BEREA—One of the reasons Johnny Manziel was announced as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season was to see if he was the long-term answer at quarterback for the Browns.
It appears the Browns have their answer—at least as it now stands.
It’s too bad because seeing Manziel play the rest of the season would’ve made a 2-8 season a bit more interesting to watch and give the fans some hope for the future if Manziel continued to improve his play.
For a lot of reasons, the 2015 season for the Browns was to see if Manziel was going to be their quarterback of the future. Josh McCown was signed to be the bridge quarterback until either Manziel was ready or the next up-and-coming quarterback was ready. Remember, there were many who thought the Browns might try to trade up to draft Marcus Mariota last spring, despite having Manziel already on the roster.
Many thought at some point in the 2015 season that the Browns would turn to Manziel to see what he could do. That time came at the bye with the Browns having won just two games.
With many having questions about whether Manziel could be a pocket passer in the NFL, he showed significant progress in the loss to the Steelers on Nov. 15. With that being said, it is ironic that it could very well be Manziel’s off-the-field behavior that will ultimately be his undoing. By all appearances, it seems that Manziel is more interested in maintaining his party lifestyle, instead of being an NFL quarterback.
Mike Pettine re-named McCown the starter “going forward” after just announcing Manziel had earned the opportunity to play the rest of the season just a week ago. With the Browns currently in the running for one of the top two or three picks in the NFL Draft, they have to decide once again if they start over and go after that elusive “franchise quarterback”.
Pettine was willing to give Manziel the rest of the season to play to see if he had progressed to the point on the field to be the Browns quarterback. With McCown the starter and Austin Davis the backup, Manziel might not see the field before the season is over, which would almost certainly seal his fate in Cleveland.
Even though Pettine wouldn’t come out and say that he felt Manziel gave the Browns the best chance to win—which is what almost all coaches in general say when they’re asked about who is going to play the quarterback position. Pettine was asked if he felt that was the case and indicated that Manziel has closed the gap significantly on McCown when asked why he would make the switch.
“I think the performance against Pittsburgh validated for us the progress that he’s made and shown and he deserves the opportunity,” Pettine said a week ago. “Also Josh’s circumstances being what they are and not being entirely healthy, at least in the short term.
“It’s something we realized where our season is and this is a kid that we’ve invested a lot in and this gives us an opportunity to see how far he’s come and what he’s capable of,” he said. “Based on how (Manziel) played against Pittsburgh and his ability to make plays both inside and outside the pocket. The difference in maximizing our chances to win is negligible. You’re not going to hold me down to picking one over the other, but that gap is very small.”
Manziel might have showed on the field that he is progressing and developing as an NFL quarterback, but it’s obvious that Pettine has had enough of constantly spending his time answering questions about police reports and stories from the likes of TMZ and Busted Coverage.
McCown clearly has been the least of the Browns problems as he’s played above most people’s expectations and even set franchise records for passing this year. McCown isn't the reason the Browns have won just two games. That honor is directly on the defense for allowing over 25 points a game. However, a 36-year old quarterback who’s banged up isn’t the long-term answer and the Browns know that.
Pettine made it clear on Tuesday that it would be his decision on who would be the quarterback moving forward.
Pettine needs to be respected for his decision as he has tried to establish the “Play like a Brown” mantra since he was hired to coach the Browns. Even if he doesn’t survive the aftermath of the 2015 season, Pettine has clearly had enough of dealing with the antics of Johnny Manziel and his decision has to be respected in the locker room with the other players.
Mike Pettine has made his decision. The next question remains is where do the Browns as an organization go from here with Johnny Football?