When the Browns face the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, it will be more than a game between two teams trying to recapture the glory of the past. It will be a duel between Browns coach Eric Mangini and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.
Pioli was the Patriots vice president of player personnel and Mangini was their secondary coach on the three Super Bowl championships New England won earlier this decade. Any friendship they might have had evaporated when Mangini, as head coach of the Jets, turned the Patriots in for taping Jets defensive coaches sending in hand signals. The case became known as Spygate and led to the radio transmitters defensive coaches have used to call plays since 2008.
While neither Mangini nor Pioli has worked magic for his respective team this season, it is safe to assume Pioli is not on the hot seat. Mangini, on the other hand, is. He helped his status by beating the Steelers, 13-6, last Thursday night, but the Browns are 2-11 and it might not have been enough to save his job.
Browns owner Randy Lerner has been quiet about Mangini's job security in recent weeks. He wants to hire an experienced, "credible" leader to run the football operation. Mangini's fate will be in the hands of whoever is hired.
Players in the Browns locker room are supporting Mangini. One of them is Josh Cribbs.
"I would really disagree (with a coaching change)," Cribbs said. "It takes time to build. To give a coach one year to turn a football team drastically around is not possible. You don't expect a coach to come in right now and win.
"To get rid of Coach Mangini now -- I don't think would be a good decision for our organization to start rebuilding all over again, again. It would be three head coaching regimes in (three) years. And who would want to come coach here, knowing if they didn't win right away they'd be gone?"
Many of Mangini's problems this season can be traced to the way he handles his players. Jamal Lewis, now on injured reserve with post-concussion syndrome, has said Mangini's practices are too long and too physical. Some players don't like the way Mangini calls them out in meetings.
"As long as it doesn't create such a distraction that we lose sight of our goal, then we're OK," Cribbs said. "We haven't lost sight of our goal. We're still working hard. A lot of people have different opinions; that's what a team is all about. You have people who clash and butt heads. As long as it doesn't affect our play on the field, it's not a problem."
Mangini said he is confident that what the Browns are doing will produce a winner. He said he isn't concerned about the football czar Lerner eventually hires; Mangini said he is confident whoever it is will look beyond the record and see progress.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Brady Quinn has played four straight games without throwing an interception.
--DL Corey Williams sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice, matching his sack total of the first 11 games.
--G Rex Hadnot missed his second straight game with a knee injury.
--DB Hank Poteat was on the bench at the start of the Steelers game, but posted his first sack of the season.
--K Phil Dawson is the only player on the active roster that was part of the 12 straight losses to the Steelers. He was thrilled the streak ended.
--RB Chris Jennings scored his first NFL touchdown on a 10-yard run.