Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Very late Monday leftovers

Alexander Graham Bell first uttered the line. “When one door closes, “ he said, “another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Perhaps Eric Mangini should take heed. He might have lost his job as head coach of the Browns, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Perhaps as far as another head-coaching job in the National Football League it is, but certainly not on another level.

All Mangini has to do now that the Cleveland door has closed behind him is look toward home and notice another door has opened. A door of opportunity that should be much more satisfying and rewarding.

Home in this case is Connecticut, where Mangini was born, raised and schooled before heading out into the nasty world of professional football. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, Randy Edsall at the University of Connecticut resigned as football coach to accept the top job at the University of Maryland.

Edsall took a Division 1-AA program 11 years ago and elevated it to big-time status in Division 1, climaxed by an appearance at the Fiesta Bowl this year as co-champion of the Big East Conference. The Huskies didn’t win the game, but the invite enhanced Edsall’s reputation.

Mangini, unless he insists on holding out for another NFL job, would be a perfect fit with the Huskies. He’s young, bright, a good teacher and would step into a ready-made program. Edsall has set up a winning culture at Connecticut from which Mangini would benefit.

So instead of maybe feeling some regret over losing the Browns gig, perhaps he should cast a glance toward the northeast and that door that is wide open before someone, perhaps less qualified, sneaks in ahead of him. Time is a-wasting.

Mangini needs UConn as much as UConn needs him.

Don’t read too much into the Browns interviewing Perry Fewell for the head coaching vacancy. The move satisfies the requirements of the Rooney Rule. It does nothing more than mollify those who seek strict enforcement of the rule.

For the unwashed, the Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for vacant head coaching jobs and opportunities regarding high-level football operations. While it has enabled a few minority coaches to obtain such jobs, it is unfair to those candidates who must be interviewed because of the rule even though they have little or no chance of getting some of those jobs.

Fewell, the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator, falls into that category unless, of course, he blows away Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert Jr. and Randy Lerner during the interview process.

That’s what Mike Tomlin did with Pittsburgh. His hire surprised a lot of people who believed either Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm would get the job. Turns out the Rooney family made the correct decision.

It’s beginning to look as though the bluster that is Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be coaching elsewhere next season. Ryan certainly talks a big game – and makes certain you know it – when it comes to the accomplishments of his defense.

But after Sunday’s pulverizing by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan was conspicuously silent. The Steelers took apart his defense in an unmerciful manner after he boasted how well that defense has played this season.

It has played relatively well, but not nearly as well as Ryan boasted. He bragged last Friday that the Browns were seventh best in the NFL in points allowed. The Steelers’ 41-point onslaught dropped them to 13th, one point ahead of Miami.

Then be boasted about the club’s red-zone defense. Only 19 touchdowns in 43 forays inside the Cleveland 20-yard line. The Steelers drilled that total with four touchdowns in four trips. Sometimes, it’s best to keep one’s mouth shut.

CBS-TV color analyst Dan Fouts delivered an amusing and surprisingly candid remark during that network’s telecast of the game against the Steelers. When Mangini opted for a field goal on fourth and goal at the Pittsburgh 2 early in the second quarter and the Steelers leading, 14-0, Fouts couldn’t contain his disbelief.

“It’s the last game of the year, it’s against the Steelers and he’s going to kick a field goal??"!! he railed. “C’mon!!” He was incredulous that anything less than a play from scrimmage would be a sign of surrender, although that’s not what he said.

Apparently, Fouts hasn’t seen many Browns games throughout the season or else he would have dismissed the decision as just another Mangini gaffe. Browns fans have seen enough of that the last two seasons and become impervious to such blunders.

Interesting stats: The Steelers needed 62 snaps to put 41 points on the scoreboard Sunday. The Browns required 64 snaps to put up nine. . . . With 271 points, the Browns were the lowest scoring team in the AFC this season and the second lowest in the entire NFL. Only the hapless Carolina Panthers scored fewer points. . . . Rookie safety T.J. Ward led the Browns in tackles with 123, 95 of them solo. No one was even close to those numbers. . . . Linebacker David Bowens had only two interceptions, but both wound up as pick 6s when the Browns upset New Orleans in week 7. . . . Rookie cornerback Joe Haden, despite limited play early in the season, wound up with a team-leading six interceptions. . . . Peyton Hillis’ 1,177 yards on the ground is the most for a Browns running back since Jamal Lewis ran for 1,304 in 2007. Hillis also was the second-leading receiver with 61 catches. And his 13 touchdowns were the most since Braylon Edwards scored 16 in 2007. . . . Interestingly, the Browns wound up with a turnover ratio of just minus 1. Which means they entered the Steelers game at plus 2. Not bad for a five victory team. . . . Joshua Cribbs’ longest kickoff return this season was just 37 yards. Well, they paid the man and the man didn’t deliver. Sure, he was hurt. But he was healthy the first half of the season. He didn’t dislocate his toes until game 9 against the New York Jets.

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