Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme immediately apologized to coach Eric Mangini after last weekend's game for throwing two interceptions. On Sunday, Delhomme can atone for his sins to the critical Cleveland fans.
Delhomme, who had an uneven performance in his first start since the season opener, will make his second consecutive start this week when the Browns visit the Miami Dolphins. He might not be the people's choice, but Mangini chose Delhomme to go against the Dolphins (6-5) because rookie Colt McCoy remains sidelined with a high ankle sprain.
Browns fans have spent the week bashing him. They see Delhomme as washed up, the past. They want McCoy -- now.
"I don't think I'm the dumbest guy in the world," said Delhomme, who has six interceptions in 2½ games this season. "I know what the future is with the Browns. I think a lot of us have seen it. I came here as a 35-year-old knowing I probably won't be here for 10 years. I've enjoyed every minute I've been here."
He's up. McCoy's on deck.
On Friday, McCoy spoke for the first time since he injured his left ankle during a Nov. 21 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As reporters approached, McCoy playfully kicked his plastic walking boot -- with his right foot. The injury has frustrated McCoy, who was a bit of an ironman before having to sit out a preseason practice with a thumb injury.
"I've just been in the tank because I never missed a practice, never missed a game. I kind of pride myself on that a little bit," said McCoy, who was listed as doubtful on Cleveland's injury report. "It's part of it. My dad was a coach. You just don't miss unless something's broke."
McCoy said his ankle is "coming along" and responding well to treatment. Team doctors will re-evaluate it after the weekend. When he's healthy, the Browns have a decision to make: Stick with Delhomme or go back to McCoy, who went 2-3 in five starts?
"I'm not even going to go there," McCoy said. "My focus is to get my foot right. When we get my foot right, then we'll go from there and figure it out at that point. It all relies on what the doctors tell me. When I can go, I'm going. It's just a bummer. I just have to go out there and make sure it feels OK."
Delhomme had some nice moments last week, his first action since coming off the bench Oct. 10. He ran the no-huddle, spread the ball around to Cleveland's wide receivers better than any of the team's three quarterbacks this season and built a 21-7 lead in the first half. He then overcame the two interceptions by going 5-for-5 on the Browns' last drive to set up Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal.
Browns fans, though, nitpicked on the picks. Delhomme's first came on his first pass of the third quarter as Panthers linebacker Jon Beason anticipated the throw and made a leaping catch. The second one, which came on Delhomme's next attempt, fluttered in the air long enough for Captain Munnerlyn to take it back and pull Carolina within 21-20.
"When I let it go, I was like, 'Oh, gosh, that's not a good one,'" Delhomme said. "I apologized to (Mangini) after the game. We would not have been in that situation, shouldn't have been, if I hadn't forced it a little too much."
Delhomme beat himself up over the miscues for two days. On Friday, though, he was asked if too much is made of interceptions.
"As a quarterback, I think it would be easy for me to say, 'Oh, absolutely,'" Delhomme said with a smile. "But they are what they are. It's a critical mistake. But on the flip side of it, to me, if you're Charlie Checkdown, yeah, your stats are going to look great at the end of the game."
Mangini can live with rookie mistakes. But Delhomme has been around 15 seasons.
"We have to avoid those things," Mangini said. "Sometimes the best throws are the ones that go into the stands."
That's just not Delhomme's style, never has been. But if he wants to stay on the field, and make the most of whatever's left in his career, he needs to stop throwing to the other guys.
"You want to limit the self-inflicted wounds as much as possible, and try to play smart football," Delhomme said. "But then again, if the play's there, you go at it."
"A lot of this is to get him to be the best he can be for Sunday," Mangini said. "As we talked about it, we didn't think it would be great for him to practice on it yesterday. We thought that could push him back a little bit, so we decided to just do some other things in lieu of that to give him his best chance to be as effective as possible on Sunday. It really wasn't a setback, it was just more adjusting the plan.
"I think we are a week further along from where we were last week," Mangini added. "I'm pretty comfortable with his ability to play and play at a higher level."
Mangini was asked to what extent Cribbs would be available in a game situation.
"The starting point will be kick returner/punt returner, and then we'll play it by ear during the course of the game," the coach said. "He has his plays that he's involved with that he's very familiar with, the Wildcat and the stuff he's very familiar with. ... There will be a package of things that he can do if he is available to do that."
Linebacker Scott Fujita (knee) didn't practice and initially was listed as doubtful. The Browns downgraded him to out Saturday.
Running back Peyton Hillis missed practice for undisclosed personal reasons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.