SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Eric Mangini admits that when he joined the San Francisco 49ers this summer as an offensive consultant, he didn’t know what to expect.
A defensive-minded coach who had spent most of his life on the East Coast, Mangini was taking a leap at the age of 42 after two stints as an NFL head coach.
However, as the season winds down, there is no doubt the endeavor has been a personal success. After being fired in Cleveland following the 2010 season and then working as an analyst for ESPN, Mangini now appears completely relaxed and said he is enjoying himself immensely.
He had intended to get back into coaching, but he didn’t envision this avenue. It is not unusual for NFL teams to have consultants; several teams do, in a various areas. But Mangini’s situation is unique for a couple of reasons.
First, while his title is consultant, he is essentially an assistant coach. He is with the team every day. This is no part-time gig that requires Mangini to occasionally email in a report or two. He is all in with the 49ers.
Also, it turned some heads that Mangini – known for defense – was hired to help the offense. Give credit to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for thinking of Mangini and to Mangini for getting back into the NFL via an unconventional route.
Both Harbaugh and Mangini prefer not to go into the technical aspects of Mangini’s duties. But he definitely comes from a defensive mindset.
“We’re trying to see things from the defense’s perspective,” Mangini said. “Then we try to react from an offensive viewpoint. … It’s been an interesting approach.”
Mangini said the best part of the experience – aside from being part of a winning culture and a mild winter (this is the first time he’s lived west of Cleveland) – is what he is learning.
“It’s been great,” Mangini said. “It’s really unique. It’s been an interesting year.”
But it doesn’t necessarily mean Mangini is going to be one-and-done in San Francisco. There is a chance he will work in this role in the future, and he is open to it. While he’d love to be a head coach again, he knows he may have to go the coordinator route. He said he is open to working on the offensive side of the ball as well. He has enjoyed attacking the game from that perspective.
"I'm open to everything," he said.
Mangini said that being part of the challenge-review team from the booth has been enlightening as well. As a head coach, Mangini would wait for advice from the booth. Now he gives advice to Harbaugh (who is 2-of-8 on challenges this season). Mangini said it’s been interesting being on the other side of the conversation. Like it was when he was a head coach, though, all challenge decisions are ultimately made by the head coach.
Working with Harbaugh has been a highlight, Mangini said. He got to know Harbaugh through special-teams coach Brad Seely, who was on Mangini’s staff. Mangini loves how Harbaugh is a tried-and-true football man. Everyone at this level is, but Mangini said he is so impressed by just how important football is to Harbaugh.
“I can really talk a lot from this experience,” Mangini said. “Thinking from the offensive side and working under Jim has been great. It’s great to see how other people do things.”