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.

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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.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Report: John Fox is interested in Browns’ job

According to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Panthers’ head coach John Fox is reportedly “very interested” in the Browns’ job if it becomes available this offseason.

1. Fox is “very interested” in the possibility, according to a league source.

2. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson would be willing to arrive at a contract settlement to get out of the $6 million owed Fox for the 2010 season.

3. Richardson, seeing a potential owners’ lockout in 2011, would not replace Fox with Bill Cowher, but might promote from within.

4. Behind the scenes, most if not all of Mike Holmgren’s coaching and executive “ready lists” are made up of clients of agent Bob LaMonte. Fox is in that stable.

This doesn’t make sense to me. Why would Richardson allow Fox to go if he wasn’t going to replace him with Cowher? The Panthers have been the model of inconsistency under Fox over the past couple years, but his teams always play hard and usually find a way to finish respectable. So why allow Fox to jettison if Cowher (who has been linked to Carolina before) wasn’t going to be his replacement? (Unless there’s an internal candidate that Richardson really wants to promote that I’m just not aware of.)

The Browns have an interesting dilemma on their hands with Eric Mangini. Cleveland finished the season winning four in a row, including a 13-6 victory over the defending champion Steelers in mid December. But this was also the same team that looked completely inept for 13 weeks under Mangini, so why should Holmgren believe that Mangini has the Browns heading in the right direction? Four wins over the Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders and Jaguars is nice, but that’s the only thing they were: Four wins over the Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders and Jaguars.

We’ll see if there’s any teeth to this Fox rumor and monitor Holmgren’s big decision regarding Mangini.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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