July 25, 2014

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Browns notes: Finish may end Mangini

Life in the NFL is volatile.

Browns coach Eric Mangini knows as well as anyone.

He was dubbed Mangenius in his first year with the Jets, but was fired after three years, despite two winning seasons and a playoff appearance in his first head coaching job.

This season, the Browns have experienced giant momentum swings almost weekly. And Mangini’s job security seems to rise and fall in unison.

Mangini was riding high after convincing wins over New Orleans and New England — neither of whom has lost since — but dipped with tough losses to the Jets and Jacksonville.

He rebounded with consecutive narrow wins against Carolina and Miami, only to lose to the last-place Bills on Sunday without scoring a touchdown. It was the worst loss of the season and negated some of the goodwill gained in earlier close losses.

Only a week ago, Mangini seemed likely to return for a third season after matching 2009’s win total (five) with four games left. But after dropping a winnable game at Buffalo, improvement in the all-important ‘W’ column is no longer certain.

The Browns travel to Cincinnati on Sunday to play a reeling but dangerous Bengals team, then finish with AFC powers Baltimore and Pittsburgh. If Mangini finishes on a four-game losing streak — and with five wins — it’s almost impossible to imagine president Mike Holmgren sticking with him. How ironic that a four-game losing streak would cost Mangini the job after a four-game winning streak to finish 2009 saved him.

Holmgren said at the bye week he wouldn’t make a decision on Mangini until after the season. So Mangini has three weeks to make a final push. The thought here is that he needs two more wins (seven for the year) to have a chance to stick around.

And he can’t afford a second straight loss to a two-win team Sunday in Cincinnati. Holmgren might even call Jon Gruden on his way to the plane.

So consider this a must-win for Mangini. That’s the backdrop for the quarterback decision that will draw much scrutiny.

If rookie Colt McCoy’s ankle is healthy enough, should Mangini go back to him? The majority of fans would give a resounding yes, but it’s not a no-brainer.

McCoy was extremely composed and impressive when he got a chance, but hasn’t played since Nov. 21. He’s coming off a high left ankle sprain. He doesn’t have much experience in the cold weather. He’s still a rookie with just five games of NFL experience.

Then there’s Jake Delhomme.

He runs the no-huddle offense. He’s seen every variation of defense in his 12 years. He’s the best leader on the team. He has the respect of his teammates. He’s won 61 games and been to a Super Bowl.

But he has a troubling recent history of turnovers and seems too focused on not throwing interceptions. He’s become the “Charlie Checkdown” he mocked a couple of weeks ago. Mangini and coordinator Brian Daboll seem to lack trust in Delhomme, designing a game plan and calling plays that limit risk — and reward. That contradicts the player Delhomme’s always been.

What about Seneca Wallace, some fans are screaming. Well, he’s out of the running. Mangini said the decision will come down to McCoy and Delhomme.

Wallace appeared to find a spot in Mangini’s doghouse when he said weeks ago that he deserved to start when he returned from a high ankle sprain. Mangini likes bland quotes and his players to defer to the coaches.

So it’s Delhomme or McCoy. The decision could determine Mangini’s future.

Such is life in the NFL.

Roster move

The Browns promoted cornerback Coye Francies from the practice squad and waived cornerback Eric King. Francies was a sixth-round pick in 2009, was cut after training camp this season and recently finished the United Football League season.

The Browns signed linebacker Eric Bakhtiari to the practice squad.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.