Dolphins, Browns unable to lure away coveted assistant

Updated: February 12, 2005, 10:28 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The New England Patriots have won the three-team tug-o'-war over Eric Mangini, who was arguably the most sought-after assistant coach in the league over the past week.

Despite better financial offers from both the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, Mangini will remain in New England and be promoted from secondary coach to defensive coordinator.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, playing at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in California, told CBS-TV on Saturday that Mangini was taking over for Crennel.

Mangini, 34, will replace Romeo Crennel, who, in his new role as Browns head coach, tried to hire him away from the Super Bowl champions. Mangini interviewed with the Browns on Friday and the Dolphins on Thursday.

"He's done a great job for us with the secondary," Belichick said. "(He has) big shoes to fill with Romeo, but Eric's a great young coach. He's been with me for a long time, he's done a great job for our football team for the last five years."

Miami coach Nick Saban reportedly offered Mangini a contract worth about $800,000 per year and the Browns' proposal was in the area of $700,000 annually. Mangini's deal with the Patriots is likely to be in the $500,000-$600,000 range, but there is also a loyalty factor involved.

In a statement released by the team, Mangini said he is thrilled to be staying with the Patriots.

"The Kraft family and Bill Belichick have treated me tremendously," he said. "This team and our players are a special group and mean a great deal to me. I look forward to putting this process behind and focusing on our offseason and the new challenges ahead."

Belichick brought Mangini into the NFL in 1995 as a coaching assistant with the old Cleveland Browns franchise (now the Baltimore Ravens). Mangini nearly left the Patriots last offseason, but rejected an opportunity to become the defensive coordinator in Oakland, eschewing a job that would have paid him nearly $1 million per year.

Instead, he signed a one-year extension with the Patriots, at a salary of $216,000. Since his contract was set to expire in two weeks, essentially making him a coaching free agent, Mangini was granted permission by the Patriots to interview in Miami and Cleveland.

It appeared earlier in the week that Mangini was leaning toward departing the Pats and two league sources told ESPN.com that he likely would not be back. But he rejected the Dolphins offer before leaving Miami on Thursday and, after careful deliberation, opted not to join close friend Crennel in Cleveland, either.

One advantage the Browns felt they had, beyond finances and Mangini's relationship with Crennel, is that Mangini is the brother-in-law of Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. Mangini also worked in the past with Phil Savage, the Browns' new general manager.

Despite losing starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole to injuries for much of the season, Mangini cobbled together a young secondary that permitted New England to rank as the No. 17 team in the league against the pass.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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