Marinelli, Mangini, Crennel Fired
UPDATED (12:40 p.m.)...
The firings of coaches have begun on the day after the NFL's regular season concluded.
The first to go are the Detroit Lions' Rod Marinelli, the New York Jets' Eric Mangini and the Cleveland Browns' Romeo Crennel.
The Lions fired Marinelli on the day after a loss to the Green Bay Packers made them the first team ever to go winless in a 16-game NFL season.
The Jets have dismissed Mangini a day after losing to the Miami Dolphins and missing the playoffs in a season in which expectations were raised by several expensive free agent signings in the offseason and a training camp trade for quarterback Brett Favre.
The Browns announced the firing of Crennel one day after their disappointing season ended with a defeat in Pittsburgh and owner Randy Lerner dismissed General Manager Phil Savage. Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher already has told the Browns he's not interested in their coaching job.
In Detroit, Marinelli's firing completes a housecleaning of sorts by Lions owner William Clay Ford, who ousted Matt Millen as the team's president and general manager in September.
Marinelli was hired by Millen in 2006 and went 10-38 in three seasons. The Lions went 3-13 in 2006, and finished 7-9 last season after a 6-2 start. With last season's late unraveling and this season's futility, Marinelli won only one of his final 24 games as Detroit's coach.
Marinelli tried to keep his team from achieving 0-16 infamy. He went to Daunte Culpepper as his starter at quarterback after the Lions lured him out of retirement. At one point, Marinelli put the team picture on display during a meeting with his players and told them that they didn't want that on exhibit at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It didn't work.
"You can't go 0-16 and expect to keep your job," Marinelli said at a news conference. "... You understand. I hold myself responsible. Nobody else.... I did my best this year and my best wasn't good enough this year."
Yet Marinelli maintained that things will get better for the franchise.
"I really believe the time to buy stock in the Lions is now," Marinelli said. "This thing has hit bottom.... If they develop leadership, I think this thing is going to be on the rise."
Along with the firing of Marinelli, the Lions announced that they've promoted Tom Lewand to team president and Martin Mayhew to general manager.
When the Lions ousted Millen, they promoted Mayhew from assistant GM to general manager and gave expanded duties to Lewand, then the franchise's executive vice president and chief operating officer. Now both promotions have been made more permanent. Ford had indicated recently that he wanted both to remain with the organization but he planned to hire another executive in the football operations department.
It's unclear if today's moves with Lewand and Mayhew rule out the addition of a powerful executive to oversee the entire football operation. It had seemed possible that the Lions would pursue Bill Parcells, whose contract to oversee the football operations of the Miami Dolphins reportedly contains an out clause, or Scott Pioli, the front office chief of the New England Patriots who perhaps will leave Patriots Coach Bill Belichick to run a team on his own. If Pioli is hired, it's possible that he could bring along Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as his head coach.
The Lions also announced the dismissals of front office executive Dave Boller, the team's assistant director of pro personnel, and several assistant coaches: defensive coordinator Joe Barry, assistant offensive line coach Mike Barry, secondary coach Jimmy Lake and defensive line coach Joe Cullen.
Joe Barry is Marinelli's son-in-law, a relationship that sparked a recent controversy when a Detroit columnist asked Marinelli during a news conference if he wished his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator. Mike Barry is Joe Barry's father.
Jets owner Woody Johnson fired Mangini after the Jets lost four of their final five games of the season to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
Johnson said at a news conference that the decision to fire Mangini arose from his regular discussions with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum throughout the season.
"This is about the most difficult thing you can do in being a franchise owner," Johnson said at the news conference. "... This is not a decision that we reached yesterday [or] 10 minutes ago. This was a decision that was basically [made] running through the season.... We don't take this decision lightly and we respect Eric for what he's done. But we want to build on the foundation that he's laid."
Tannenbaum said at the news conference: "At the end of the day, Woody and I had to make the decision that we felt was the right one, not the easy one."
Mangini was the toast of New York as a rookie head coach two years ago, being dubbed "Man-genius" for leading the Jets to a record of 10-6 in 2006. But the Jets slipped to 4-12 last season. The season was notable mostly for the Jets being on the opposite sideline in the opening game when the Patriots and Mangini's former boss and mentor in New England, Belichick, were found to be illegally taping the play signals of opposing coaches to launch the "Spygate" scandal. That became part of Mangini's seemingly bitter feud with Belichick.
The Jets spent big money last offseason. On the free agent market, they signed guard Alan Faneca to a five-year, $40 million contract, linebacker Calvin Pace to a six-year, $42 million deal and offensive tackle Damien Woody to a five-year, $25.5 million pact. They traded for defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and signed him to a five-year, $35 million contract. Then the biggest move of all came in August when they obtained Favre after the quarterback failed to resolve his differences with the Green Bay Packers.
Favre had only a month to prepare for the season and was going to a place where he knew virtually no one. Yet Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer seemed to be doing a brilliant job when the Jets won eight of their first 11 games. It didn't last. Favre was plagued by a sore shoulder down the stretch, and the Jets finished third in the AFC East behind the Dolphins and Patriots.
Mangini becomes a former head coach at the age of 37. He had a record of 23-26 with the Jets, including 0-1 in the playoffs.
Crennel, like Mangini, is a former Patriots defensive coordinator. He got a two-year, approximately $8 million contract extension running through the 2011 season from the Browns last January after leading the team to a record of 10-6 last season and just missing the playoffs.
Things unraveled this season, however, as the Browns went 4-12 and endured a series of controversies.
Tight end Kellen Winslow was suspended by the team for one game for making critical postgame comments about the organization, then the suspension was overturned. Savage apologized for sending an e-mail to a fan that contained an expletive. Tailback Jamal Lewis and kick returner Josh Cribbs accused unnamed teammates of quitting in a game. There was a report that defensive lineman Shaun Smith hit quarterback Brady Quinn during a recent weight room incident.
Crennel had a record of 24-40 and failed to reach the playoffs in four seasons as Cleveland's coach.
Cowher has rejected the Browns' overture about their head coaching job, but the team is in pursuit of Pioli to be its general manager.
Lerner addressed reporters today following the firing of Crennel and told them that he'd met with Cowher on Saturday night in New York.
"I got word that he was available for an informal conversation because he was very aware I had him at the top of the list, getting involved with the Browns," Lerner said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He wanted to tell me personally that he did not anticipate coaching in 2009. I wouldn't say Bill Cowher was the first choice. But I would say Cowher was the clear, no-questions-asked guy you wanted to ask where he stood."
Cowher is living in North Carolina and has spent two seasons doing television work since leaving the Steelers as their coach. Steelers owner Dan Rooney indicated recently that he'd be surprised to see Cowher return to coaching next season.
The Browns were viewed as an option, however, because Cowher is a former player and assistant coach for the team.
The name of former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer also has been mentioned in connection with the job. Schottenheimer has called it unlikely that he'd take the job but has not completely ruled it out.
Lerner told reporters that he'd focus on the GM job next. He indicated that he'd received permission from the Patriots to interview Pioli. As the Patriots' front office chief, Pioli has assembled three Super Bowl-winning teams alongside Belichick. But he doesn't have final say over football-related decisions in New England. Belichick does. Pioli presumably would be offered that authority in Cleveland.
Lerner expressed interest in Mangini, according to the Plain Dealer, and left open the possibility of Crennel remaining with the club as an assistant coach.
Today's three firings bring the league-wide total of coaching changes this offseason to seven. Mike Holmgren announced last offseason that he would leave the Seattle Seahawks after this season. Three coaches were fired during the season: Lane Kiffin by the Oakland Raiders, Scott Linehan by the St. Louis Rams and Mike Nolan by the San Francisco 49ers.
Two jobs have been filled. The Seahawks long ago named Jim Mora, their secondary coach, to succeed Holmgren. Mike Singletary keeps the job in San Francisco after the 49ers went 5-4 since he was named to succeed Nolan, who was fired following the club's 2-5 start.
In addition to Cowher, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick is considered a candidate to return to the league, perhaps with Nolan as his defensive coordinator. Other often-mentioned head coaching candidates include McDaniels and defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolo of the New York Giants, Jim Schwartz of the Tennessee Titans, Rex Ryan of the Ravens, Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings and Ron Meeks of the Indianapolis Colts.
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