INDIANAPOLIS – It’s not as if Eric Mangini is spending the scouting combine with his feet up and cocktail in hand. He also isn’t making every major decision for the Browns – and that’s a dramatic departure from last season, his first as Cleveland’s coach and de facto czar.
Mangini returned for a second season as coach, but his role has diminished. He’s been joined by president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, both of whom are higher on the organizational flow chart.
“It’s changed quite a bit. And changed quite a bit for the better,” Mangini said Saturday at the combine. “There’s a huge infusion of ideas, and that’s comforting. It’s also exciting to me because you get exposed to a lot of different ways of doing things that you haven’t thought about, angles you hadn’t looked at.”
Mangini had general manager George Kokinis last year, but Kokinis didn’t have much authority and was fired at midseason. Mangini assumed even more power – and responsibility – after the dismissal, but said he doesn’t miss having the final say on football matters.
“It doesn’t have that feel,” he said. “There’s no sense of being disenfranchised or anything like that. It just feels like a partnership. That’s what you want.
“You don’t want to make every single decision. It’s good to have a bunch of people talking about stuff.”
Mangini seemed relaxed and genuine, but freely relinquishing control doesn’t fit with his my-way-or-the-highway image. He said that reputation isn’t fair and he has no problem working in Holmgren’s shadow.
“I’ve been with quite a few guys that cast big shadows,” he said. “Bill (Parcells), Bill (Belichick), Mike – there’s three right there.”
Mangini was an assistant under Parcells and Belichick. It’s different as the head coach, who often dominates the spotlight within a team.
“Being able to work with them, you never view that as a negative,” he said. “It’s like having the best professor at a university. Sometimes the course work is a little more challenging, but you’re really happy that you have that chance.”
The first true tests to the new working arrangement will come in free agency and the draft, when difficult decisions on players must be made. The goal is to come to a consensus, but if that doesn’t happen, Mangini’s opinion could be discarded.
“He’s been great,” Heckert said of Mangini. “Mike said it right from the beginning, it’s going to be an organizational decision on almost everything we do. Now Eric’s involved in it, I’m involved in it and Mike’s involved in it. I don’t know why he wouldn’t be happy with that situation.
“We sit down and talk about everything and we make a decision we think is right for the organization. It’s been going very well.”
Mangini was allowed to retain his coaching staff, but offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has received significant instruction on Holmgren’s beloved West Coast offense from adviser Gil Haskell, a former offensive coordinator under Holmgren. Mangini said the overall philosophy will remain the same – the game plans will change weekly based on the opponent – but acknowledged changes will be made.
“I want to try and set the table for Eric,” Holmgren said Friday. “My job is to make him the best coach he can be, help him as much as I can by getting players for him, being a sounding board for him, whatever that means.”
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