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Belichick not ready to forgive Mangini….




Eric Mangini unabashedly admits the “tremendous influence” Bill Belichick has had “on all aspects of my development.” Certainly the apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree. They teach the same things in the very same language.

Off the field and outside the meeting rooms is where the mentor and protege walk different paths. Their divergent personalities were on display Wednesday in separate interviews with both coaches in Cleveland and Foxboro, Mass., on Wednesday.

Mangini honored the New England coach with superlatives, talked earnestly about some day restoring their tattered relationship and joked about the media’s obsession with their melodramatic post-game handshakes.

Belichick came across in his conference call as typically sullen and unrelentlingly focused on preparing for the Browns, on which he lavished praise as a tough and solid football team. He adamantly refused to be drawn into conversation about the dust-ups with Mangini while the latter coached the New York Jets, New England’s fiercest rival.

Asked to describe their relationship today, Belichick said, “Today we’re both coaching teams that are gonna play on Sunday.”

Three other times reporters approached the subject from different angles. Each time, the response was almost the same.

“There’s really no difference between this game and any other game,” Belichick said. “It’s one football team playing another one. I’m gonna do the best I can to coach our team the best I can this week, same as I did last week, same as I’ll do next week.”

Mangini would not reveal his innermost feelings about matching wits against his mentor, either. With the Jets, Mangini had two wins and five losses against the man who taught him everything about football and the NFL.

“No, I don’t think so,” receiver Chansi Stuckey said of detecting any noticeable body language in Mangini this week. “I think he’s approaching it the same way as every other week. I was looking for something like that as well. Definitely, you know it’s a little more on the line this week playing the Patriots. It’s up to us to make him right.”

“Being able to see his work ethic, his complete knowledge of all three phases, the attention to detail … that left a lasting impression,” he said.

He also remarked about Belichick’s commitment to winning and his unique ability to make unpopular decisions that are always the right decisions. You think of Belichick firing Bernie Kosar, benching Drew Bledsoe, waiving Lawyer Milloy and trading Randy Moss, and you can’t help but not think of Mangini trading Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, and benching Jerome Harrison.

Mangini talked of the lesson he learned in developing players without high-draft round pedigree, of giving smart players with good work ethic the tools to become “really good players.” Belichick has gotten big contributions this year from unheralded BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Mangini has done the same with Evan Moore, Marcus Benard, and others.

He talked of Belichick’s ability to withstand criticism.

“I think the important thing is you have to know what you stand for, know what you believe in, and have conviction,” Mangini said.

They are much alike as football coaches and once were such close friends that Mangini gave his second son Luke the middle name of William to honor Belichick. But they are distant now, just two hard-driven coaches trying to outdo the other on Sunday.

“I’d say never say never,” Mangini said of some day sharing a laugh again with Belichick. “Obviously he was very important to me, and I respect him. Very important to my family, all those things. We’ll see. Time will tell.”

Belchick did throw out one compliment of Mangini. He was asked a question about succeeding as a head coach in his second job and how Mangini is trying to do the same. Belichick explained that every situation is different. But at the end of his answer, he volunteered, “I think he’s doing a very good job.”

Could it be a thaw in the cold war? Or was he softening his opponent? With Belchick, you just never know.

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