Browns president Mike Holmgren said he is still laying the foundation of his relationship with coach Eric Mangini, whom he elected to keep for a second season.
But Holmgren still seems to feel the need to defend that decision to the national media. That seemed the underlying vibe when a few members of the national media caught Holmgren in the hallway of Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Holmgren seemed to hint that he went against what he'd planned to do when he arrived in Cleveland in December.
''There was a certain feeling when I came about what I should do,'' Holmgren said. ''But the more I got to know Eric I thought, 'Hey, there's a good coach here.' Honestly he reminds me a little of myself when I first started. And every day has gotten better. He's gotten more relaxed with me. We talk every day.
''I want him to know I'm not going to coach the team, but I also want him to know I'm there if he wants to bounce things off of me, ask questions, and we have done that. That's exactly how we've operated.
''I'm still a coach even though I have this fancy title.''
Holmgren insisted he will not force Mangini to run his schemes, presumably the West Coach offense.
''No, I won't ask him to inherit my system,'' Holmgren said. ''We will have conversations, but it's his team. He's willing to listen to my experiences and that's a big thing. It was a big thing of our early conversations. That's all I can ask that he's willing to listen, but I'm not going to jam anything down his throat.''
Holmgren seemed enthused about how things are working out with himself, Mangini and new general manager Tom Heckert Jr., who spent the last nine years in Philadelphia.
''We have good guys,'' Holmgren said. ''They're team players and they're very very good at their jobs. If it works as well as it worked with (former Packers general manager) Ron (Wolf) and me, then great. If it can just be a little like that with Eric, it would be a good thing.''
Asked whether he's picked Mangini's brain about the New England Patriots system, Holmgren said, ''To be honest, I don't talk a lot about that system. Clearly they've won Super Bowls, so they're doing a lot of things very, very well. (Mangini) believes in the system, he brought some ideas. We talk about philosophy, how to run a practice, time off, communicating, smiling more, all sorts of stuff.
''Once we kind of laid the real foundation, which will take some more time, then we get into the nuts and bolts of 'OK, why are we doing this and how are we doing this?'''
Of Mangini, Holmgren said, ''I can't emphasize enough, he's fine, he's a good coach. But look, I've been doing it a long time. He knows this stuff. I'm going to toss him some stuff and if he likes it ....''
Asked how his effort to get Mangini to smile more was coming along, Holmgren said, ''He's doing great. I saw him on the plane yesterday, he was smiling like crazy.''