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On Holmgren and his coaching staff: “I hope team President Mike Holmgren keeps the same open mind that he had about coach Eric Mangini as he watches the remaining games. Mangini has brought much-needed discipline and toughness to this team. I don’t know how they will play in the remaining nine games, but there is no reason for Holmgren or anyone else to come to grand conclusions about the head coach until the end of the season…I hope (and believe) Holmgren meant it as a compliment when he said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s defenses drive him crazy with all the wandering around and strange formations. That’s exactly the point. No matter who is the coach next season, Ryan and special teams coach Brad Seely must remain because these are veteran coordinators who make an impact.” [Terry Pluto/Plain Dealer]
Notes and matchup breakdown for today’s game: “After the bye week, players have had a chance to get healthy. Here is the 8-man inactive list I anticipate the Browns having against New England: QB Jake Delhomme, QB Brett Ratliff, RB Thomas Clayton, WR Carlton Mitchell, TE Alex Smith, OL John St. Clair, OL Steve Vallos, and DL/LB Jayme Mitchell (still would like to see him in there). Don’t be alarmed if you hear, “…and Demetrius Williams makes the catch for Cleveland.” Remember, when the Browns waived Yamon Figurs heading into the bye, they signed Williams, a former receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. Williams has a lot of speed and should be considered more of a receiving threat than Figurs was. Williams has had two weeks to practice with the team, and if he looked more impressive than someone like Brian Robiskie and Carlton Mitchell, I don’t think Eric Mangini would hesitate to immediately shoot him up on the depth chart. That is all speculation on my part though, and nothing more.” [Chris Pokorny/Dawgs by Nature]
Looking at Colt today: “Everybody has their own opinion on whether or not McCoy should continue to start when veterans Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme get healthy, and this is a game for him to make a bid to start. If he can continue to play well, and get a win against the Patriots, there is no way that Mangini or his staff can send him back to the bench. He played fairly well against the Steelers and their swarming defense, and played well enough to not lose in New Orleans. If he wants to continue to be on the field, a win against arguably the best team in the league should solidify his starting position. ” [NoLogoNeeded]
Bill and Eric: ”Arguably, during Belichick’s tenure in Cleveland, he might have been the least liked coach in Browns’ history. Even when the team went to the playoffs, there didn’t seem to be a buzz around the team as there was in the 1980’s. ‘I think that sometimes the things you do aren’t really understood, but Bill believes in things that he does and there’s a commitment to that and the other underlying factors for everything that he does is winning, and that’s the driving force,’ Mangini said. ‘I’ve always been impressed at his ability to make a decision that may not be the popular decision, but it’s the right decision and that’s not always easy to do. That’s often very difficult to do and a lot of the best CEOs and politicians and leaders can do that, they can make those decisions that on the face are very unpopular, but are needed in order to grow and to improve and to be successful. He’s done it time and time again and been successful time and time again.’” [Fred Greetham/OBR]
Browns secondary in for a long day: “The one thing we know for sure is that Randy Moss won’t be walking through any Patriot doors anytime soon. That won’t stop Tom Brady’s attack, however. Brady will use every available set of hands to move the ball. He combines tremendous pre-snap recognition, an accurate arm, and uncommon poise to lead this team. While there is no clear-cut No. 1 receiver, there is no shortage of candidates to make plays. Wes Welker is the standard by which all slot receivers are measured. Welker has great quickness (though he’s not yet at his pre-surgery level) and strong hands. He slips to the second level with ease and catches most everything thrown his way. Deion Branch will be limited by a balky hamstring, robbing him of some of his quickness and cutting ability. Brandon Tate showed last week he has the speed, smarts, and focus to be a regular contributor on offense. Tight ends Aaron Hernandez (excellent hands and a knack for getting open) and Rob Gronkowski (great size and soft hands) continue to impress. Danny Woodhead is valuable because of his reliable hands and willingness to engage blockers seemingly twice his size. Cleveland corners Joe Haden (he’s lightning-fast), Eric Wright (he’s athletic and strong), and Sheldon Brown (he’s explosive) will make plays. Rookie safety T.J. Ward plays with an edge and delivers bone-crunching hits.” [Jim McBride/Boston Globe]