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Eric Mangini Faces a Difficult Decision at Quarterback

In order to avoid being redundant, I encourage everyone to head on over to emily's post from a few days ago titled "Delhomme? Wallace? McCoy?" Her article does a great job breaking down the basic question that represents Eric Mangini's biggest and toughest decision of the season: who should he start at quarterback coming out of the bye week?

Based on the results of her poll, which favor Colt McCoy by an overwhelming 84%, it seems clear that the majority of Cleveland Browns fans want the rookie to take over the job permanently. In the eyes of many fans, I'm sure the decision seems like a very easy one for Mangini: McCoy didn't look terrible against two of the league's best teams, and he is potentially the team's "quarterback of the future." I use that quote loosely, because it has been used so many times since 1999, and yet the Browns are still trying to find the guy to be their franchise quarterback.

I definitely understand the logic behind fans wanting to start McCoy, and if he starts the rest of the way, it's not like I'm going to be grimacing at the fact that we left two veteran quarterbacks on the bench. With that said, the decision still ultimately comes down to what Mangini decides, and assuming all three quarterbacks are healthy, my gut tells me he is going to call upon one of the veteran quarterbacks to get the start. In particular, I think Jake Delhomme is going to get the start. Here are a few reasons why, and excuse me if I sound like a broken record (I know I've brought some of these points up before):

  1. When Seneca Wallace was starting and playing well, Mangini made it clear who the team's starting quarterback would be once Jake Delhomme's ankle was healed: "...Jake is the starting quarterback and when he's healthy he'll start again," stated Mangini near the beginning of October.
    Following that statement, Delhomme never received an opportunity to start again. He did play as an emergency quarterback of sorts against the Atlanta Falcons after Wallace hurt his ankle, and Delhomme looked terrible in that game. Fans were pissed at Delhomme for how he played, but I think the coaching staff will look past that performance because of his ankle.
    You could argue that since Mangini hasn't repeated the statement since the Falcons game, Delhomme has fallen out of favor. I just think that he's not trying to diminish the spirits of any quarterback who might still need to start in the event that Delhomme, Wallace, or both of them are still injured following the bye.
  2. While all of our quarterbacks seem comfortable throwing to our tight ends, running backs, and Chansi Stuckey, only Delhomme seemed to demonstrate a high level of chemistry with receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie. I know it has become a running joke that Robiskie is invisible on the field and seems like a bust for a second-round pick, but I'd prefer not to give up on either receiver yet. I think Delhomme can find ways to get them the football -- as long as he doesn't revert to his headcase mentality from a year ago, I still think he makes quicker reads than the other quarterbacks on our roster at this point.
  3. Although McCoy threw a decent deep ball to Joshua Cribbs last week, I think Delhomme throws the most accurate deep ball on the team. This might not seem like a huge advantage considering we're not a team like the Saints or Vikings who like to move the ball 30 yards at a time when they are rolling.
    However, our receivers don't seem particularly skilled at running routes right now, yet they've seemed to get open quite a bit when they go long. We've seen it several times with Massaquoi. Robiskie actually had some shots when Wallace was in there, but the throws were always out of bounds. Cribbs had some success with Wallace and nearly had one from Delhomme against Atlanta. When practice rolls around next Wednesday, if these plays are being run in practice and Delhomme keeps hitting them on the money versus Wallace and McCoy, I think that plays into his favor.
  4. I am still longing for the Cyclone Formation, where Wallace and Cribbs line up in the backfield at times, whether it be for a play here and there or for a series. The team seemed heavily invested in this formation throughout all of training camp, and the team used it a little bit in their opener with Delhomme starting. Ever since Delhomme has been out, the formation disappeared too. Some may view it as an unnecessary "gadget" formation, but my curiosity has not been fulfilled yet. If McCoy starts, I don't think we'd try to interrupt him with another quarterback.
  5. Based on Delhomme's limited in-game action when healthy this season, I think Mangini's decision will be largely a non-statistical one, but rather a judgmental one based on what he sees in practice.

The one thing against Mangini right now is that I think a lot of fans are extremely opposed to starting Delhomme, based on how Wallace and McCoy played in their starts. If Delhomme struggles even slightly at home, with two home games coming up, I think the fans are going to try to boo him out of the stadium and call for one of the other two guys.

With the decision comes a commitment though, especially since Mangini will have had two weeks to make his decision. Before the bye week, Mangini definitely had a legitimate excuse for going through three quarterbacks: the first two succumbed to injuries. After the bye week, an easy way to lose the locker room is to ask the team to believe in one quarterback, only to suddenly change your mind and go with another.

The Browns have shown to be a very competitive football team, and right now their record stands at 2-5. We have two more games left on the "rough" portion of our schedule, and both of them are at home. After beating the Saints on the road though, I think this team has the confidence they need to come away with a victory in at least one of those games. After that, the Browns' next four opponents have a combined record of 7-18. It is arguably one of the easiest looking schedules you can have. Then, Cleveland closes the year with three consecutive division games. What if Cleveland finds themselves having a 7-6 record heading into those games?

McCoy did a great job when called upon the past two weeks, but it's not like he ran away with the job and became a Pro Bowler. As long as this football team still has a chance to compete for the postseason, I think Mangini is going to go with the guy who he thinks gives him the best chance to win right now. If that was Delhomme to begin the season, and if it was supposed to be Delhomme once his ankle healed the first time around, then why wouldn't it be him once it heals this time around?