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CLEVELAND – Eric Mangini was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Cleveland Browns Monday.

He was dismissed during a Monday morning meeting with team president Mike Holmgren, the club said.

“My goal is to find the right person for the head coach of the Cleveland Browns who will one day lead us to a championship,” Holmgren said in a news conference.

Browns rookies and veterans reacted to the news. Quarterback Colt McCoy said Mangini had been great to him.

“I’m disappointed. I love coach Mangini and I love the staff here. They have been great to me. The NFL is about wins and losses. we have to turn around and find a way to win games,” McCoy said.

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“Losing is not acceptable. Coach Mangini is a great coach. He taught me a lot about the game. It just didn’t work out,” cornerback Sheldon Brown said.

The Browns released the following statements:

“This decision was not easy for me, and it was one into which I put a great deal of thought,” said Browns President Mike Holmgren. “Although we have made improvements this season, my responsibility is to ensure that we establish a program that will allow this team to compete at a championship level. That will continue to be our goal in everything we do. I want to thank Eric for all of his contributions to the Cleveland Browns, and wish him and his family the best of luck in the future.”

 “The experience coaching the Cleveland Browns the past two years has been tremendous,” Mangini said. “I appreciate the opportunity that the Lerner family gave me. I have a deep respect for the players that I have coached the past two years and how they have made a profound difference in changing the culture – a tougher, smarter, more competitive, selfless team that never gave up. Our goal was to build a team for long term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal, and have provided a strong identity for this football team and have helped to create a positive foundation upon which the organization can continue to build.

 “I feel strongly that the Cleveland Browns are headed in a very positive direction and greatly value the commitment and exceptional efforts of the coaches, players and everyone in the building that I’ve worked with in trying to help achieve our goals. My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed living in the Cleveland community and appreciate the support and passion of the fans. I know Mike and Tom are also dedicated to building a championship caliber organization and wish them nothing but success.”

Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and team president Mike Holmgren arrived at Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea before 9 a.m. NewsChannel5 reported that coach  Mangini was already in the building.

If Holmgren doesn’t take over as coach, he’ll have a stellar list of potential candidates to pursue, including ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, former Carolina head coach John Fox and Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. All three have ties to Holmgren. Also on the short list are former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, former Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Mel Tucker, former Browns defensive coordinator.

Browns fans had mixed reaction to the news. One man said with that record, Mangini had to go. Another woman said he needed more time to develop the team.

If Holmgren hadn’t already made up his mind about Mangini’s future, the lopsided loss to the rival Steelers may have pushed him over the edge. It was the Browns’ worst performance this season — by far — and in its aftermath it was almost impossible to recall Cleveland’s gains in Mangini’s second year.

“No one wants to finish a season that way,” offensive guard Eric Steinbach said.

In the locker room afterward, Mangini somberly thanked his players for their effort.

“He told everybody he loved them,” said wide receiver Joshua Cribbs. “He said just what a head coach is supposed to say. We went out there and played for him throughout the year. We tried to do what he asked us to do. He was appreciative of the opportunity that we gave him.”

Although the Browns made some statistical improvements across the board, they failed to build on the momentum created by mid-season upsets of New Orleans and New England. Cleveland staggered to a 2-6 finish, losing at Buffalo and Cincinnati in that stretch — when the Bills and Bengals had just two wins.

The Browns closed with four straight losses, one year after a season-ending four-game winning streak helped Mangini get another year.

Cleveland was much more competitive this season than last. The Browns had 12 games decided by 10 points or less, but they went just 3-9 in those. And, in a bottom-line business where record means everything, the bottom line isn’t good for Mangini.

Cribbs feels Mangini did all he could, and that Cleveland’s players should be accountable.

“One man can only do so much,” he said. “You’re asking one man in two years to turn around a football

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