’ve written many times before on this blog, the Panthers were the models of inconsistency under Fox throughout his tenure. Not once did the team finish with back-to-back winning records and while Fox is highly regarded as a coach who gets the most out of his players, he seemed to be lacking in the Xs and Os department. His decision-making was questionable at best, most notably in his loyalty to Jake Delhomme (who was finished years ago but still manages to trick teams into giving him money) and his desire to see receiver Steve Smith get away with everything. Fox is also known for his defenses, but Carolina’s secondary was seemingly an issue every year. (That’s not all on him of course, but he takes a lot of the blame.)

If Holmgren doesn’t want to coach, he should handpick someone young and energetic. The Browns are a young themselves and they’re only going to get younger as Holmgren builds through the draft. Fox wouldn’t be an Eric Mangini-like disaster but maybe Cleveland would be better served not going the retread route.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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You’re starting, Colt McCoy! Really?! Against who?! Pittsburgh. Ah, crap.

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy  of the Cleveland Browns warms up just prior to the start of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but Browns head coach Eric Mangini said Monday that rookie Colt McCoy might make his pro debut on Sunday because Seneca Wallace has a high ankle sprain and Jake Delhomme is still dealing with an ankle injury himself. (Not to mention he’s also Jake Delhomme, which will always continue to hold him back.)

That’s the good news for McCoy. The bad news is that the Browns’ opponent this Sunday is a well-rested Pittsburgh team that will no doubt be fired up with the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The Steelers have the second ranked defense in the league in terms of yards allowed with 1,156 (Miami has given up the fewest yards at 829). They also have the best run defense in the NFL, which is a problem considering the Browns like to pound the ball on the ground. So if the hope was to feed the ball to Peyton Hillis (who is banged up himself) and Jerome Harrison (whom Mangini apparently never wants to see get another carry the rest of the year) in order to take the pressure off young Colt’s hands, that may backfire.

The Browns are hoping that they can start Wallace this week, but high ankle sprains can be tricky. Andre Johnson of the Texans just had one and despite his best efforts, he had to miss Houston’s game against Oakland two weeks ago.

It’ll be interesting to see whether or not McCoy is thrust into action this week against arguably the best defense in the league.

Update: According to Chip Brown via his Twitter page, McCoy has been told he will start this Sunday at Pittsburgh. Hold onto your nuts…

2010 NFL Preview: AFC North Predictions

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 16: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a defensive stop against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 16, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

2010 NFL Division Previews & Predictions: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West | 2010 Question Marks Series

The AFC North is chockfull of good storylines this year, from Big Ben’s suspension to two rising offensive stars in Baltimore to the new receiving duo of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens in Cincinnati.

Oh, and Mike Holmgren is now in charge of a Browns team that is sure to be improved.

Here’s how I see things shaking out in the AFC North in 2010. Be sure to check out the link entitled “2010 Question Mark” under each team’s preview, which is a breakdown of one or two potential weaknesses that could derail that squad’s hopes this season.

1. Ravens

What to Like: Ray Rice is knocking on the door of superstardom and as long as Cam Cameron doesn’t get cute and start limiting his running back’s chances, then I think Rice could produce MVP-type numbers this year. He can do it all: run between the tackles, run outside, be a big-time factor in the passing game – everything. Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Joe Flacco is in store for big things heading into his third season. He made great strides in his development last year and the front office finally went out and got him a No. 1 target in Anquan Boldin. While Boldin can’t stretch the field like he did earlier in this career, he’s a consistent playmaker and will be a great weapon on third downs. On the other side, veteran Derrick Mason continues to be a consistent, steady presence for Flacco. Defensively, Ray Lewis once again anchors a defense that allowed only 300.5 yards per game last season. That was good for third in the NFL and if Terrell Suggs can get back to being the dominant player he was not too long ago, then the Ravens’ D shouldn’t take a step back.
What Not to Like: Suggs has to step up or there will be serious concerns about the pass rush. Trevor Pryce was okay in that department last year, but not great. The team added Corey Redding in the offseason, but he has proven to be a pretty average player over the years. The bigger problem for this team is in the secondary, where Ed Reed isn’t healthy and the secondary was dealt a huge blow when Domonique Foxworth went down for the season with a knee injury in camp. Fabian Washington didn’t play particularly well last season and if the Ravens can’t drum up a pass rush, Chris Carr will likely struggle playing on an island. He’s more suited to play as a nickel, so there are serious concerns about the makeup of this defensive backfield heading into the season.
Keep Your Eye On: Tom Zbikowski
If you notice, the only name I didn’t mention from the list of problems the Ravens will potentially have in their secondary is Tom Zbikowski. That’s because he’s the most underrated player on the Ravens’ defense and arguably the toughest outside of Lewis. With Reed out, the youngster from Notre Dame will be counted on once again this year to make a major contribution.
The Final Word: The lack of a pass rush and the secondary outside of Zbikowski is worrisome, but this is practically the same team that went into Foxboro last year and gave the Patriots the beating of a lifetime on their home turf. Plus, the offense is improved with the acquisition of Boldin and I think Flacco is in store for a huge season. He’s starting to see the entire field and now has two full years of starting experience under his belt. He also has a running back in Rice that he can lean on in case he starts to struggle in the passing game. This is the team to beat in the North this year and I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Ravens showed up in Dallas come February.

Baltimore Ravens 2010 Question Mark: Secondary

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Browns appear ready to head into camp with Delhomme as their starter

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:  Jake Delhomme #17 of the Carolina Panthers reacts on the sidelines against the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Eric Mangini said Monday that the Browns’ starting quarterback job is Jake Delhomme’s to lose. Some Cleveland fans may want to throw their Jim Brown bobblehead through their office window after reading that news, while others probably shrugged and muttered, “Well, at least it’s not Derek Anderson.”

Thus far, all of the reports on Delhomme this summer have been positive. Mike Holmgren was looking to add a veteran quarterback who could help provide leadership in the locker room and he found one in Delhomme. Perhaps more importantly, the former Panther has developed a good report with young receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie.

Of course, Delhomme has been around long enough to know how to make an impression in OTAs. While his veteran presence has probably been a welcoming sight around Cleveland this summer, the real work is still ahead. This is a player that hasn’t played with confidence in the recent past and his decision-making has been downright brutal over the last year and a change. If the Browns were looking for a savior at the quarterback position, Delhomme isn’t it.

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Are the Browns clearing a path for John Fox?

There are several intriguing rumors floating around the NFL blogosphere about John Fox’s future. And one of those rumors has the current Carolina front man heading to Cleveland next year in order to reunite with quarterback Jake Delhomme, whom the Browns recently signed to a two-year deal.

There are several interesting connections between Fox and the Browns, which were all highlighted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

“Think about this: Panthers coach John Fox is a huge Delhomme supporter. Browns general manager Tom Heckert is an equally big supporter of Fox. Fox’s contract is up after this season. Agent Bob Lamonte represents Heckert, Fox and Browns president Mike Holmgren. Cleveland gave Delhomme a two-year deal, long enough to carry him over until the time when Fox will become free. I’m not saying, I’m just saying …”

It’s not a crazy notion. Holmgren is already in the process of tearing down the Browns’ roster and rebuilding it from scratch. Just based on some of the moves that Holmgren has made, if I were Mangini I wouldn’t get the walls in my office re-painted quite yet, because there’s a good chance he’ll be gone in 2011. Whether or not Fox replaces him is another question, but as Schefter points out – it’s certainly a possibility.

Considering the success Fox has had in Carolina, this news should have a lot of Browns fans excited. Tempered, but it excited. Personally, I think he’s a little overrated myself (the Panthers have been the model of inconsistency under him during his tenure and they never shy away from failing to live up to expectations), but he’s a better football coach than Mangini is. Fox gets the most out of his players on Sundays and he relates well to them, which is why they always play hard for him. I know this would be a ways down the road, but if Holmgren were to hire Fox, he’d be giving Cleveland the competent coach the team has needed for years.


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