Two weeks ago, the Browns shocked the Saints in New Orleans, only seven days before the Saints upended the Steelers on the same field. On Sunday, the Browns welcomed the Patriots to town and handed them a 20-point loss.
And so the Browns are now one of the hottest teams in the NFL. But with a 3-5 record in the top-heavy AFC, the Browns may have to run the table to make it to the playoffs. (Even if they do, an 11-5 finish wasn’t good enough to get the Patriots to the postseason in 2008, and 10-6 left the Browns on the outside looking in the prior year.)
The Browns aren’t paying attention to any of that, at least not according to their coach.
“We never talk about the record,” Eric Mangini told PFT Sunday night. “That part we can’t do anything about. We can do something about the next team we’re facing. It’s a solitary focus. Forget about the long term. We’re getting closer to that approach. After winning in New Orleans, we weren’t talking about New Orleans. We had the win we enjoyed it, we had good days of practice during the bye week. Then we focused on this week.”
Mangini witnessed the importance of a week-at-a-time focus in 2008, when a great start fizzled down the stretch.
“I didn’t do a very good job when were 8-3,” Mangini said. “There was so much talk about a New York Super Bowl. I kept trying to explain to them and show examples of what can go wrong. We had a team that wasn’t used to winning that much early, we were entering the lightest part of the schedule, and we were coming off two big wins. We’re good enough where we can’t just show up and play. Every win makes the next opponent show up and play harder. We weren’t mature enough to handle it.”
Having a strong presence of guys who have gotten it done elsewhere has helped the Browns develop a one-at-a-time focus.
“[Linebacker] Scott Fujita has been good about reinforcing that message too. He understands it as well as anybody. [Tight end] Ben Watson spoke to the team [Saturday night]. He brought that same thing up. He’s gone through years of that conditioning. ‘It’s just this game. The last win was nice.’ You get guys like that speaking like that and soon everybody’s speaking like that.”
Mangini summed it up this way: “When you think you’ve arrived, you haven’t arrived.”
The next chance to get closer to actually arriving comes on Sunday, when the Jets come to town. The same team that Mangini coached for three years before being fired after that 8-3 record in 2008 melted into a 9-7 finish, with no postseason. The same team now coached by Rex Ryan, identical twin of Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
As to the Ryans, Mangini called it a “battle for bragging rights at the dinner table.”
“They’re not afraid to talk a little junk,” Mangini said. “You don’t want to be at that dinner table after the game.”
Actually, some would say you never want to be at that dinner table, at any time.