Eric Mangini completed his rise from Browns ball boy and public relations intern Wednesday, when he reached agreement on a contract to become the team's fourth coach since 1999.
Mangini went 23-25 with the New York Jets, including a 10-6 playoff season in his first year in 2006. In 2008, the Jets started 8-3 but finished 9-7 as quarterback Brett Favre faded down the stretch.
Mangini, who turns 38 on Jan. 19, was the first person Lerner interviewed after firing coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage after a 4-12 season and 24-40 record over four years.
''I'm excited for him,'' Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said of Mangini, his brother-in-law. ''He's an extremely intelligent, creative and driven guy. He will increase the Browns' chances to be a championship team again.
''On a personal level this is the first time in 18 years in Cleveland that I will have family here and that would be a reason for other family members to come to visit.''
Terms of Mangini's contract were not disclosed. He will be introduced at a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
A protege of former Browns coach Bill Belichick and a graduate of Belichick's alma mater Wesleyan University, Mangini worked with Belichick for 10 years, including one in Cleveland (1995) and three with the Jets when Belichick was assistant head coach under Bill Parcells.
Mangini spent six years in New England, the last as defensive coordinator succeeding Crennel. But Mangini and Belichick are no longer speaking after Mangini allegedly blew the whistle on the Patriots' illegal taping of defensive signals in the 2007 ''Spygate'' controversy.
Cleveland.com reported that Mangini is contacting members of his Jets staff he wants to bring with him, including quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll and receivers coach Noel Mazzone. According to the New York Daily News, Mangini also wants to hire offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. But the former Oakland Raiders and Nebraska coach remains under contract and was recently interviewed for the Jets coaching vacancy.
Mangini could also consider keeping Crennel on as an assistant since they worked together for seven years with the Jets and Patriots.
Also interviewed for the Browns' coaching position were Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. But Lerner preferred a coach with prior experience in the top job and none of them filled that bill. Lerner was also rebuffed by former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, a CBS analyst who intends to sit out for a third season.
Mangini came to the Browns in 1994 and was promoted to coaches assistant in 1995. He worked one season in Baltimore as an offensive assistant before rejoining Belichick in 1997.
Lerner must wait until Sunday to interview Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis, a close friend of Mangini and his suggested candidate for general manager.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Browns also received permission to talk to Eagles general manager Tom Heckert. Heckert, 41, has been a general manager for three years and with the Eagles for eight. His father Tom was a Browns scout from 1982-86.
Although Heckert does not have final say over the 53-man roster, with that power held by coach Andy Reid, he seems more qualified than Kokinis. But lining up a possible interview with Heckert may only be a fall-back plan by Lerner if his session with Kokinis does not go well or if Lerner does not want to give Mangini the luxury of selecting his own general manager.
The hiring of Mangini means the end to Lerner's courting of New England vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli. After interviewing in Kansas City Monday, it appears Pioli will remain in New England.