Reg. season: 23-26
Lerner has set up an interview for Wednesday with Scott Pioli, New England's vice president of player personnel, the person said.
"Rich has had some casual conversations -- I don't think with Randy, but with someone else in their organization -- but there have been no discussions on a face-to-face basis," Blank said. "We think Rich is an important part of the success of the franchise. He's responsible for all the business side of our operations, helps (GM) Thomas (Dimitroff) tremendously with the salary cap and all of the (contract) negotiations, and he's responsible for helping us as we go on a journey for a new stadium and a whole variety of other things.
"We're hopeful Rich will stay in Atlanta and we certainly believe that, but on the other hand, we have to let the process take its course."
Lerner wants to interview as many candidates as quickly as possible because he's competing with several other teams.
Pioli and Mangini both began their NFL careers in Cleveland under coach Bill Belichick and spent several seasons together with the Patriots.
The Browns are in complete rebuilding mode after coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage were fired following a 4-12 season that began with playoff expectations coming off a 10-win season in 2007.
Mangini has ties to the Cleveland area. He is the brother-in-law of Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro.
Lerner began his search hoping to lure former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher to Cleveland. But during a meeting in New York on Saturday, Cowher told Lerner he had no plans to coach in 2009 and wanted his name removed from the list of candidates.
Lerner, who lives on Long Island, is trying to schedule meetings with other coaching candidates, including New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who played college ball at John Carroll in Cleveland.
A Mangini-Pioli reunion in Cleveland would be interesting. The Belichick disciples worked closely in New England, where they were part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. But their relationship was tested after the infamous "Spygate" episode when Mangini accused the Patriots of videotaping the Jets' defensive signals during the 2007 season opener.
Lerner wants to make sure they've patched up any differences before moving forward.
Mangini's hiring could also lead to Crennel staying with the Browns, perhaps as defensive coordinator. Crennel told Lerner he was open to staying, depending on who was brought in to replace him. Crennel and Mangini worked as defensive assistants on Belichick's staff in New England from 2001-2004. When Crennel took the Cleveland job in 2005, Mangini replaced him as Belichick's coordinator.
Mangini took over a 4-12 team in 2006 and led the Jets to a 10-6 record as a rookie, a turnaround that earned him the nickname "Mangenius" from the New York tabloids. But there was little love after the Jets went 4-12 last year, and in recent weeks Jets fans often aimed their frustration at Mangini.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press