Mangini confident he’s changing Browns

His boss sent a congratulatory text message. Hall of Famer Jim

Brown delivered his to Eric Mangini in person. Eagles coach Andy

Reid dropped him a note and even the guy who delivers Mangini’s

newspaper told the Browns coach how much he appreciated the

win.

Not just any win. One over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It’s nice to beat them,” Mangini said. “It’s

important.”

Important for the Browns. Important for Cleveland. And, perhaps

most importantly, for Mangini’s future.

On a frostbitten Thursday night, the Browns (2-11) ended a

seven-game losing streak and a 12-game slide against Pittsburgh

with a 13-6 upset of the Steelers, whose fifth straight loss may

have ended any chance of the Super Bowl champions defending their

title.

Mangini has been increasingly under fire as the Browns have

staggered through one of the worst seasons in their history. But by

guiding Cleveland to just its second win over its archrival in 20

games, Mangini may have shown that his system may be working.

“Yesterday was proof,” Browns linebacker David Bowens said.

“We played a good Pittsburgh team. They were down with losing so

many games in a row but they’re still the Super Bowl champs.

Yesterday and last week (a 30-23 loss to San Diego) showed the type

of team we can be.”

His future remains cloudy, but Mangini, who has been criticized

for almost everything he’s done since arriving in January, is

convinced that his system is taking hold. The record doesn’t show

it, but it will, he says.

“I believe in what we do,” he said. “I know it works. I know

it’s going to work here. I know we’re going to win a lot of games

here. I know we’re going to have a team week in and week out the

city is going to be proud of. These are good guys, working toward

the same goal. That to me is the essence of winning.

“It’s going to happen.”

Mangini said he received a “nice, positive” message from owner

Randy Lerner, who intends to hire a “czar” to oversee the club’s

football operations. While Lerner has kept his search secretive,

Mangini has made it known that he’s willing to work with anyone who

can help the Browns.

He may have no choice.

Lerner’s hire likely will be the one who decides whether to keep

Mangini, who was fired after three seasons with the New York Jets.

Mangini is confident whomever Lerner brings in will appreciate what

he has done since taking over a Browns team that went 4-12 last

season under Romeo Crennel.

Mangini may have to convince any new executive he’s worth

keeping. He’s positive he will.

“I would imagine if anybody who would merit the title czar

would look a lot deeper than just the record,” he said. “I think

that there’s been rationale for all the decisions. There’s a

thought process, some of it’s been good, some of it’s been bad.

There’s a reason behind it.

“Anybody who comes in can take a look at it. Sit down, talk to

the coaches, they’re good coaches. Sit in on any meeting. Watch our

practices. See how we operate. Come to our meetings, see how we do

things. See how we function as a staff. It’s good and it’s right

and I’m confident. Come take a look because it’s a good

product.”

Mangini has been tough on his players, but he felt he needed to

be. The Browns had it too easy under Crennel, and one of Mangini’s

objectives this season has been to instill discipline by

implementing strict rules and working his players harder than they

have before.

He’s asked a lot of the Browns, but Mangini said he’s actually

softened up since his days in New York.

“I know this may be hard to believe, but I actually came in

here a lot less heavy-handed than when I went into New York,” he

said, raising his right hand as if he was being sworn in by a

bailiff. “I’ve never wanted to instill discipline for the sake of

being in charge, that’s not what it’s about. It’s because it helps

you wins games. I don’t want to exert power to exert power, I want

the group to operate efficiently. That’s always been the

goal.”

Mangini believes he has always had his players’ support. The

idea of a coaching change doesn’t sit well with some of Cleveland’s

players, who would favor stability.

Josh Cribbs, the Browns’ multitalented kick returner, wide

receiver and part-time quarterback, said firing Mangini would be

mistake.

“It takes time to build,” Cribbs said. “To give a football

coach one year to turn a football team drastically around is not

possible,” he said. “You don’t expect a coach to come in right

now and win. To get rid of coach Mangini, I don’t think would be a

good decision for our organization. To start rebuilding all over

again, this will be three different head coach regimes in the past

(three) years.

“Who would want to come coach here knowing if they don’t win

right away they’re gone?”

With three games left this season, the Browns have more chances

to show how far they’ve grown under Mangini. The results could sway

public opinion about him and maybe change the minds of those who

will decide if he should come back.

Mangini said he won’t spend any time worrying about his future.

There’s too much work to be done.

“I believe in what we do. I believe it to my core,” he said.

“I’ve seen it work. I know it works. I’m confident in it. I mean

that in a sincere way. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. I believe

in good people. I believe in hard work. I believe in discipline.

It’s truth in sports.

“If you have those things, you win.”