Did Mangini, Morris Save Their Jobs?
Except that the Bucs then went out and won their second straight game, 20-17 in overtime in New Orleans, over a team that until last week was unbeaten. And the Browns won their third straight, beating Oakland for their fourth victory of the season.
At least Holmgren is a football man who will make the right choice for the right reasons. The Glazer family, owners of the Bucs, know so little about football that it took them six years to figure out that the Super Bowl they won after the 2002 season was the work of Tony Dungy and Rich McKay, not Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen, who they fired a year ago.
Hey guys, if you're gonna clean house for a baby coach, at least give him some time to learn.
Of course, the main item on this strange Sunday was whether Indianapolis should have pulled Peyton Manning and a phalanx of other starters in the third quarter, while leading the Jets 15-10 at halftime. The Colts ended up losing 29-15, ending their shot at an unbeaten season and easing New York's path to the playoffs, something the Colts do annually for someone after they've wrapped up everything. "Company policy'' would be the best way to put it, even if it happened to spoil an unbeaten season and league-record 23-game regular-season winning streak.
What first-year coach Jim Caldwell did (following the policy of team president Bill Polian and Dungy, the coach emeritus), will be debated for awhile. But it will go away. If the Colts win the Super Bowl, it will be mission accomplished. If they lose in the playoffs, it won't matter anyway.
What matters more in central Florida and northern Ohio -- at least for the short haul -- are the futures of Morris and Mangini.
Morris was hired a year ago along with GM Mark Dominik, They cleared out all the aging remnants (except Ronde Barber) from Tampa Bay's 2002-03 Super Bowl team put together by Dungy. It won a title the year after he was fired with a lot of help from Monte Kiffin, the defensive coordinator who left a year ago to join his son Lane at Tennessee. Then after experimenting with Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson at quarterback, the Buccaneers went with Josh Freeman, the third of the first-round rookies after Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. Freeman has a huge upside and a huge downside -- and what we've seen is mostly the downside, not unexpected in a rookie.
The win over the Saints was the first time a team 10 or more games under .500 had ever beaten a team 10 or more games over .500. Morris acknowledged afterwards that he was still in the process of learning about being a head coach. "It wasn't a learning process for me today, but it may have been for you guys,'' he said. Of the players, he said: "They're starting to get there. They like winning. They found that out last week."
Mangini is another story.
He had some success with the Jets, then was fired following last season's slide from an 8-3 start to a 9-7 finish, due in part to the team signing Brett Favre, and Favre playing the end of the season with a shoulder injury. The Jets players didn't mourn when Mangini left and the Browns probably won't if he's fired in Cleveland -- he operates his team like it's a high-school squad with laps for mistakes and long practices. That's the opposite of Holmgren's coaching approach.
But they're starting to win -- or at least get competitive. And Holmgren needs someone who knows the AFC. Mangini? He could do worse.
This Sunday will always be remembered as the day the Colts tanked an unbeaten season.
But it might also be the Sunday when the Bucs and Browns turned things around, At least in central Florida and northeastern Ohio, that will be a pretty prominent asterisk.