BEREA— The Browns didn’t play this week, but the performance of the team’s starting quarterback earned him a spot on the bench.
Johnny Manziel, who was named Cleveland’s rest-of-the-season starter last week, has been demoted to third string by head coach Mike Pettine, after clutching a bottle of champagne and rapping in a video that made its way around the internet this weekend.
“I informed the quarterbacks of that decision after I sat down and spoke with Johnny, Flip (John DeFilippo) and Kevin (O’Connell) after practice today. Johnny will be the third quarterback,” Pettine said in a statement. “I’m especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard.”
With Manziel making his way to the bench, Josh McCown will again take the reigns as the team’s starter against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, after starting in seven games for the Browns this season.
Hours before announcing his decision, when meeting with the media, Pettine displayed his displeasure in the actions of Manziel, but said too that he’d have more information regarding the situation on Wednesday.
It did seem at the time, however, that Pettine was leaning towards benching Manziel in favor of McCown, as he said that he couldn’t answer a question in regards to Manziel’s starting spot.
Though McCown is now the starter, Pettine said that he and the Browns organization will continue to support Manziel, on and off the field, and help him to understand what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
“We are going to support him in every way possible, but at this point, we’ve decided it’s best to go with Josh as the starter going forward,” Pettine said. “The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous, but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level. It goes well beyond the field.”
In speaking before the announcement was made, Josh McCown commented on his empathy for Manziel, should this have been the move.
“Absolutely, that would be tough, I think, for a young player, I absolutely can empathize with him. That’s hard to swallow for sure,” McCown said. “I definitely could empathize with him, going through this situation, being there as a young player and getting excited about the opportunity to play… We’ll work through it, if that’s the case.”
Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will be McCown’s first on-field action since he faced the Arizona Cardinals on November 1, when he suffered an injury to his ribs.
After remaining on the sidelines for Cleveland’s Thursday night loss in Cincinnati and most recent loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, McCown said he’s fully healthy and has been preparing as if he’d be the starter.
“I feel a lot better, and obviously, when you’re dealing with ribs and stuff like that, you never know until you take that first hit, but it feels like I’ve gained some ground there,” McCown said, before Tuesday’s announcement. “When you’re the backup quarterback, you’re one play away, and it’s kind of cliché, but it really is. I’ve been involved in games years ago where it’s two, three snaps into it, and now, you’re out there playing, so I’ll prepare like I always do and be ready to go.”
Earlier this season, McCown and the Browns beat the Ravens in OT, 33-30, in a game during which McCown threw for a Cleveland single-game record 457 yards and two touchdowns.
He said, though he’d love to put up similar numbers on Monday, he’s just focused on helping the Browns to get a win.
“I don’t know if I’d go into the game trying to break the record, but it would be cool to get a win. When you’re on a 2-8 team, it would be great to get a win in front of a home crowd on a Monday night,” McCown said. “All I want to do is win a game.”
While McCown has represented a source of stability for the Browns this season, it remains to be seen what will happen to Manziel going forward.
No matter the case, McCown has offered his unconditional support.
“I’m behind the guy 100% and want nothing but the best for him, off the field first, and even on the field, I want him to be productive,” McCown said. “I’ll be there supporting him 100%.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.