Throughout this up and down (mostly down) season, Browns players never uttered a negative word about their Head Coach Eric Mangini. In fact, most of them went out of their way to praise him and how he had changed from the prior season.
Team leaders like Josh Cribbs and Sheldon Brown have backed Mangini all year for his professionalism. Lawrence Vickers, a man who at times last year seriously butted heads with the Head Coach, has done a complete 180 on him.
“We’re blessed to play in this league, but at the same time, you wish things would have worked out for Coach,” said Vickers. “He taught me a lot and he made me a better person, not just a player, but a better man. He taught me how to handle myself in my household and in my spiritual life. He cares about us a lot and he’ll be missed. I have nothing but respect for him and I’ll miss him as a coach, but I’ll miss him even more for being the type of man he is.”
High praise coming from the one guy who arguably loves playing Football more than anyone else in the league (I know, bold statement, but watch his body language during a game. The guy LOVES playing the game).
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Backup QB Seneca Wallace.
In all fairness, if anyone was done wrong by Mangini this year, it may be Wallace, who when finally healthy, was passed over for Jake Delhomme. That wasn’t that big of a deal, until we all saw Delhomme struggle so mightily against the likes of the Panthers, Dolphins, and Bills. Never once did Mangini look in Wallace’s direction. Rumors swirled that Wallace had been banished because he was the only one who spoke out critically against the mid-season trade of Running Back Jerome Harrison.
So yesterday when the players were cleaning out their lockers after meeting with both Mangini and Mike Holmgren, Seneca pulled no punches when asked about his now former leader.
“I tried to hold my tongue,” he said. “It was frustrating for me because I’ve been with a guy for so long, Mike in Seattle and knowing how to be a professional. Nothing against Mangini, but he takes a different approach in coaching. He’s a defensive-minded coach. It was a little frustrating at times, but I just had to deal with it.”
Wallace is an unrestricted free agent, but now says he wants to stay. He didn’t always feel that way.
“It would’ve been very hard for me to come back [if Mangini was kept on],” said Wallace. “[Now], I’d love to come back because I’d love to be part of the change in this organization.”
Solid burial by Seneca. But lets be honest, he is still the backup Quarterback and a self-admitted shill for all things Holmgren. He was The Big Show’s hand-picked #2 QB and extremely loyal to him. He wasn’t around for year one of Mangini to see the changes he made as a person and as a head coach. Reading the quotes from Vickers carries the most weight with me.
While the record will stand at 10-22, one thing Mangini did do was improve himself in the locker room, which is half the battle. His media presence also was much better than in his first year. Unfortunately for him, wins and losses mean more.
Just ask Bill Belichick.