BEREA— As he sat at the podium on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Pettine’s eyes wandered downward when asked about a hypothetical conversation with Josh McCown in which he'd tell his veteran quarterback that Johnny Manziel will be the Browns starter going forward.
“That would be a tough one,” Pettine said, of the made-up meeting.
Pettine might’ve known that the discussion was looming, but couldn’t imagine the thought.
Less than 24 hours later, however, when he announced that Johnny Manziel was to be the Browns starter, it was clear that the discussion had taken place, but it wasn't as tough for Pettine as he imagined it would be.
“It was not as difficult as I anticipated and a big part of that was Josh,” Pettine said. “Just how he handled it, his mentality, his football character and to use a hokey phrase, his team spirit.”
The reason that Pettine imagined the conversation would be so difficult was because of his admiration for the 36-year old veteran, who he now refers to as the league’s best second-string signal caller.
“This was a guy that set records here in a three-game span and the single game record. What he did for us was tremendous,” Pettine said. “I think with Johnny now as the starter we have the best backup in the league and a guy who’s seen it all and we know can come in and play.”
McCown’s on-field efforts were certainly praise-worthy, but maybe more so was his selflessness and character in the locker room.
Rather than to compete with Manziel for the starting job, McCown made it a point to mentor Manziel, knowing that he wasn’t long for the quarterback position in Cleveland.
In doing that, the Browns now feel that it’s thanks to McCown that Manziel progressed to his current caliber.
“I think a lot of Johnny’s success you can trace directly to Josh McCown. He’s been tremendous,” Pettine said. “I just can’t say enough about the character of the kid and him understanding.”
Manziel agreed with his coach, praising McCown and the quarterback room to for helping him achieve his goal of being the Browns’ starter.
"Josh has helped a lot. You saw Josh on the sideline this past week and he was dialing up plays, giving up ideas,” Manziel said. “From having Kevin O'Connell come in and be in that room every day or having Austin Davis come in and then Josh, I've learned an incredible amount and a lot of the success I've had in these games has to do with that room itself.”
Though McCown didn’t address the media following the announcement on Tuesday morning, he discussed the looming decision on Monday and said that when it was time for Manziel, he’d be prepared to do all he could to help out the starter.
“When that day comes, then obviously Johnny will be playing and I won’t,” McCown said. “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.”
Part of the reason McCown handled the news so well is because he understood the situation at hand.
“Just from a philosophical standpoint, if you pick somebody in the first round and they start to play and start to do some good things, I understand it,” McCown said. “I was really just excited for him and the way he was playing more than anything. If that's the case, that's the case.”
Of course, now the aforementioned case hase become reality and McCown will need be playing the role of backup— a role that he intends to play quite well.
“That’s just the way I view any player on a team is, you do everything you can to help the team win and to serve the team in your role,” McCown said. If you’re the backup quarterback, you help that guy get ready to go and help him play the best ball that he can so that the team can win.”
If the Browns are able to find some wins down the stretch, those victories will be thanks in large part to the efforts of Manziel on the field, but just because it's No. 2 who may get the attention, doesn't mean McCown won't enjoy the wins just as much as, if not more than, the starter.
“I don’t care who does it, I just want our team to win,” McCown said. “It’s about our team.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.