Mangini gets a makeover

Oct 9, 2009 - 9:37 PM By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio(AP) -- High-fiving, butt-slapping and even smiling. Eric Mangini looked like a different guy last week on Cleveland's sideline.

Described as dour, demanding and dictator-like, Mangini, who has lived up to his hard-nosed, stone-faced reputation since his arrival from New York in January, was noticeably more animated during Cleveland's 23-20 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The coach has loosened up - a little.

And the Browns are digging Mangini's minor makeover.

"The important thing of him showing his emotion was just realizing our team needed to see that," said linebacker David Bowens, one of 10 current Browns who played for Mangini in New York. "Not to show he's a hard guy all the time and that he does care about us. Guys appreciate that."

Mangini's kinder, gentler approach began last week. Instead of making the Browns practice outside in the rain on Wednesday, he moved the two-hour session into the indoor field house. The next day, the players were only required to wear their shell protective gear and not shoulder pads.

Mangini sensed his players were dragging and needed a break. By the time Sunday's game rolled around, their legs were fresh.

"We were a lot faster," Bowens said. "We weren't so beat up going into the game. That helped."

During the game, Mangini, who typically stands alone on the sideline, was much more enthusiastic than in the previous three games. He threw his arm around Brodney Pool following the safety's interception. He congratulated quarterback Derek Anderson after his 1-yard TD run and screamed "Yeah!" and pumped his fist when nose tackle Shaun Rogers blocked an extra point to force overtime.

Mangini worked the bench area like a politician looking for votes.

He was a new man. Well, at least a changed one.

"Coach definitely has a certain demeanor," tight end Robert Royal said. "But he has been a little bit looser, and I think it shows that he knows the guys now know what to expect from him and he doesn't have to stay on them to make sure they're doing the right thing."

It's not that Mangini has turned into Mr. Rogers. But he seems to have realized he needs to adjust his personality to better suit his team's persona. Like everything else with the Browns, it's a work in progress.

Almost from the time he took over in Cleveland, Mangini has been harshly criticized for his methods.

He has fined players for petty offenses like parking in the wrong stall or having their cell phone ring during team meetings. Mangini famously fined one player $1,700 for not paying for a $3 bottle of water during a hotel stay. He was also blasted for mishandling the Browns' quarterback competition, and this week he caught flak for trading wide receiver Braylon Edwards to the Jets for next to nothing when he had months to make a better deal.

He has taken some shots, fair and unfair. But Mangini won't apologize for his ways.

"I'm really comfortable with who I am and what I believe in," he said. "As people get to know me and spend time with me, they understand what my goals are: to have a team that is disciplined, selfless, hard-working. I've seen it work. In transition it's sometimes difficult.

"As I get to know people better, a relationship builds. When you don't know somebody, you have to evaluate it based on what you know and you express whatever opinion you have. I respect everybody's opinion and everybody's right to have that opinion."

Mangini's sideline demeanor wasn't any attempt to win over his players. He said he was simply being himself. He can have fun, too, but needs prodding.

"Sometimes you've got to tickle him a little bit to get a smile out of him," said wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, another of the ex-Jets.

Did Mangini feel he needed to loosen up?

"I just try to be who I am and not try to be anybody else," he said.

As for his rules, Mangini isn't doing anything but keeping his players accountable.

"My high school coach said, 'Be firm, fair and consistent.' I believe in that," he said. "The rules aren't there for any reason other than to let us operate effectively. There's no other agenda. There's no maliciousness. It's like anything else, if you don't want to get fined, don't break the rules."

That's true at the Mangini household, too.

Mangini handles the discipline with his three young boys, Jake, Luke and Zack. He recalled that Luke has been a handful since he was a baby.

"He didn't want to go for a nap," Mangini said, warming to the story. "I had to put him down 13 times in a row. Finally I talked to him a little bit, 'I'm not going anywhere. You're going down for this nap. I'm not leaving.' And he finally laid down and gave me one of those looks like, 'All right. Get out.' He's consistent.

"Luke is very strong-willed. But I'm strong-willed, too."

And maybe not as tough as he looks.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!