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Associated Press, Published September 13 2009

Favre reunites with Mangini

CLEVELAND – Their relationship, or so they both say, runs much deeper than the typical player/head coach union. Eric Mangini and Brett Favre, who spent one tumultuous, headline-making season together in New York before a high-profile breakup, have a special bond.

They insist they’re close. Still.

“I consider him a friend,” Mangini said.

In fact, Mangini has always been a huge Favre fan. Before he coached No. 4 with the Jets, Cleveland’s first-year coach promised the iconic quarterback he would name his youngest son after him. Zack Brett Mangini was born last Oct. 10 – Favre’s 39th birthday.

“Stranger than fiction,” Mangini said.

Freaky, too, that their paths are about to cross again.

Today, Mangini will make his coaching debut for the Browns against Favre, who ended his latest whirlwind summer romance – and second retirement – by signing a two-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings, a decision that stunk worse than limburger to Green Bay’s devoted Cheeseheads.

Favre will square off with Mangini, his ex-coach who had the Jets in position to make the AFC playoffs last season before they nose-dived down the stretch with a 1-4 slide that many blamed on Favre’s arm injury.

Playing despite a torn biceps tendon, Favre threw nine interceptions in New York’s final five games. His ineptitude cost the Jets a postseason berth and led directly to Mangini being fired.

Favre was asked if he feels he cost Mangini his first head coaching job.

“I would surely hope not,” said Favre, entering his 19th season as a pro. “I thought Eric did a great job. We went from four wins to nine wins, and at one point people were considering us one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the AFC.”

As the season progressed, there were reports the headstrong Favre wasn’t happy with Mangini’s obsessive game-planning. A freewheeler who has always found ways to improvise on the field, Favre didn’t find it necessary to spend hours watching video of opponents.

Maybe time and a new team has given Favre a different perspective on Mangini. This week, he was effusive in his praise for the coach who went from “Mangenius” when he led the Jets to the playoffs in 2006 to “Canned-gini” when he was shown the door after last season.

Mangini has spent the past week scheming for Favre, whom he says still possesses one of the game’s elite throwing arms.

There’s irony in Favre and Mangini meeting so soon after they parted, and their presence certainly spices up an otherwise bland matchup. But Favre doesn’t find it strange his first game in purple and gold will come against a friend who is now a foe.

“It’s still football,” he said. “The bottom line is you still have to put the uniform on and play people who are chasing you. All that stuff doesn’t matter when you line up and play. I don’t think it will be that awkward.”