Ah, December. Holiday season is in full swing. Snow and freezing temperatures dominate the outside world. Waistlines expand with every nibble on a cookie or extra helping of mashed potatoes. Shopping becomes a weekly chore.
That's real life. Over in the distraction department we have our Cleveland Browns, where we have our annual rites as well, such as the cessation of all mention of "playoffs". Instead, the hottest topics for those clad in orange in brown are who will play quarterback and who will be the head coach?
Pick a team. Any team. They, too, have questions. In Baltimore, those who follow the Ravens are concerned despite the team's 9-4 record.
"We could be worse," Ravens wide out Derrick Mason told the Baltimore Sun. "We could be Buffalo or Cincinnati. We could be completely out of the playoffs right now. But we're 9-4. You can't satisfy everybody. Obviously we'd like to be going into this week undefeated just like everybody else in the NFL wants to be. But the reality is, it don't happen that way. Some weeks you play well, and some weeks to skate by like we did this last week. I can understand the fans frustration, but they've got to look at the big picture. Where are we? We're 9-4 and if the playoffs happened right now, we'd be the fifth seed. Stop being a pessimist. Be an optimist. Be happy with where we are. Because honestly, it could be a lot worse."
I hate to agree with someone who plays for the Ravens, but he's right. Now, Mason needs to understand fans are allowed to have concerns about their teams. There is no rulebook on how to be a fan. Perspective is necessary in the locker room and in the stands.
Keeping that in mind, let's dive back into those two hottest topics in regards to who will play quarterback and who will be the head coach.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini named Colt McCoy the starter for the remainder of the season. Last August, if Browns fans were told McCoy would be starting an NFL game this season, their faces would turn as white as the foot of snow that just fell outside your window since you began reading this column.
McCoy's first appearance was Aug. 14 against Green Bay. He was 5-for-10 passing for 25 yards and two interceptions. A week later against St. Louis, McCoy was 0-for-2. In the Great Lakes Classic on Aug. 28 at Detroit, McCoy was 10-for-14 for 76 yards. Finally, in the preseason finale at home against Chicago, McCoy was 13-for-13 for 131 yards with no interceptions.
His numbers steadily improved, but no one was calling for him to start. His final preseason performance came against players who are now working different jobs. As for those other three preseason games, McCoy looked shaky and, yes, comparisons could be made to the second coming of Brady Quinn.
Heck, there were published reports that the Browns may cut the third-round pick. These reports came from the supposedly credible outlets like The Sporting News and the Plain Dealer, who reported that McCoy was on the bubble.
Now, as the season winds down, McCoy appears, at least for now, to be the future. He is 81-for-127 passing for 975 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions and an 85.3 quarterback rating. As a starter, his team's beat New Orleans and New England. He lost close games to the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars and his first start came on the road against Pittsburgh.
After McCoy's performance in the middle of this season, it is hard to imagine the Browns were ever thinking of cutting McCoy. Hey, but, there were Internet reports!
That brings us to Mangini. On Wednesday, two different media outlets suggested that Mangini was going to be relieved of his duties following the final game of the season. A third outlet gave its best educated guess and offered up Mangini's possible replacements.
Earlier this season, Mangini was being celebrated after wins over New Orleans and New England. Then, only a few weeks ago, rumors swirled on the Internet that Mangini would be fired.
McCoy's negative-turned-positive outlook is a perfect example how easy it is to have a narrow perspective, especially when Mangini's outlook has turned from positive to negative. Consider what Mangini has done after the Browns' former regime wallowed in futility. He gutted a roster, established discipline and now he's in the process of not only rebuilding the roster but also that mind set. Oh, and the Browns may be 5-8, but their average margin of defeat is seven points against what is considered league's the toughest schedule. Among the losing margins last season: 30, 28, 24, 21, 16, 14 and 13.
Yet fans are upset with how Mangini has stuck with Jake Delhomme. Fans are upset with how the team laid a dozen eggs in Buffalo. Don't even get them started on the offensive coordinator. Those all can be frustrating topics and they have a right to complain. But perspective is needed.
Does one bad loss constitute blowing this thing up again? Same can be said for the Browns quarterback. Does one bad outing by Colt McCoy mean the Browns should be looking to draft Ryan Mallet or Andrew Luck?
There will never be a consensus to those answers. It speaks to the passion numerous people have for a team that hasn't consistently won since two decades after World War II.
Three games remain in 2010. Fans (and team president Mike Holmgren) will be evaluating how Mangini and McCoy perform. Whether or not the team finishes 3-0 or 0-3, one thing must remain constant — perspective. Because as difficult as it may seem, take it from a Baltimore Ravens player: At least you're not rooting for the Bills or Bengals.