Defending the Eric Mangini hire

Rick Stewart

The Eric Mangini hire has been receiving some flack - unwarranted flack, I say.

I've been a fan of the Eric Mangini-49ers connection since the rumor mill started churning out their rumors. Once the man was actually hired, I was pretty excited. I felt like this was a smart guy who knows a lot of things about a how offenses attack defenses, and conversely, how defensive minds think about upcoming offenses.

This last point is an important one - and it's a point that I think has been ignored a bit recently. Mangini knows what it's like to defend against creative offenses. He has probably had to answer the question "what can the opposing offense do that I would hate?" hundreds of times. Getting to ask that question, but in the context of helping the offense do things that defensive coordinators will hating, will be new for Mangini, yes, but I think it will help this offensive staff. I'm excited about that potential.

But it seems like quite a few people have been down on the whole deal. The opponents of the deal fear that he was always under the wings of a smarter mind when a coordinator, that he couldn't win as a head coach, and that he is now just a washed-up talking head.

While I will acknowledge that the potential for all these concerns is clearly there, I don't think they will prove to be fruitful concerns - particularly the last concern. I highly doubt that being in sports media has robbed Mangini of any talent he may have had before. I am also highly suspicious that the first possibility is true. I don't think that Mangini's success solely comes from people smarter than him under whom he worked. I mean, wouldn't these smart people realize they had such a dumbo in their midst?

No, the real concern in my mind is that Mangini was never successful when he tried to take the reins himself. This is the only major evidence we have of his deficiency as a coach. But, our anxious, fan minds should be allayed by two points. First, Mr. Mangini won't be a head coach here. I am pretty sure that post is already taken. He can fall back into a role with which he is more familiar. And second, there is a difference between being a guy who can come up with smart ideas and a guy who can implement them.

A head coach, clearly, has to do both. Coordinators have to do both (and depending upon the team, maybe even more so than the head coach). It looks like a lot of Mangini's problems as a head coach weren't the result of bad ideas, but a failure on his part to successfully implement them. He avoids that problem with the 49ers.

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