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“There’s a sense of community in this team and sense of purpose that doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “We all want to win every week. There’s tremendous respect for each other. That’s going to continue to be here and it’s going to continue to propel us forward.”

For at least one more week.

The Browns will end the season by hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4), who will come to Cleveland on Sunday looking to win the AFC North. It’s one more chance for Mangini to show Holmgren how much his team has improved in Year 2. And while the record _ the Browns finished 5-11 last year _ has barely budged, Mangini’s confident significant strides have been made.

“We are seeing it on Sunday at 4 o’clock,” he said. “It’s not showing up in the ultimate category, which is to win games. That needs to continue to improve. But I think the progress is showing up every single week in the way we play, the style we play, the consistency _ all those things are apparent.”

Mangini’s supporters _ and it’s a surprisingly sizable group _ point to the Browns’ competitiveness all season. They’ve been in every game. They’ve pulled off shocking wins over the Patriots and New Orleans. And, they’ve had to withstand a rash of injuries, including high ankle sprains to all three quarterbacks.

Mangini’s detractors argue the Browns should have pulled out a few more games. They also question Mangini’s decision making, clock management and ultraconservative tendencies on game day. In Sunday’s loss, the Browns wasted valuable time before settling for a field goal to end the first half, and then botched an onside kick to open the second.

Holmgren, who celebrated his one-year anniversary in Cleveland last week, has hinted at a possible return to the sideline. It’s not known if the 62-year-old has exterminated the coaching bug or if he’ll make a switch if one of his former assistants such as Jon Gruden or Marty Mornhinweg is available.

Holmgren may decide to keep Mangini and change his staff.

Mangini said he has not discussed anything with Holmgren outside of “team related stuff,” and that he isn’t curious about what his boss is thinking.

“I remember somebody telling me one time don’t worry about the future, it comes soon enough,” Mangini said.

By next Monday, things should be much clearer.

Until then, Vickers said the Browns will do what Mangini has preached.

“We want to keep fighting for our coach,” he said. “That’s the type of coach that he is. Hey, he coached us to finish, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”