The other day, media members covering the Browns gathered around quarterback Brady Quinn in the locker room to get his take on Charlie Weis, his former head coach at Notre Dame who is much, much closer to losing his job than his present head coach, Eric Mangini.
Quinn was questioned about the status of Weis, whose once-hopeful Fighting Irish are a very disappointing 6-5 heading into Saturday's regular-season finale at Stanford. It seems a done deal that Weis will be fired shortly after that game is over. The coach even seems resigned to his expected fate.
But the question that needed to be asked of Quinn but couldn't, for obvious reasons, is what he would think if Weis were to be hired as offensive coordinator of the Browns.
Weis did a great job in that role with the New England Patriots, propelling him into the job at Notre Dame. He was with the Pats at the same time as were Mangini and current offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Before having the best day of the year in last Sunday's 38-37 loss to the Detroit Lions, the offense was headed toward one of the worst performances in NFL history. The Browns are hoping that's averted and that the attack takes the momentum from the game at Ford Field and builds on it.
Still, heading into Cincinnati, the Browns are ranked near the bottom of the NFL this year in most offensive statistical categories. It could still easily be the worst performance offensively in team history when it's all said and done.
Sunday will provide a good test to see if the Browns offense has really improved. Detroit had the worst defense in the league going into the game. The Bengals are ranked 10th in yards allowed, and third in points surrendered.
Obviously, just as the Browns' overall performance is not all Mangini's fault, the struggles of the offense can't be totally laid at the feet of Daboll. A lot of things have had an effect on it.
Still, this is Daboll's first year as a coordinator at any level, and it's not the way you want to start that part of your career. Because he has no track record in this regard, he is being judged solely on this season – fairly or unfairly.
Mangini went along with the firing of his hand-picked general manager, George Kokinis, after only a half-season, saying that it was in the best interests of the organization. If Weis came on the market, then would Mangini, knowing the offense has to improve dramatically for him to survive long term, give up another friend in Daboll if he saw that as the only way to have a chance at making things work?
Who knows? Really, who knows if even Mangini will be back for another season? But if he is, then it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he could go after Weis, if not as coordinator then possibly as some kind of assistant or associate head coach to help Daboll along. Brad Seely, another former Patriots assistant from that era, is currently assistant head coach/special teams coordinator.
Weis would be even better fit on the Browns, obviously, if Quinn goes into next season as the starter. Sunday will mark his third straight start – and sixth overall – this year. He started the first three games before being benched in favor of Derek Anderson, then reclaimed that role on Nov. 16 against Baltimore.
Quinn is coming off his most productive – if not also best – performance as a pro, hitting 21-of-33 passes against the Lions for 304 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 133.1 quarterback rating. For the year, he is 80-of-141 passing (56.7 percent) for 812 yards, five TDs and five picks for a 70.4 rating.
Not outstanding by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly better than the numbers of Anderson, who is 66-of-154 (42.9) for 681 yards, two TDs and nine picks for a 36.2 rating.
If Quinn is to maintain the job and be the starter heading into next season – should Mangini still be here and, to a large extent, even if he's not – then he has to play well over these final six games.
"I wouldn't say that it's important for just him. It's important for all of us," Mangini said Friday. "These are all opportunities each week to go out as a group and improve and build on the lessons of the weeks before.
"Some of these lessons have been learned in a very hard fashion, but they only have value if you take something away from them. If you don't, then they're just tough losses. They're just tough experiences.
"The value in anything is what do you get out of it? What do you take away from it? How do you learn about yourself? How do you learn about your teammates and how do you respond?"
When asked more specifically about Quinn, Mangini said, "I think I have a very high comfort level with what I think a lot of the guys can be. One of the things that come up often times with players and my communication with players or talking about my approach is, I view it as, ‘This is what you can be and my job is to push you as hard as I can to achieve that potential.
" ‘Sometimes you don't even know how good you can be. Sometimes you don't even know what your potential is because you frame of reference is college or your frame of reference is limited, but it's my job to make sure that you reach that potential, whatever it is. Wherever that bar it is, I have to make sure that you reach that and collectively that we reach that.'
"Sometimes it's through positive reinforcement. Sometimes it's through pushing. Sometimes it's through different approaches, but that's what I am committed to doing, is to make sure that guys achieve their potential."
A lot of times, Mangini, while almost always giving detailed answers, really doesn't address the question as it pertains to a particular situation or individual, and that was clearly the case here.
But earlier in his press conference, Mangini was asked if the impressive statistics of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer reinforces the need for a team to have a franchise quarterback, such as New England had – and still has – with Tom Brady from when he, Daboll and Weis were all there.
"Everybody wants one," Mangini said. "You're always looking for that position to play well, and usually when that position plays well, you're in every game."
Is Quinn that man for the Browns? Would his chances for such be enhanced if Weis were on the staff somewhere?
But will Mangini, Daboll and even Quinn be with the Browns next year?
They're all important and intriguing questions, but they can't be answered yet. Wait six more weeks, when the season is over, and we'll know a lot more.
In the meantime, Quinn needs to play well, and Mangini and Daboll need to coach well. As coaches and players always like to say in such situations, they all three control their own destiny.