Browns Hope Rookie Mistakes Out Of The Way

What do you do if you've head a repeated series of failures with first-time head coaches? If you're the Cleveland Browns, you try to profit from someone else's investment...

From 1975 through 2008, eight rookie head coaches worked for the Browns and only one, Marty Schottenheimer, posted a winning record.

Browns owner Randy Lerner did not want rookie No. 9 to replace Romeo Crennel. That, as much as anything, is why he decided to make Eric Mangini the 12th full-time coach in Browns history.

Mangini turns 38 on Jan. 19. He is fresh off three seasons as coach of the Jets, where he was 23-26 and had two winning seasons in three years. The Jets were 4-12 the year before he took over.

Asked how much more prepared he is to be a head coach now than he was in 2006, he answered:

"I'd say light years is a fair assessment. There's probably a laundry list of things we can go through. There are so many different areas that you're involved in, whether it's personnel, staff, game-planning, game-day management, interacting with the team -- any of those things. They're all areas where I go back and look at my notes, I look at the different feedback that I've gotten from players and coaches. I'll try to incorporate all that stuff into the decisions that will be faced moving forward."

Cleveland Stadium certainly was a laboratory for first-time head coaches who went on to bigger and better things. Forrest Gregg was the Browns' head coach from 1975 until he resigned with three games left in 1977. His record was 18-23. Four years later, he was coaching the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl.

Bill Belichick was a first-time head coach in Cleveland in 1991. He lasted five years, made the playoffs once and was 37-45, including one playoff victory and a playoff loss. In New England he became the only coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in four years. Chuck Noll didn't accomplish that feat, and neither did Bill Walsh. The Cowboys won three of four Super Bowls between the 1992 and '95 seasons, but Jimmy Johnson won two of them and Barry Switzer won the other.

Mangini will coach with a stern hand. When Lerner listed what he was seeking in a head coach, discipline and organization were priorities. Since Mangini learned at the feet of Belichick and Bill Parcells, it is safe to say he is organized.

On the subject of discipline, Braylon Edwards better not challenge him as he did Crennel in 2006 when he defied an order from the coach and chartered a helicopter to Columbus so he could attend the Ohio State-Michigan game (Edwards went to Michigan) the day before the Browns played the Steelers in a home game.

"One of the things I explain right up front the first time I meet players is rules are in place to give us the best possible working environment," Mangini said. "It's a diverse population. A lot of people have to work together. An environment has to be created where you can be successful.

"If the rules are broken, there are consequences. Those are strictly enforced."

One of the downfalls of the Phil Savage-Crennel regime was Savage and Crennel did not work well together. An example: Crennel wanted Ty Law when the Browns' cornerbacks were struggling, and he wanted another receiver while Donte Stallworth recovered from a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for the first four games. Savage did not oblige Crennel. Savage's contract stipulated he picked the 53-man roster, and he coveted that power.

The Browns are still seeking their general manager. The leading candidate is George Kokinis, the pro personnel director of the Ravens. The Browns cannot sign Kokinis until the Ravens' playoff run ends.

Mangini will be the face of the Browns, but when it comes to molding the team, he said the coach and general manager have to work in concert.

"It's not going to be a function of what is defined in the contract," Mangini said. "It's not going to be a function of individual fiefdoms or any of that stuff. None of that stuff matters. What matters is the G.M. and I work together every single day and create decisions based on consensus. All the other stuff in terms of how things are designated doesn't matter one bit to me."

Mangini has known Kokinis since both were with the Browns in 1994 -- Kokinis in the scouting department and Mangini as a ballboy and public relations intern. Mangini was a coach's assistant in 1995.

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