Generally, when owners in the NFL decide to clean out the entire front office, it’s usually along the lines of a complete housecleaning, resisting anything that could reek of the prior regime. But that probably doesn’t apply to Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, who apparently could not get enough of hiring Bill Belichick disciples — specifically, his defensive coordinators — and now he’s done it in sequence, replacing Romeo Crennel with recently canned Jets coach Eric Mangini.
It sounds like one hell of a mancrush, if the Cleveland Plain-Dealer is to be believed:
Lerner was informed of Mangini’s firing during a sit-down with Cleveland reporters. His eyes lit up at the news and he almost immediately made arrangements to meet with Mangini the next day. Lerner was so impressed that he never wavered from Mangini as his first choice.
In fact, Lerner effectively chose Mangini to head his football reorganization ahead of GM candidate Scott Pioli of the New England Patriots.
Once close friends and former roommates, Pioli and Mangini became estranged when Mangini left the Patriots as defensive coordinator to coach the Jets. When Lerner surmised that the relationship between Mangini and Pioli might be unworkable, Lerner proceeded with plans to make Mangini the coach.
I have no reason to doubt Mangini’s connection (likely emotional) to the franchise as a 14-year old ballboy. I also will say that he got an extremely raw deal from the Jets; despite some bonehead coaching handles and obviously not handling the defense as well as needed (the Jets’ secondary was awful), that didn’t seem like a firing year to me. He should have been on the hot seat for next year, for sure. But anything coming out of the Meadowlands about the Jets’ coaching search informs you of how dysfunctional that organization is compared to the Giants (what other owner leaves the country on vacation while the coaching situation is in flux?)
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t think this might not blow up in someone’s face. Homecomings are always awkward, made all the more so by a need to guide a team crumbling on both sides of the ball.