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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Panthers officially announce that John Fox will not return in 2011

In news that will shock no one who has been paying attention to the situation over the past couple of years, the Panthers officially announced on Friday that Sunday will be John Fox’s last game as head coach with the team.


Fox was first denied a contract extension after the 2008 season. He entered the last year of his deal this fall after the Panthers began a youth movement that’s left them an NFL-worst 2-13 and the league’s worst offense, but they will have the No. 1 overall draft pick in April.

“It’s not new,” Fox said of his impending departure. “It’s something I’ve been preparing for actually for a couple of years.”

League sources told’s Pat Yasinskas that Fox was allowed to explore other options before this season. Sources said he was a candidate for the Buffalo Bills’ opening that eventually went to Chan Gailey, but Fox elected to finish out his contract with the Panthers.

A rift had developed between Richardson and Fox since Carolina’s 33-13 loss to Arizona in the team’s last playoff game in January 2009. Fox was more vocal this season in showing displeasure for several personnel moves that left the Panthers short on experience and talent.

I would say that it’s weird for a team to allow its head coach to pursue other job openings only to retain him knowing they wouldn’t renew his contract at the end of the year. But then again this is the Carolina Panthers were talking about. This was a team that handed Jake Delhomme millions of dollars even though everyone and their brother could see his confidence had deteriorated to nothing. (Somehow Delhomme still tricked the Browns into giving him a two-year contract, but that’s a matter for a different time.)

Fox is 78-73 in Carolina so no matter what happens this Sunday in Atlanta, he’ll leave the Panthers will a winning record. He also took the team to its first and only Super Bowl in 2003 and usually got the most out of his players.

That said, I’ve long thought that Fox received too much credit for his accomplishments. The Panthers were the model of inconsistency under Fox, often making the playoffs one year only to miss it the next. He’s never been a great X’s and O’s guy, although I suspect there will be plenty of Giants fans that hope he makes his way back to New York if Tom Coughlin is fired. (I warn you Giant fans, it’s not always a good thing to get what you ask for.) His handling of players like Delhomme (are you telling me Fox and his coaching staff thought Delhomme was still the answer after that six-interception performance against Arizona?) and Steve Smith (who could have set fire to Fox’s office and still played on Sunday) never sat right with me either.

But regardless of my personal thoughts about him, he will receive another head coaching opportunity. There will be plenty of openings once “Black Monday” arrives next week and he’ll land on his feet again. As for the Panthers, they’ll hire somebody young and cheap and I imagine ownership will find new ways to muck things up.

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