Eric Mangini has learned a thing or two since his departure from the Jets two years ago. The simplest lesson of all, he said, is be yourself.
Sounding more relaxed and more self-assured than ever before, the current Cleveland Browns head coach opened up to the New York media on his conference call Wednesday morning, discussing his emotions heading into Sunday’s game against his former team and his growth not only as a coach, but also as a person.
In following the methods of his “football fathers,” Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells – coaches who had won five Super Bowls between them -- Mangini admitted he strayed further away from his own personality.
“I know this may sound crazy, but some people think I’m funny and I have a good personality,” he said. “It’s being who I am…it’s less scripted for me. Not reading it as much as feeling it and getting the same point across, but from the heart.
“That’s who I watched in that role for multiple years,” he said of Belichick,
who he worked for in both New York and New England, and Parcells. “As a 34-year-old young guy going into new environment, it’s hard to look at that extreme body of work that’s produced result and say, ‘I’ll do it totally differently.’”
Asked if he’s “lightened up” over the years, he said: “I think what happens is, I’ve found this with my kids. When my oldest Jake was born, I’d parent him in my father’s voice because that’s all I knew. Now I have two more and I’m really comfortable being a dad, trying to apply to kids my own way.
“With any new experience, there’s no playbook, there’s no class you go to. You tend to rely on what you know. There are so many things and you try to do it the right away and best way and when you come from a system that’s been so good for so long, you try to mimic that. I’ve learned to take the best things from everyone. It’s more effective.”
Mangini expressed no bitterness toward the Jets organization, despite being fired after a 9-7 season in 2008. (Current Jets head coach Rex Ryan finished his first season with a 9-7 and was given an extension.)
“Not at all,” said Mangini, who became the youngest head coach in the NFL when the Jets tapped him to replace Herm Edwards in 2006. “Because I’ve sat across that desk enough times and I told guys they couldn’t be part of the team any more. And in this business, at some point someone will tell you the same thing. You may not agree with the decision, but you respect it. They gave me my first chance at a very young age to be a head coach. Mike and Woody were supportive and did what they could to be successful. And that has made this experience much better.”
He also had high praise for Ryan, who he’s known since 2000 – the same year Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, became New England’s defensive coordinator.
“He’s a great guy,” said Mangini. “I love Rex. In talking to Mike, I said I thought Rex was a great choice. …I thought Rex would do a good job. He has done a good job.”
But Mangini -- who said Sunday's game against the Jets will be "special" -- joked that Rex has dropped the ball on one important matter: Taking his New Jersey home off his hands.
Mangini said he and his family bought a house in the Garden State – “Because we were going all in” – when the Jets relocated their training facility to Florham Park in 2008. After that season, he was let go and the house has been on and off the market since then.
”I thought Rex, after his extension, might buy it,” Mangini said with a laugh. “Don't know what he's waiting for.”