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Eric Mangini hot-seat meter: Heating up

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Dec. 20, 2010 @ 5:51 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

If Browns head coach Eric Mangini is coaching for his job in the final weeks of this season, as has been so widely speculated, then Sunday's 19-17 loss to Cincinnati couldn't have helped his cause in the least.

A Cincinnati club that had dropped 10 consecutive games and lost key WR Terrell Owens early in the game to a season-ending knee injury pounded away with the running game, and Cleveland struggled to stop it. RB Cedric Benson, in his finest game of the season, rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. The Bengals' success running the ball helped Cincinnati hold a 38:03-21:57 time-of-possession edge and minimize risk on offense. The Bengals, who have struggled with turnovers, didn't commit one vs. Cleveland.

The Browns' problems stopping the run — an extension of issues that have dogged them for much of this season — kept their offense off the field, and what a shame that was, for rookie QB Colt McCoy won the battle with the Bengals' pass defense, completing 19-of-25 passes for 243 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. 

McCoy's development reflects well on the coaching. And these are the sort of things — the progress than can be seen by watching this team throughout 2010 and comparing and contrasting that to the Browns' play in 2009 — that will help Mangini's case to return for a third season most, save for impressive routs of Baltimore and Pittsburgh to end the season, of course.

At best, the Browns can finish 7-9 this season. At worst, they will be 5-11, just as they were in '09. The '09 Browns team didn't beat anyone close to the caliber of the Patriots or Saints like Cleveland has this season, but do those victories begin to carry less weight when Cleveland can't beat Buffalo or Cincinnati? It's what we're left to discuss with two weeks left. 

If the Browns were 7-7, we might be having a different discussion. 

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