Eric Mangini is looking forward to working his first game at FirstEnergy Stadium since being dismissed as the Cleveland Browns head coach in 2010.
Not for the typical revenge narrative, but instead because he genuinely enjoyed his time in Northeast Ohio.
"I love Cleveland," Mangini said on Thursday. "It gets a bad rap. I thought it was a great, great place to live and a great place to raise a family. I loved the people that we met there.
"My biggest disappointment was not being able to produce the winner that they deserve there."
Mangini finished with a 5-11 record both seasons he was at helm in Cleveland. Afterwards, he spent a couple years as an analyst for ESPN. He only returned to the coaching ranks in 2013 when a unique opportunity presented itself with the 49ers.
San Francisco hired Mangini as an offensive consultant and later tight ends coach – his first position on that side of the ball since 1996.
"It was a chance for me to get out of my comfort zone and another chance for me to grow," Mangini said. "Let me experience some other things that I haven't done to try to grow as a person and as a coach."
Mangini, of course, has since returned to his roots as Jim Tomsula's defensive coordinator. He will now lead that group against his former employer on Sunday.
The 49ers defense is coming off back-to-back strong outings, first limiting the high-powered Arizona Cardinals to 19 points and then holding the Chicago Bears to 20 points in an overtime win that included a Jimmie Ward pick-six.
This week, Mangini's squad could feature as many as six, first-year 49ers starters: Mike Purcell, Quinton Dial, Aaron Lynch, Kenneth Acker, Jaquiski Tartt and Gerald Hodges if Michael Wilhoite (ankle) is unable to go.
"There is a learning curve for everybody involved," Mangini said. "There's been some times where we obviously didn't match the intensity that we should have of our opponent.
"I do think the growth especially of younger players helps a lot with that. And we've got a lot of new faces… It's a lot of new people coming together in a situation where everybody has to see things as one."