BEREA — Coach Eric Mangini hates the interceptions as much as the disgruntled fans do. But he won’t overlook the positives of quarterback Jake Delhomme and join the angry mob.
Mangini remained relieved Monday after the Browns escaped with a 24-23 win over Carolina on Sunday. He criticized the team’s turnovers — like he always does — but praised numerous aspects of Delhomme’s performance. According to Mangini, Delhomme wasn’t as bad as many fans want to believe.
“Look, Jake did a ton of stuff yesterday that was really, really good,” Mangini said. “That defense causes a lot of problems and they’ve been problems we’ve had a hard time dealing with. He ran the offense very effectively.”
Mangini didn’t provide an update on rookie Colt McCoy, who was inactive Sunday, and said he wanted to see how the high left ankle sprain was healing later in the week. Mangini said he wasn’t ready to make a decision on his starter for Sunday in Miami and that Seneca Wallace would be a part of the discussion. He was asked if he’s leaning toward sticking with Delhomme.
“I haven’t gotten that far, I really haven’t,” Mangini said. “I just want to look at some Miami tape, get a better sense of the challenges they present and look at it in that context as opposed to just making a decision right now.”
Delhomme, 35, was the object of intense criticism around the region Monday after throwing a pair of
third-quarter interceptions, including one returned 37 yards for a touchdown that cut Cleveland’s lead to 21-20. He also fumbled carelessly at the end of the first half, but the Browns recovered.
He was making his first start since the opener Sept. 12 in Tampa Bay – and first home start as a Brown – but has a recent history of turnovers that’s been well-documented.
In his last 15 games beginning with Carolina’s playoff loss in 2008, Delhomme’s thrown 10 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. In two starts and three games for the Browns, he’s thrown a touchdown and six interceptions. Two were returned for touchdowns, and a third was returned to the 3-yard line.
“You take some high-risk chances and they hit sometimes and great,” Mangini said. “When you take some high-risk chances and they don’t, it’s not very good. And the thing you’re always trying to do is play the percentages. If it’s not there, it’s not there.
“And every play doesn’t have to be extended. Sometimes the best thing to do is just throw it away.”
Delhomme’s style isn’t a great fit for the conservative Mangini, who’s preached the importance of ball security and limiting “self-inflicted wounds” since he arrived in 2009.
Mangini coached one of the all-time gunslingers in Brett Favre in 2008 with the Jets. Favre’s interceptions down the stretch with a sore arm cost New York a playoff spot and Mangini his job.
“I had a year with someone who’s a known chance-taker, so I’ve lived through that,” he said. “There’s great positives, and some plays that it doesn’t work on. You just want to play the odds.”
Delhomme isn’t in the same category as Favre, but he does have a track record of success. He played in his 100th game Sunday (55-39 as a starter) and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003. He was voted a captain despite being new to the Browns.
“I really like who Jake is and how he plays the game,” center Alex Mack said. “I think he’s a great guy to have around. He’s calm in the huddle, he gets the play in and you can tell there’s fire there.
“You just want to play for him, which is really great.”
Delhomme went 24-for-35 for 245 yards, two sacks, two interceptions and a 64.6 rating vs. the Panthers. He led four scoring drives, including the fourth-quarter winner, when he went 5-for-5 for 53 yards.
He was efficient running the no-huddle offense, completed passes early to loosen up the defense for running back Peyton Hillis and involved forgotten wideout Brian Robiskie with seven catches.
“He made some positive throws,” Mangini said. “Jake wants to do what’s right. He wants to do what’s best for the team.
“His leadership this week was outstanding. A big part of our good week of practice was him. You can’t look past that, either. He put us in a lot of good positions. What you want to do is eliminate those mistakes that become gigantic mistakes.”
Mangini and Mack took the onus off Delhomme for the first interception. Middle linebacker Jon Beason made a great read and nice catch dropping into coverage as Robiskie crossed the middle open.
Captain Munnerlyn’s interception for a touchdown came on a late throw to the sideline for Mohamed Massaquoi.
“You don’t want to go to that throw as late as we went to that throw,” Mangini said. “That being said, Mohamed got pulled pretty good.
“I’m not making any excuses or anything like that, but there were things on both those plays that when you look at it objectively and unemotionally you understand a little better. But we need to be able to not put ourselves in that position.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.