Decision To Make

Browns coach Eric Mangini could wait until game time to decide who will start at quarterback Sunday against the Patriots.

There was no doubt Colt McCoy would start at quarterback against Pittsburgh and New Orleans, but now coach Eric Mangini has a decision to make because Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are getting healthy.

Naming a starter to face the Patriots on Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium could be a game-time decision.

Wallace is ahead of Delhomme as both recover from sprained ankles, but neither practiced on Wednesday. Wallace was hurt just before halftime in the 20-10 loss to the Falcons on Oct. 10. He spent two weeks in a walking boot, but he has been out of it since Oct. 25.

"I want to try my best to be ready," Wallace said. "This is my first time missing a significant amount of time, so it's tough. I want to be out there playing and doing whatever I can to contribute. I'm shooting for (Sunday) and hopefully we'll see what happens as the week goes on."

Wallace has thrown exactly 100 passes. Delhomme and McCoy have combined for 109 passes -- 60 by Delhomme and 49 by McCoy. The completions and yardage are almost the same, too; Wallace has completed 63 passes for 693 yards. Delhomme and McCoy have combined for 65 completions for 679 yards.

The one edge Wallace has on the others is he has thrown four touchdown passes and two interceptions. Delhomme has thrown one touchdown pass and four picks. McCoy is one up and two down.

Mangini has not met with team president Mike Holmgren about the quarterback situation yet because neither Wallace nor Delhomme are ready. He said it would not be necessary to poll players.

"Guys know, coaches know, there's enough interaction and awareness that you get a sense of how guys feel," Mangini said. "At the end of the day, everybody wants the same thing. Everybody is selfish in the sense we all want to win."

There is some irony in the Browns playing the Patriots because Mangini was a defensive assistant on Bill Belichick's staff in when Tom Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in the second game of 2001.

Brady played so well while Bledsoe recovered from a hit causing internal bleeding that Bledsoe never got his job back. He was traded to Buffalo in 2002 after nine years with the Patriots.

Witnessing that change in the Patriots' fortunes taught Mangini the long-held belief that a starter cannot permanently lose his job to injury doesn't always hold true.

That does not mean Delhomme or Wallace won't be the starting quarterback over McCoy once either is healthy. It just means the Browns' quarterback situation was as murky on Monday when players returned to work as it was before the bye.

"I don't think any rule is hard and fast," Mangini said. "Each situation you have to look at differently. Tom went in and played pretty well. We stayed with him that whole year."

That doesn't mean McCoy is the next Tom Brady, either.

BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- Years since the Browns last won a playoff game. Bill Belichick coached the Browns to a 20-13 victory over the Patriots on Jan. 1, 1995.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had talks before I got injured. They said, 'You're playing well. Just keep it up.' All we can do is let our games speak for it and we'll see what happens after that." -- Seneca Wallace on the Browns' quarterback situation.

SERIES HISTORY: This is the 21st regular-season meeting between the Browns and Patriots. Browns lead series, 11-9. The Browns have lost four straight to the Patriots. The last time the score was close was in 2003 when the Browns lost a field-goal battle, 9-3.

GAME PLAN: It won't be easy fooling a quarterback in his 11th season, but that's what the Browns want to do on Sunday when they face Tom Brady. The idea worked when they faced Drew Brees. They disguised their defensive intensions pre-snap and ended up intercepting four passes.

The Browns play a 3-4 in their base defense, but there will be times on Sunday when they use only one or two defensive linemen and flood the secondary with seven or eight defensive backs.

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