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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Browns hire away Davidson

While the Patriots were buoyed by word that Eric Mangini and Scott Pioli were staying with the organization after turning down more lucrative offers to go elsewhere, assistant offensive line/tight ends coach Jeff Davidson opted for a change yesterday when he accepted a position as offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns.

Davidson, 37, was thought to be a candidate for the job of offensive coordinator in New England, which opened when Charlie Weis became head coach at Notre Dame. But that wasn't in the cards, and the logical candidate now appears to be Dante Scarnecchia, the assistant head coach/offensive line coach.

Davidson, a native of Akron, Ohio, returns home to join the staff of Romeo Crennel, the former Patriots defensive coordinator who became the Browns head coach last week. The Patriots have also lost assistant director of pro scouting Keith Kidd, who resigned last week, and chief operating officer Andy Wasynczuk, who took a position at Harvard Business School.

The Browns also made a player move when they released quarterback Jeff Garcia, who had three years remaining on his contract. Garcia appeared in 11 games last season, starting 10, and compiled a rating of 76.7 as the Brown struggled to a 4-12 record. His release will be effective Feb. 22.

Davidson has 10 years of NFL coaching experience, the last eight with the Patriots. He was one of the few assistants Bill Belichick had retained from Pete Carroll's staff.

"This is a dream come true for me," said Davidson. "Romeo Crennel is an excellent coach and a terrific person and I have always wanted to coach the offensive line. I also grew up a Browns fan and this is a move that brings me home. When I visited last week, I was struck by the family atmosphere that [general manager] Phil [Savage] and Coach Crennel are creating and I know they are dedicated to building a winning organization."

"Jeff will certainly help us develop our offensive line with his detail-oriented approach and tremendous work ethic," Crennel said. "He thoroughly understands the intricacies of the running game and pass protection and shares the same offensive philosophy as [offensive coordinator] Maurice [Carthon] and I."

Pioli, meanwhile, turned down a five-year, $15 million offer from the Seahawks to become president of football operations, according to ESPN.com.

Pioli had said all along that he would fulfill his contract with the Patriots, which has another year to run, but when the Seahawks called last week after receiving permission from Patriots ownership, Pioli listened long enough to receive what apparently was a lucrative offer.

Now New Orleans GM Rick Mueller appears to be the front-runner for the Seattle job.

More from Mitchell

Freddie Mitchell wasn't shy about sharing his opinions about the Patriots prior to the Super Bowl, and it doesn't appear as if he's not going to stay quiet. Mitchell, made famous for his pronouncements that the he didn't know the Patriots' cornerbacks and that he "had something" for safety Rodney Harrison, still thinks the Philadelphia Eagles are the "better team." In the "Monday Morning Quarterback" column posted on SI.com, Peter King asked the wide receiver, "If you played this Patriot team 10 times, how many times do you figure the Eagles would win?" "Eight times," said Mitchell. "To me, the Patriots are not that good. We turn it over four times, and still they only beat us by three. We're the better team . . . A good team crushes that Patriot team. I'm telling you, they're not that good . . . they're a well-coached team. But we'll see how good a coach Bill Belichick is after he loses those two coordinators." After calling King back to make sure he knew exactly what Belichick said when the Patriots coach called Mitchell "terrible . . . we loved when he was in the game," Mitchell responded, "Oh, I see. It takes a big man to talk after the game. Why didn't he say anything before the game? That shows what kind of guy he is."

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