BEREA— On the surface, it seems rather simple.
Johnny Manziel told Mike Pettine and others in the Browns front office that he would behave over the bye week, he failed to live up to that promise and was benched for the foreseeable future.
That straight-forward story may be the one that’s been filtered from the mouth of Pettine unto the media, but there may be a bit more to it than is being told.
Yes, Pettine said that Manziel violated the trust that came with the starting quarterback job in Cleveland, but he never fully indicated that a singular video was the cause of this demotion.
“I think it’s probably more than what you see on the surface from a TMZ report,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said, when asked whether or not the demotion was justified.
Thomas wasn’t the only one to indicate that there was more to Manziel’s demotion than meets the eye.
“The people in the locker and the people upstairs know the whole story and how they feel about the whole situation—on the surface, it’s not just the whole case,” receiver Brian Hartline said. “I’m just saying that it’s an in-house thing that kind of spills outside because Johnny is Johnny.”
Hartline believed that the basis for the feeling that Manziel was demoted over a single video was unwarranted, as the fans and the media don’t understand all that’s happening with the backup quarterback.
“You’re talking about stuff that’s in the locker room that you don’t know all the facts to and you are making a lot of assumptions,” Hartline said. “How we handle our business and how we go about things is on us and we stand behind the coach and the decisions.”
As Hartline said, in addition to their united thoughts on Manziel’s demotion and how it’s not necessarily related to a singular video, the Browns also seem to be united in their thoughts about the decision itself.
“The head coach and those guys make a decision and you just move forward with it,” Josh McCown said, when asked about Manziel’s move down the depth chart. “Obviously things have changed and we're just supporting it.”
Thomas too was in full support of Pettine’s decision and even went as far as to say that most of the men in the locker room were as well.
“Judging by the reaction in the locker room, I think we support Coach’s decision,” Thomas said. “In the end, players don’t make decisions on who plays. It’s up to the coaches and the other members of the organization.”
Part of Pettine's decision, was Manziel's well-documented past with issues such as these, which may be part of the under-the-surface nature of the demotion.
"When you get to the point where we just got to with this decision, you factor in the past. You don't make these decisions in a vacuum," Pettine said. "I always reference the body of work and usually referring to that is in a positive way, and in this way it is a negative one."
Though seemingly everyone in the building seems to be on-board with Pettine, for the reasons seen or unseen by the media and the public, they seem too to understand that there are fans that have been upset by the decision.
In knowing that, Thomas respects his coach even more for taking the flak and making the right move.
“I think it’s important that if you have rules and guidelines and people tell you something that you have to follow through,” Thomas said. “(Pettine) doesn’t run from challenges. He faces them head on and he does what he thinks is right in all circumstances, even if it maybe doesn’t look good off the bat or if, even in this case, maybe he’s asking Johnny maybe to take a step back to hopefully take a couple of steps forward.”
The behind-the-scenes happenings in Berea-- or even in Austin-- with Manziel may never be brought to light, but it seems clear that whatever occurred was enough to push the players firmly into the coach's corner when it came to his most recent roster decision.
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.