The Mangini's opened their home to the Crennel's in 2001
Eric Mangini won't panic if he has trouble finding a hotel room this weekend in Cleveland. If the situation arises, Browns head coach Romeo Crennel will undoubtedly open up his home to the rookie head coach, returning a favor in the process.
"My wife and I were houseguests with him," Crennel said on his conference call Wednesday. "The second time I was in New England, the house was under construction that we purchased. We were not going to be able to get into it for a little bit and I talked to Eric about having to live in a hotel. He said, 'no, don't do that. Come stay with us.'"
So they did. Crennel and his wife Rosemary lived with the Mangini's for somewhere between four and five months as their home was being finished.
"It was nice to be able to have a place to go that wasn't a hotel, and then be able to live with people you enjoy being with," said Crennel or the Mangini's. "Both Eric and Julie are enjoyable people, so I thought it was very gracious that he would offer his house. We were able to get along so well; it was a very good experience."
"We had a guest room. We only had one child at that point, so he lucked out," joked Mangini. "He was excellent. He always brought wine and snacks. Well, more snacks than wine."
That experience made a lasting impact. Aside from the two defensive coaches spending countless hours together at work, the friendship they formed during those months fashioned a bond that is strong to this day.
The cordial hospitality Mangini offered the Crennel's wasn't the only thing in which the visitor saw in the young coach from Hartford. Mangini's sharp personality and tireless work ethic caught Crennel's attention earlier in their careers, when the two partnered up for the first time with the Jets from 1997-1999. While Mangini was a defensive quality control coach, Crennel coached the defensive line, meaning the two were inseparable.
"With Eric you saw right away his work ethic and knew he would work however long it took," said the second-year Browns head coach. "I saw that at the Jets when we were there."
Mangini watched Crennel and he listened when he talked of the next task being the most important.
"He'd always say the next game is the most important game," Mangini remembered Wednesday. "I can hear him say it; I've heard him say it 1,000 times. I'm sure he's saying it now, 'this is the most important game, fellas, because it's the next game.'"
The two then reassembled in New England and Crennel's appreciation of Mangini's work only grew when Mangini assumed the role of defensive backs coach under Crennel – who was appointed defensive coordinator.
"When we were in New England and he was dealing with some of the egos you have to deal with in the defensive backfield. Being able to get those guys to play at a high level, being able to develop young players - that gave you an indication that he was going to be able to deal with players," Crennel said. "Then being in the meeting room with him when we were doing game plans, ideas, adjustments and things like that, you knew he was sharp."
When Crennel left New England in 2005 to join the Browns, he tried to lure Mangini to return to Cleveland this time, as his defensive coordinator.
"I tried really hard; I thought I had him for a minute," Crennel said. "But Belichick had the chance to talk to him last. Somebody told me at one time that if somebody can talk you into something, somebody can talk you out of it. Belichick talked better than I did."
The Patriots head coach also had something Crennel did not. It was Belichick who first gave Mangini a job coaching in the NFL and Crennel knew that such an attachment was difficult to separate.
"He has had a long relationship with Belichick also because Belichick gave him his first opportunity in the NFL," said Crennel. "Those ties are strong."
Following a season with the Patriots, Mangini was hired as the Jets' 14th full-time head coach in January. He will lead the Green & White Sunday against Crennel, a coaching colleague, a former roommate and mentor and life-long friend.
"I think we're competitors and when you compete, whoever you compete against is kind of like the enemy during that competition," Crennel said. "But before the competition and after the competition is over, we're still friends and we'll always be friends. It would be better if we didn't compete against each other because somebody is going to have to lose. I don't think either of us want to lose and I don't want Eric to lose either. But somebody is going to lose; that's the tough part. If we could go through the season and not to have compete against each other, then we could pull together on all the games."
Notes:Matt Chatham, who played linebacker under Crennel in New England, has seen both the Browns head coach and Mangini evolve into the coaches they are today. "(Crennel) is just kind of that grandfatherly figure – just a real respected guy who knows so much about the game and you want to do well for him," he said. "The things he does as a coach translates well to success." Even though Crennel has over twenty years of coaching experience on Mangini, Chatham sees striking resemblances between the two. "They're different kinds of guys but I think that at the heart of it, they're both very knowledgeable of the game," said the Jets special teams co-captain. "Not so much rah-rah guys, but guys that really know the intricacies."
Wednesday Injury ReportJets
Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), WR Tim Dwight (thigh), RB Cedric Houston (knee), & OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Probable:*RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *DL Bobby Hamilton (knee), *LB Brad Kassell (thigh), *OL Pete Kendall (thigh), *CB Justin Miller (hip), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *S Kerry Rhodes (thigh), *DL Dewayne Robertson (hand), *WR Brad Smith (thigh) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (knee)
Browns Questionable:CB Leigh Bodden (ankle), *S Justin Hamilton (ankle), WR Dennis Northcutt (ribs), *S Brodney Pool (hamstring), S Brian Russell (ankle), T Ryan Tucker (illness), *TE Kellen Winslow (knee)
*Denotes players who participated in practice