BEREA — On Jan. 7, 2010, "The Eric Mangini Watch" didn't end, but only began. That day news broke that Cleveland Browns' new team president Mike Holmgren would retain Mangini for his second season as the team's head coach.
Why did Holmgren keep Mangini? Was it the four-game winning streak to end 2009? Was it the impending labor issues? Was Holmgren setting Mangini up to fail?
Those discussion topics highlighted the offseason. Once 2010 began, the Browns' 0-2 start was followed by rumblings about Mangini's future.
Consecutive wins over New Orleans and New England and an overtime loss to the New York Jets resulted in sentiments that Mangini had this train on the right track. Well, the train derailed with last Sunday's 13-6 loss to Buffalo.
This time, news outlets — locally and nationally — have suggested Mangini needs a strong finish to keep his job. What is old is new again, eh?
"The great thing about sports," said Mangini, who addressed those latest rumblings Friday in Berea. "Every week you have a chance for redemption."
Cleveland has three games remaining all against AFC North opponents. Sunday's game in Cincinnati is the final road game before the final two at home against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, who are a combined 19-7. Does Mangini need to win all three games to keep his job? Two of three? Does it even matter?
"What's going to carry a lot of weight is the whole season and the progress this team has made," Mangini said. "I imagine it's not going to be a short snap shot, but a comprehensive look at where we are and what we've done. What areas are we progressing in? What areas need more progressing? That'd be my plan."
As for an ultimatum issued from the front office, Mangini has not heard one. He's focused on beating the Bengals.
"We'll deal with whatever situation is when the time comes," Mangini said.
"I feel good about the things we've done and the direction of the team. There are steps you go through in any growth process. We've taken a lot of steps and we'll continue to take that next step that is winning consistently."
Although Mangini is in his second season as Browns coach, his responsibilities, personality and waistline have all changed. Last season, Mangini was the top dog responsible for everything from the top down. With Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert in place, Mangini's responsibilities have lessened, and Mangini said his experience has improved.
"It's kind of like when you get married," he said. "You're exposed to all your wife's customs, family and traditions. Mike and Tom are very talented and smart and have a lot of different experiences and you can get in great conversations."
Mangini, who came from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, has been exposed to a different way of doing things.
"We've had some good dialogue about what the right decisions are," Mangini said. "That helps you sort through mistakes and exposes you to other ideas. That's been tremendous to me personally."
According to Mangini, the familial relationship between those three has been like the Brady Bunch, everyone has their squares. Well, except for Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
"Rob is Sam the Butcher," Mangini said.
Browns' backup QB: Entering Friday's practice, Mangini has yet to decide who will back up Colt McCoy Sunday in Cincinnati.
Seneca Wallace suffered an ankle injury before halftime against Atlanta on Oct. 10. He missed the Browns' next three games before returning Nov. 14 against the New York Jets where he's since served as the backup quarterback.
Meanwhile, Jake Delhomme returned to his starter role the last three games. The Browns were 2-1 in those games as Delhomme was 60-for-89 passing for 548 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
"We're getting closer," Mangini said. "There's practice stuff I want to look at today."
Ocho's Oucho: On Thursday, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco used his popular Twitter account to alert fans of his bum ankle.
"My left foot is totally jacked up," he tweeted. "Not sure why but bad enough to need X-Rays, I'm nervous as hell."
Ochocinco finished with 59 yards on three catches against the Browns on Oct. 3. He is second on the Bengals with 795 yards on 65 catches and four touchdowns. Terrell Owens leads the Bengals with 983 yards on 72 catches with nine touchdowns.
Ochocinco has bone spurs in that ankle and he is expected to play Sunday.
Bowens suffered his first career concussion in last Sunday's game at Buffalo. He has since passed all tests and is expected to be ready to play against the Bengals.
"It felt like I took a nap," said Bowens, who said his only side effect has been a headache.
Defensive lineman Brian Schaefering missed Thursday's practice because of illness.
"I got quarantined so I'm not contagious," Schaefering said.