FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)- The Patriots new defensive coordinator is just two years older than safety Rodney Harrison.

Eric Mangini is in his 11th season on an NFL coaching staff, though, and that experience enabled him to jump, at the age of 34, into the coordinator’s spot vacated when Romeo Crennel became head coach of Cleveland after New England won last season’s Super Bowl.

“We don’t look at Eric as just a young guy,” Harrison said. “We have a lot of respect for Eric. He communicates well with the players, and, more importantly, he’s a good guy, a hardworking guy.”

In a meeting with reporters Tuesday – something coach Bill Belichick rarely allows for his assistants – Mangini discussed his promotion after five years as the team’s secondary coach.

“Any time you add a new person to the mix, you’re going to get differences just because each coordinator, each person that’s calling the plays, has their own fingerprint and their own way of doing things,” Mangini said. “There will be some things that look a lot different.”

There also will be many similarities since he worked under Crennel for the last four seasons.

“I definitely looked at Romeo, but it wasn’t just this year. It was over the course of our experience together,” said Mangini who, like Belichick, attended Wesleyan University, “and being with Bill in New York and seeing the way that he did things, I’ve been with a lot of really good teachers, a lot of really good coaches over my career.”

From 1997 to 1999, Mangini was a defensive assistant with the Jets while Belichick was assistant head coach and secondary coach.

Now Mangini is the main defensive coach and must cope with the loss of two linebackers.

Tedy Bruschi said he’ll take the season off after suffering a mild stroke and Ted Johnson retired.

But as secondary coach last season, Mangini coped with the loss for most of the season of starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole to injuries.

“Each year we’ve lost guys,” Mangini said. “We just have to adjust to the transition and that’s what we’re doing.”

The fact that Mangini has been with the Patriots for five seasons “made the transition a lot smoother,” Harrison said. “Guys know Eric as opposed to an outside guy coming in.”

Mangini is taking over for a coordinator who did his job so well that the Patriots won three of the last four Super Bowls.

“I think whether we were Super Bowl champs or not Super Bowl champs, anytime you have a position where you are calling the plays and making decisions, there’s obviously heightened pressure,” he said. “It’s like starting any new process, learning the best way to do things.”

AP-ES-08-30-05 2004EDT


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