Mangini Sticks to His Guns

Embattled Browns head coach stays on-message during conference call with local media Tuesday...

If Eric Mangini's players were as stout and unyielding under pressure as their head coach, then the Browns would likely be a lot better than they are.

With issues continuing to swirl around him, Mangini, while taking full responsibility for everything that's gone wrong – and a lot has gone wrong -- failed to bend on his core beliefs when he met with the Cleveland media on Tuesday during a conference call.

For starters, after admitting that he probably should have just called a running play instead of throwing a pass and letting Joshua Cribbs get crushed during a 16-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night (see story elsewhere), he maintained that taking a knee on the last play, regardless of the score, simply isn't in his playbook.

But his playbook is under scrutiny. Heading into Sunday's visit to Detroit to face the 1-8 Lions, the Browns are likewise 1-8 and have lost four in a row – and looked horrible doing it.

"Just like the fans, we as coaches and players are frustrated," he said. "We're not happy or satisfied. But we're going to continue to work hard to fix it and improve.

"It takes time, though. I've been in this situation before, and it takes time. It's not easy. It's not without its frustrations and difficulties."

He's referring to his fixer-upper stints with the New York Jets as both a head coach and assistant, and as an assistant with the Ravens and the New England Patriots.

But none of those teams struggled in his first year with them as much as the Browns have struggled this season.

"When I took the job, I didn't have a thought as to what our record would be at this point," Mangini said. "I was just looking to improve every day and keep working at it."

On the field, the problem with the Browns has been mostly the offense. Statistically – and maybe otherwise as well – this is, thus far, the worst offense the Browns have ever had. The offense has produced just five touchdowns in nine games, and the team has scored a combined total of nine points in the last three outings. Overall, the Browns have scored in single digits six times in 2009.

Against the Ravens, one of the best and most physical defenses in the NFL, the Browns had just 160 total yards and Brady Quinn, whom Mangini said will get the start against the Lions, had a 23.5 quarterback rating in going 13-of-31 passing for 99 yards and two interceptions.

The game, according to Mangini, turned with two interceptions in a three-minute stretch at the start of the third quarter. The one that was returned 48 yards for a TD and a 13-0 lead appeared to be thrown too far for tight end Robert Royal to get. The other one, to normally sure-handed wide receiver Mike Furrey, seemed very catchable.

"Both would have been challenging catches," Mangini said. "They could have gone either way."

Quinn was under duress much of the night, which factored in to how he played, obviously.

"We knew going in that it was going to be challenging against their defense, and it was," the coach said. "They get pressure against everybody they play. They're difficult to block.

"But I thought a lot of times we handled the rush well."

But not well enough, enough times. The Browns didn't feel they would have sufficient time consistently to throw, so they used a plethora of short, horizontal routes instead of going downfield.

"We did not execute our screen plays like we need to," Mangini said. "Those plays are one way to slow down the pass rush."

If all this is not enough, then there's also the fact the NFLPA is investigating Mangini's practice methods after the Browns lost their second player of the year, practice squad defensive lineman Keith Grennan with a torn patella tendon, due to injury during a post-practice opportunity period for younger members of the team.

"I haven't thought much about it (the NFLPA investigating)," the coach said. "I'm comfortable with our practice methods. I'm comfortable with where we are. I have nothing to hide. We're transparent. They (the NFLPA) can take a look at anything they want to take a look at."

And then the conference call was over. Because you couldn't see Mangini, you had to wonder if he had even flinched the whole time. Probably not.

If only his team could do the same.


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