BEREA—Mike Pettine wasted no time in announcing that veteran Josh McCown would return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Raiders.
McCown was cleared from the concussion protocol and will return to the practice field on Wednesday per a release sent out by the team. McCown was 5-of-8 for 49 yards (62.5 pct.) before suffering a concussion with a rating of 79.7 on his only drive against the Jets. McCown also rushed three times for 23 yards.
"Josh was cleared by the independent neurologist (Wednesday) morning," Pettine said. "He's 100 percent cleared to play. He's done everything that we've asked of him in the off-season, so far this year and he had earned the right to be our starting quarterback. We feel he gives us the best opportunity to win on Sunday and that truly is the basis of the decision from a coaching standpoint.
"I know there were a lot of exterior factors, but for us it was very bottom line," he said. "You weigh everything, the game plan, you look at where we are, who's gotten what reps and how we feel about things and it's about who gives us the best opportunity to win."
On Monday, Pettine made it clear that the Browns are trying to win now and will go with the quarterback they feel gives the team the best chance to win.
“We’re tasked with winning football games and the decisions we make are what gives us the best opportunity to win this Sunday,” he said. “I know that on the outside that those things get brought into it and we’ve already seen the circumstances that have come about for us to get an evaluation of him. We’re not going to use a season and look at it that way, say ‘Hey, we need to know.’ We think over the natural course of events we’ll find out.”
Johnny Manziel worked his way into the discussion after leading the Browns to a 28-14 win with two touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin, including one from 50-yards that sealed the Browns win over the Titans.
Manziel finished 8-of-15 for 172 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 133.9 in leading the Browns to his first win as a starter in the NFL. Manziel had just three rushes for one yard
In between the first touchdown pass to Benjamin and the last—from the 6:26 mark of the first quarter to the 3:07 mark of the fourth quarter—Manziel was just 3-of-10 for 22 yards with two sacks. He fumbled on both sacks, but the Browns recovered both balls that hit the ground.
On the season, Manziel is 21-of-39 for 354 yards (53.8 pct) with three touchdowns and one inter option. he’s been sacked five times and has a rating of 99.7.
"With (naming McCown the starter) being said, I thought Johnny did an outstanding job with his opportunity. He knows that there are some things he needs to get cleaned up--actually the quarterback room knows that we need to be more protective of the football.
"But as I said before, I'm very proud of (Manziel) personally and professionally with the progress that he's made and it's a very positive thing for us. This is all very positive because we now feel we have a backup that can come in and he's already proven he can move the team and make plays and win games for us. He's making great strides and if he continues to make strides, he can ultimately get to where we all want him to be.
"But just where we are right now, we look forward to having Josh leading the offense against the Raiders on Sunday."
Pettine received multiple questons on the reason to switch back to McCown, but was consistent in his reasoning.
“No reason to alter our original plan,” he said. “It goes back to why we made Josh our starter...It’s a positive thing for us. The second quarterback went in and played well, but there were reasons we started with Josh as the one and Johnny as the two. That was our plan and we don’t see a reason to deviate from that now.”
For those who argue the Browns need to find out what Manziel can do, Pettine feels they already have a good sample size of what he can do.
“I think we already saw it with him having to play seven quarters now,” Pettine said. “We went into the season with him as the backup. I think if you look at the league, I think it’s rare that backups don’t have to go in and play. We can also see a lot of his progress. The results have been encouraging.”
Pettine said he's not a believer in playing for the future.
“Are we preparing for the future with a guy we see right now as our backup?" he said. "That’s not how we do our business. Seven quarters is encouraging. Overall, quarterback play has risen.”