The Browns' four-game winning streak at the season's end has preserved coach Eric Mangini's job. New team president Mike Holmgren says Mangini will stay on as coach in 2010.
Here at the Cleveland Magazine blog, we've been a bit hard on Mangini. But we warmed to Mangini after those Ice Bowl wins, just like much of Cleveland has. He inherited a crazy system that needed some discipline and structure, and a roster that needed some house-cleaning. He provided it. Those league-maximum fines early in the season that seemed so ridiculous paid off. So did shipping troublemaker Braylon Edwards out of town after his fistfight with LeBron's buddy, even if that left Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson with no one left to throw to. Sure, 5-11 is not a stellar record, but here's a clearer sign of improvement: the Browns went from the NFL's second most penalized team to the third least.
The dissenting opinion holds that Mangini's dawdling on naming a starting quarterback was a sign of indecision and weird stoking of media frenzy, and that he hasn't proven his disciplinary and play-calling systems work. In this view, Mangini doesn't matter nearly as much as re-signing Josh Cribbs.
Even the staffers who wanted Mangini to return are agnostic about his long-term fortunes. No one thinks he's proven himself. It's more: OK, you've earned another year.
Our blog's reader's poll in October looks eerily prescient so far. When we asked you about Mangini's future, none of you picked the option, "He'll be gone right after the season's ignominious end." 29% said he'd be fired mid-season. But the real contest is between the 47% of you who picked, "He'll manage to last two seasons, though he'll deserve to be fired after one" (hmm, how many of the 47% still feel that way?), and the forgiving 23% who chose: "His discipline will pay off, and the Browns will improve and earn him several years in the job. Coaches, like quarterbacks, need time to get better." Let's hope so.