The Browns are 1-5, but they have been competitive in every game, and rookie QB Colt McCoy played well in his first start Sunday. The record doesn't reflect well on head coach Eric Mangini, but the other factors do, it can be argued.
McCoy played very well in his debut, throwing for 281 yards. Beyond the numbers, he looked ready to play, confident — not at all like a third-stringer. No team has thrown for more yards vs. the Steelers this season. Who saw that coming?
And who saw the Browns being down only four points to Pittsburgh with less than six minutes left in the third quarter? Once again, Cleveland was within striking distance of a win in the second half.
Of course, once again, the Browns just couldn't quite keep up with the opposition. In the final 18:13 of regulation, the Steelers scored three touchdowns.
When looking at the Browns' season, it is hard to escape the fact that in five of six games this season, the Browns have been outscored in the second half, and in their lone victory, they played Cincinnati to a draw in the second half and did not score in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Browns have been outscored 68-27 in the final 30 minutes of games in 2010.
I will say it again: The 2010 Browns are improved from a season ago. Nonetheless, Mangini's record as Cleveland head coach is 6-16, and the Browns are 3½ games out of first place with 10 left to play. Those numbers lead to job-security scrutiny.
In their final game before the bye, the Browns are faced with the daunting task of trying to beat the Saints in New Orleans. Having to go on the road for a second straight week to face the defending Super Bowl champion, a club with a strong passing game and an improved defense, is terribly challenging. If the Browns are to start McCoy a second week in a row, he'll be charged with solving a Gregg Williams-run defense one week after trying to decipher Dick LeBeau's scheme.
If the Browns struggle at New Orleans, it would be completely understandable. But with the bye in Week Eight, it would likely lead to even more speculation about Mangini's long-term future.
Again, the Browns have shown progress this season, but they have little to show for it. You've had to watch closely to know the Browns are better. More obvious signs of improvement, in the form of wins, would be a boost for Mangini.