BEREA – Jake Delhomme couldn’t hide his excitement, while Seneca Wallace refused to hide his displeasure.
And Colt McCoy was in hiding, period, when the Browns’ locker room was open to the media Wednesday.
Yes, it was just another day in the ongoing soap opera known as Cleveland’s quarterback carousel.
“You’ve almost got to pinch yourself like it’s a dream with all three of our quarterbacks hurting their ankles this year,” Delhomme said. “Even though you’re injured, you do feel like you’ve let the team down – and that’s a pride thing that I believe all quarterbacks feel.
“I just want to go out and play good football to help us win. After all we’ve been through, it’s exciting just being out there practicing with the guys again.”
Delhomme has good reason to be excited after Browns coach Eric Mangini all but declared him the club’s starting quarterback for Sunday’s home game against Carolina.
The ex-Panther worked with Cleveland’s first-team offense at practice, while Wallace served as his backup. Both had been sidelined for more than a month with right high ankle sprains.
McCoy, meanwhile, remains in a walking boot after suffering a left high ankle sprain four days ago in Jacksonville.
“Jake will get the bulk of the reps and that’s the way I’m leaning right now (for Sunday),” Mangini said. “I have faith in Seneca, as well, but Jake’s familiarity with Carolina could be a real bonus.
“I really like his knowledge of the team.”
Delhomme (48.2 passer rating, one touchdown, four interceptions, 0-1 record) made his only start in the season opener at Tampa Bay and has not played since being forced into action against Atlanta in Week 5.
He hurt his ankle in the opener, then made it much worse in the next game when he was called upon to relieve an injured Wallace.
“I’m more ready now than I was remotely close to being for the Atlanta game,” Delhomme said sternly. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Wallace (88.5 rating, four touchdowns, two interceptions, 1-3 record) has not stepped onto the field since the loss to the Falcons, but made four starts following Delhomme’s initial injury.
He led the Browns to their first win of the year against Cincinnati, but appears to have been pushed to the back burner with the emergence of McCoy.
“It’s a coach’s decision, so I really don’t have anything to say about that,” a chippy Wallace said. “It’s all a coach’s decision. He’s calling the shots.”
But after repeated questioning, the longtime Seahawks substitute did open up.
“It is a different situation because I don’t know where I’m at,” he said. “It ain’t even frustrating. It is what it is. Every reason is different, so I don’t let it bother me.”
Clearly, though, Wallace is bothered by losing the starting job because he got hurt. Delhomme likely would feel the same way if Mangini didn’t go back to him this week against his former team.
And what about McCoy (85.3 rating, three touchdowns, three interceptions, 2-3 record), who appears to be the best fit and the long-term answer? The rookie from Texas could be back as soon as next week because his ailing ankle is not on his plant foot.
“We addressed that weeks ago, saying whatever combination of the three of us play, that’s the way it’s gonna be,” Delhomme said. “It was us and Carl (Smith, quarterbacks coach) in there because you need to have a room with harmony. This is a different situation, though, no doubt about it.”
So far, at least, it’s been a harmonious one – unlike in recent years when veterans Trent Dilfer and Jeff Garcia openly pouted, or when the vastly different personalities of Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn divided the locker room.
Add in a head coach trying to save his job and this situation could get a whole lot muddier over the final six games of the season.
When asked if he might start one quarterback against Carolina, then switch to another next week in Miami, Mangini admitted it was a possibility.
“I’m really kind of Carolina-centric right now,” he said, smiling. “We can pick that up next Monday. Talk to me then, guys.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Carolina
• WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
• WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium
• TV/RADIO: Channel 8; WMMS 100.7-FM, WTAM 1100-AM