BEREA— Josh McCown stood on the sideline on Sunday and watched Johnny Manziel play his finest football of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Benched for the second-straight week by a some sore ribs that could possibly be broken, McCown might’ve watched, as well, Manziel unseat him from his spot under center.
With the team 2-8 and closer to the top pick in the draft than a playoff spot, the Browns may need to see if Manziel can duplicate that performance over the last six weeks, meaning McCown could be relegated to the bench.
Though Mike Pettine wouldn’t say just yet that they’d go with Manziel, if it is to happen, McCown would be very understanding, as he knows he’s not part of the long-term plans in Cleveland.
“If you pick somebody in the first round and they start to play and start to do some good things, I understand it if that's the decision,” McCown said. “That’ll be their decision and we’ll adjust accordingly and move forward doing everything we can to make that quarterback room as productive as possible.”
The decision lies in the hands of Mike Pettine, who admitted it would be tough to move away from McCown for the rest of the season, but no matter which way he goes, according to Joe Thomas, he’ll be making the right move.
“I think whatever decision Pett makes, he’s going to not make a bad decision,” Thomas said. “That’s a good position for him to be in because I think everybody is comfortable with both guys being able to go out and execute and give us an opportunity to win.”
As the decision is made in the next couple of days, if it is to be that Manziel is named the starter for the foreseeable future, McCown still feels he has a very important job to do.
“I’ll support him and help him get ready, just like I did this week, and do everything I can to help him play the best ball he can to help us win football games,” McCown said. “If you’re the backup quarterback, you help that guy get ready so that the team can win. It’s just about the team.”
With that attitude, McCown’s presence in the locker room may be a bigger strength for the Browns than his presence on the field, according to Pettine.
“You want to talk about why Johnny’s made the improvement that he’s made, Josh is a big part of that,” Pettine said. “To have that guy in the room that has his personality and sets the example that he can set, yeah, he’s been a mentor for him.”
McCown may not have lauded himself as a mentor, but he did have immense pride in Manziel for various aspects of his performance on Sunday, including the preparation
“I thought he did a really good job. I’m really proud of him,” McCown said. “It’s Johnny, himself, just for putting the time in. For everything that was put into the game plan and that we ask the quarterback to do, I thought he handled himself very well. A lot, a lot of really good things.”
Specifically, McCown was impressed with the way Manziel stood in the pocket when he needed to, before pulling off the kind of plays he was known for making throughout his Heisman campaign at Texas A&M.
“I was proud of him because he was so effective from the pocket,” McCown said. “When all the other stuff happens it’s icing on the cake. Yesterday I thought he captured that and had great balance of those things. I think that’s why he was so effective.”
Pettine too was impressed with Manziel’s balance between in and out of pocket play, after calling out the quarterback for his lack of pocket awareness the week earlier.
“I just thought the improvement he made from the Cincinnati game to this one was a leap,” Pettine said. “We’re looking for the best of both worlds. Take the plays that are there, but when it does get expended, go ahead and do your thing.”
When asked if Manziel would be able to continue to do his thing after the bye week, Pettine wouldn’t give a definitive answer, but, like McCown, did show his pride in the 22-year old.
“Given what he’s gone through, you’re just proud of the kid and happy for him,” Pettine said. “I just wish we had a better result from a team standpoint because he played his ass off.”
When the decision is finally made, be it Manziel or McCown, both No. 13 and Pettine don’t really care who’s behind center.
At the end of the day, in this season of just two wins thus far, all they want is a win.
“It’s about out team,” McCown said. “I don’t care who does it, I just want our team to win.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.