BEREA, Ohio » As Eric Mangini packed picture frames and two years of football into boxes, Browns president Mike Holmgren was already looking for his replacement.
One day after another lost season, the search was under way in Cleveland for a new coach, the one who, as Holmgren put it, "can eventually some day lead us to the championship. That is my only goal."
Attention Jon Gruden, John Fox, Jim Harbaugh, Marty Mornhinweg, Brad Childress and others: Holmgren may have you on his list.
For now, though, Holmgren doesn’t have his own name on it. But that could change.
Granted a second season by Holmgren, Mangini was fired yesterday, dismissed less than two years after being hired by owner Randy Lerner, who was convinced he had found the next Bill Belichick. The Browns went 5-11 for the second straight season, and although they showed some significant progress under Mangini, it wasn’t enough.
During a morning meeting, only hours after an embarrassing 41-9 home loss to Pittsburgh, Holmgren thanked Mangini for his efforts. Then, he told him his time was up.
"It’s difficult," Holmgren said. "I’ve never had to do this before. I like the man a lot. But I want to win here. We want to win here. We did not win enough."
Holmgren did not reveal names of any potential candidates.
His search will not be limited to those with pro experience or ones favoring a West Coast offense. And, he doesn’t have a timetable to name Cleveland’s fifth coach since 1999. Money, he said, is no object.
Only weeks ago, Holmgren hinted about a return to coaching. He hasn’t ruled it out, but the 62-year-old with three Super Bowl visits on a sparkling 17-year Hall of Fame-worthy resume, insists he’s enjoying his executive role. Still, the bug hasn’t completely left, and Holmgren may coach again.
"I’ll always be a coach," he said. "Heck, people in the building call me Coach. To tell you right now that I would never coach again, whether it’s here or any place, that probably wouldn’t be honest. As of right now, I am the president of the Cleveland Browns and my job is to find the best coach available, the right coach for this job. That’s what I am trying to do and that does not include me right now.
"I probably won’t coach again, but I don’t want to lie to you — ever."
Vikings remove Frazier’s interim tag
Touting Leslie Frazier’s communication style, crisis management skills and credibility with players, the Minnesota Vikings decided to strip the interim tag from the former NFL cornerback and make him their head coach.
Frazier stressed a team-first mentality yesterday, and a belief that "it’s only a matter of time" before the championship-deprived franchise wins a Super Bowl.
He vowed a thorough examination of the roster, the staff and the scheme on both sides of the ball to get the Vikings back to the playoffs, following a dramatic 6-10 failure that came after an NFC runner-up finish the season before.
The Vikings started 3-7 before Frazier took over Nov. 22 for the fired Brad Childress. They went 3-3 under the 51-year-old longtime assistant coach the rest of the way.
"I think we’ll be able to look back at these last six weeks and say, ‘You know what? That was the beginning of something special," Frazier said yesterday during his introductory news conference at Winter Park.
Jaguars retain Del Rio
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio’s job is safe for another year. His role as defensive play-caller is over, though.
Team owner Wayne Weaver talked with about 10 players yesterday, then had a lengthy meeting with Del Rio. Del Rio explained what went wrong this season and outlined a plan to fix things. Weaver responded by asking Del Rio to give up control of the defense.
Weaver also made it clear Del Rio needs to make the postseason in 2011 to keep his job.
"If we’re not in the playoffs, it’s pretty apparent we’ll have a different coach," Weaver said.
Only Philadelphia’s Andy Reid, Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher and New England’s Bill Belichick have been with their NFL teams longer than Del Rio. All of them have made the Super Bowl. Del Rio, meanwhile, has two postseason appearances and one playoff victory.
Del Rio, 66-65 with the Jaguars, is the first coach since the NFL merger in 1970 to lead the same team for eight years without winning a division title.
Texans keep Kubiak
The Houston Texans are sticking with coach Gary Kubiak.
The Texans said yesterday that Kubiak will return next season, despite another lackluster year that ended without a playoff berth.
But the team made wholesale defensive staff changes, firing coordinator Frank Bush, secondary coach David Gibbs, linebackers coach Johnny Holland and assistant linebackers coach Robert Saleh. The Texans (6-10) lost eight of their last 10 games, mostly due to a defense that gave up a league-high 4,280 yards passing along with 33 touchdown passes, tied with Dallas for the most.
The Texans are 37-43 in Kubiak’s five seasons.