The way we hear it, there is some sentiment in league circles that head coach Eric Mangini will face an uphill battle to return for a third season in Cleveland. Team president Mike Holmgren, who retained Mangini for 2010 after the Browns won four consecutive games to finish the '09 season, will make a decision on Mangini at season's end. Mangini has two years left on his contract beyond this season. The Browns fell to 5-10 with a 20-10 loss to Baltimore Sunday.
In November, Holmgren offered some insight into what will go into the evaluation of Mangini, noting that "wins and losses are not the only criteria. The crummy part of our business is that, most of the time, it is the main one.
"I thought my last year in Seattle (as head coach in 2008), 4-12 on the surface, they should have fired me. Based on record, 4-12 is my worst record of all time. It may have been my best coaching job because we were playing with young people that gave me everything they had, but they just weren't good enough, we got so injured.
"If that taught me anything, it taught me that now in my position, there's more to look at. Hopefully, I'll do that properly."
After clobbering the Patriots 34-14 in Week Nine — the last defeat sustained by powerful New England — the Browns have won just twice since, and they have fallen to Buffalo and Cincinnati, the AFC's two worst clubs, in December. On whether the losses to the Bills and Bengals in succession would hurt his standing in Holmgren's eyes, Mangini said: "When you do look at something in its entirety, you don't just look at it based on what has happened in the most recent past. I'd assume he'd look at it that way, and that's how I expect it to be evaluated."
With speculation about his future mounting, we're told that Mangini remains focused on the job at hand, and that his ability to focus in stressful times like these sets him apart.
The Browns' play vs. the Saints and Patriots, as well as several other game efforts vs. contenders that ended in defeats, was a signal of their progress. It is those examples of progress, not the Browns' record, that Mangini has to hope will tip the scales in his favor.