||09-07-2013 06:53 PM
Eric Mangini is/was a terrible coach and a lunatic (link inside)
This excerpt from a book being written by a former NFL journeyman is a hilarious, yet very sad (for a Browns fan) account of what it was like playing for Eric Mangini. Other details of his insanity have emerged in the last couple years, including the fact that he hated Colt McCoy and basically refused to even talk to him (he didn't like the pick).
Anyway, I recommend any and all NFL fans read this sad tale...
Sent to Save the Cleveland Browns, Eric Mangini Instead Put on a Clinic on How to Drive a Team's Morale Into the Ground
by Nate Jackson
Nate Jackson played eight seasons in the NFL, six of those spent with the Denver Broncos from 2003 to 2008. As the rigors of the game took their toll on his body, the tight end bounced around the league recovering from injuries and seeking a roster spot. His new memoir, Slow Getting Up (published by HarperCollins, available September 17), details that life in football.
Before the 2009 season, Jackson was signed by the Cleveland Browns. In this excerpt, Jackson explains how then-coach Eric Mangini killed the spirit of the Browns, setting the team back untold years in its rebuilding project. Printed with permission of the author and Harper-Collins; all rights reserved.
The Cleveland Browns call me three days later. Same story. They want me on a flight that night for a workout the next morning. But it's already evening when they call. So they put me on a red-eye. I'm picked up and taken directly to the facility, where I change with one other guy in the coach's locker room and we make our way to the indoor field for our workout. Also at the indoor field is half the Browns team, going through a stretching routine intended to flush the soreness and the gunk out of the beaten bodies of training camp. They are doing their stretches, but they are watching us. I know it's likely that somewhere among those nameless faces, some tight end sees us and knows that he is in trouble.
The workout is similar to the one in Philly, except for one addition: the forty-yard dash. I am prepared for it but quietly hoping like hell I don't have to do it. I haven't run the forty for time since I was coming out of college. It takes a good amount of technical training to be a good forty runner. And it's not football, either. Football is never a straight line out of a track start. And my hamstring is shit. I can mask its shittiness as long as I don't have to hit top-end speed, which is actually easy to avoid on a football field. Football players rarely hit fifth gear. But the forty-yard dash requires it. And I'm worried my entire pelvis will explode right there on that field, with scouts timing me and coaches evaluating me and players watching me. Kaput. Get him a body bag.
But my pelvis doesn't explode. I run a 4.6: plenty fast for my job description. The rest of the workout goes great. I catch everything. I even make a few improbable circus catches that I know no one else can make. After the workout, they bring me up to a coach's office area and ask me to wait for a while until I can do a physical and meet with the GM. They send the other guy home. I sit in the room for four hours watching daytime television. Finally I am brought downstairs for the physical. They poke and prod. I tell them I feel marvelous. Then I go back upstairs and meet with General Manager George Kokinis in his office. It overlooks the practice fields. He is wearing standard-issue Browns coaches gear: visor, team T-shirt tucked into mesh shorts, ankle socks, and tennis shoes, sitting at a huge mahogany desk, pictures of his family everywhere, a large television with practice film paused and a remote control on his desk.
—Well, Nate. I can tell you're a good player. You can play in this league. We just have to find a spot for you. You play special teams, right?
—Do you remember what games were your best games? So we can watch the tape and I can show it to our special teams coach. —Umm. Let me think. Uh, maybe the San Diego game. Uh . . .
—Yeah, you think about that one and get back to me.
—Okay, I will.
—So we're going to send you home today, but be ready. We could bring you back any day. It could be tomorrow, next week, whenever. If we can make it happen, we will. Make sense?
—Yeah, makes sense.
We shake hands and I am back in a van. Then at the airport. Then squeezing back into my middle seat and repeating my new mantra: What the **** am I doing?
This is a side of the NFL I am not used to. I knew of it, certainly, but I didn't know what it felt like. And it feels damn awful. But five days later I get a call from George Kokinis. He found me a spot. Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. I hop on another red-eye flight and am picked up from the airport in the same van driven by the same dude from last week: déjà vroom, straight to the facility. I sign my contract, eat breakfast, get my gear, am issued my locker, and before I know it, I am wearing my number 85 Cleveland Browns jersey and jogging onto the practice field with my helmet in my hand.
Every team has its different routines. Often the most difficult part of being on a new team is getting adjusted to the way they do things. The team takes on the personality of its head coach, and every coach is different. In this case, it is Eric Mangini. I had heard a good deal about Coach Mangini from a few of my teammates in Denver. We would sit around the table in the cafeteria and talk shop, and several times I heard tales of Mangini's evil. New York, while he was coaching the Jets, was hell. No, not hell. Worse. Three-and- a- half- hour practices. Busted bodies. Jangled nerves. Cussing. Yelling. Tension. Belittling. Football, the game, was nearly unrecognizable under Mangini's demented eye. Hell was no match for it.
But surely the stories were overblown. Their color was more vibrant because of the contrast. They were being told in the peaceful valley of Shanahan: the heaven to Mangini's hell. Mike Shanahan knew how to run a team. That meant he knew how to treat the men on it. Being a head football coach is not about being a strategic genius.
Every coach in the NFL knows football strategy. It's about leading a group of grown men toward a tangible goal and treating them with the respect their sacrifice deserves. That's how you get them to play well. Many players, upon arriving in Denver, were flabbergasted by how well Shanahan treated them.
—You don't know how good we got it here, man.
I always heard it, but I never understood it. Coach Shanahan was all I really knew. He was the model of an NFL coach in my mind. I went through one camp with Steve Mariucci and one with Dennis Erickson, but these were back when I was a boy in the NFL, too consumed with my own performance to pay any attention to the performance of my coaches.
But by the time I arrive in Cleveland, the mystique of the NFL has vanished. My eyes and ears are open. From the blow of the morning practice's first air horn, I know I'm in a strange place. Warm-ups are usually very relaxed. They are designed to get the player's body warmed up, and everywhere I have ever played, the coaches have allowed us to warm up at our own pace, as long as we are ready to practice hard once warm-ups were over. But here in Cleveland, warm-ups are frantic and explosive. There are coaches barking orders and players are running through bags like Navy SEALs.
—Get your knees up!
—Keep that ball high and tight!
—Come on! Let's go! Let's go!
Oh, brother. This is not good.
As a veteran player gets on in age, he loses his patience for rah-rah rituals that he knows are worthless. Grown men with refined football skills do not need to be goaded and harangued. Football is brutal enough without someone yelling at you. And if you make it to the NFL, you're a self-starter. It isn't high school. You aren't dealing with children. Nobody told that to Mangina.
Practice is long and physical. I spend it standing next to my new tight end coach trying to pick up on the terminology. The Browns offense, led by another former Patriots coach/Brady jockstrap carrier, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, is complicated and seems to have no rhyme or reason: arbitrary names for strange concepts. But I have been in the same west-coast offense since Menlo College. I am used to that language. And this system is an entirely different language, so of course it will sound like arbitrary names for strange concepts. But this is the end of training camp. People should know their shit by now. When I ask my new teammates to explain something to me, though, they just shrug.
—Shit, I don't know what to tell you, Nate.
If they don't know it, I'm in trouble.
I play some scout team offense and do okay. But I'm rusty. I was training hard in San Diego, but I wasn't playing football. My run-blocking technique has fallen to shit. I'm not a natural tight end, so for me to be a good blocker, I have to work on that technique every day. The only way to do that is to practice in pads. As horrible as it is strapping up every day and banging heads, it's the only way for a guy like me to have a chance at blocking three-hundred- pound athletes. I have to knock the rust off quickly.