Seneca Wallace turned in another solid, if not spectacular, performance Sunday, as the Cleveland Browns finally got over the hump and secured their first win of the season, a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
What stands out about Wallace’s play thus far is that he is doing exactly what Mike Holmgren expected him to when Holmgren acquired him during the offseason.
In three games starting in place of the injured Jake Delhomme, Wallace has completed 61 percent of his passes for an average 10.7-yard gain and a passer rating of 82.2.
For his career, Wallace has completed 60 percent of his passes for an average 10.7-yard gain and a passer rating of 83.0.
Talk about consistency.
That’s not a problem. It’s not why he was brought to Cleveland, and nobody expects him to play like a Hall of Famer.
Wallace was acquired to do exactly what he’s doing: Keep the ship sailing and put the Browns in a position to win every week.
So far, so good. The Browns have led going into the fourth quarter of every game this season, and Wallace was responsible for three of those. That’s called giving your team a chance, and you can’t ask much more of a career backup who’s been thrust into the starting role.
Remember, these are the Browns, not the Steelers or Ravens or Saints. Cleveland has become known for pulling losses out of a hat each week, while those other teams usually do things the other way around.
For Wallace to step into a challenging situation and provide the leadership that puts a historically losing team in a position to win is a significant accomplishment that deserves credit and more than a fair share of praise.
His second-quarter touchdown pass to Evan Moore was perfectly placed. Other passes were less accurate, sometimes lagging behind the intended receiver. He also threw one interception.
That’s the kind of mixed bag Wallace usually produces. At the same time, he scrambled out of trouble more than once and kept the Bengals’ defense on its toes, something Delhomme is far less capable of.
The question now is, when Delhomme is fully recovered from his high ankle sprain—probably this week—who will be the starter?
If Eric Mangini’s track record and hints are any indication, it will be Delhomme. The 10-year veteran has 93 career starts under his belt, with a 54-39 record in those contests. Wallace has started just 17 games in his six years in the league and has won only six of those games.
What the early part of the 2010 season has confirmed, however, is that Wallace is a capable NFL quarterback and a valuable player to have on the roster. Based on his performance thus far, he’ll probably get his share of snaps regardless of who starts—and, if Delhomme falters, Mangini can have complete confidence in Wallace to get the job done.
A year ago, Mangini never knew what to expect from Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson week to week. How things have changed.
Delhomme had a solid preseason and a decent first half in the season opener before being injured. Obviously, if he returns to past form, the Browns will be better for it.
Wallace, on the other hand, has had three games to display his talents and has lived up to all expectations.
Holmgren set out to bring stability and leadership to the quarterback position in 2010. Consider that mission accomplished, and Wallace to be a major reason why.