Following the Browns' latest loss last Sunday to Atlanta, I was prepared to strongly suggest that Eric Mangini's career as head coach of the Browns was in dire jeopardy.
"Let the countdown begin on Eric Mangini's departure from Cleveland as head coach of the Browns," I jotted down. "It's difficult to feel numb anymore about this team. They have made feeling like that all too common the last 10 seasons."
Then the Browns' two best (relatively speaking, of course) quarterbacks went down with ankle injuries. And then the thought suddenly hit me.
No matter how this team does the rest of the season, no matter how badly it plays, the blame for losing can always be placed on the lack of a quality quarterback. How can the Browns be expected to win without a good quarterback? How can Mangini be blamed with one hand tied behind his back?
In other words, the coach received a get-out-of-jail-free card on job security when his quarterbacks went down. There is no way Mike Holmgren and/or Tom Heckert Jr. can fire the guy. It would make no sense. Unless, of course, the team stops listening to Mangini and begins tanking games. That possibility does exist.
When you stop and think about it, the Browns' defense, which has played relatively well this season, is bound to wear down soon. And when you take into consideration that the next four opponents -- Pittsburgh this Sunday, New Orleans, New England and the New York Jets -- own a combined record of 13-5 entering this week, that defense will get its sternest test in the next month.
In Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez, it will face the top tier of quarterbacks in the National Football League. It is not going to be pretty. At some point, the defense is bound to wear down with no help coming from an offense that has all the power of a popgun.
It is highly likely the Browns will enter the bye week with a 1-7 record with no relief in sight. It is not the kind of record Holmgren and Heckert expected. It'll be interesting to see how they react. Neither man is used to such ineptitude and paltry rewards on their efforts.
If, however, they surprise a lot of fans and pull the trigger on Mangini at the bye, his supporters will argue he can't win without a quarterback and that his dismissal is unfair. It would be a hollow argument. This was not a good club before the quarterbacks went down. It needed a transfusion, a radical change in attitude, and Mangini was not the man to inject it.
Hopefully, the guys in the ivory tower in Berea see this sooner rather than later and make a change in an attempt to salvage at least something this season.