BEREA—Josh McCown has learned a thing or two in his 13 years as primarily a backup quarterback in the NFL.
Namely, always be ready.
“I said (Monday), the reality is you always are one play away,” McCown said. “Definitely, you prepare as the starter, but when you are the guy, there is a different feeling. You just have to get into that mode. You never want to regain a job this way, so to speak. Obviously, you have to serve your team and do the job that the coaches ask you to do. We will move forward and do that. As far as preparation, that doesn’t change because you have to be ready because you are always one play away.”
McCown regained the starting quarterback job on Tuesday when Johnny Manziel was demoted to third string for another off the field incident. However, he is taking his preparation as the starter in stride.
“We will move towards the game Monday night,” McCown said. “All of those things, we will pull from those things and we have to. I have said this before, turn the lights on and put the stripes on the field, you have to go play and have fun and realize how special it is to get to play this game. That won’t change. I feel like we will have good energy and we will go out there and play well.”
McCown admitted he is excited to return to the field on Monday Night Football.
“Obviously, neither team is having the season that they want, but I think all of us as players have so much respect for the game. When you grow up – it’s Monday Night Football and the music and we just appreciate it. I do think, with the different teams I have been on, there is an added energy to it. I would think that would be no different Monday. Understanding the history of this division and these two teams, like we talked about the first time around and what it means to this city, from our end of it, there is a lot of excitement for us players.”
McCown is hoping to lead the Browns to a sweep over the Ravens after a 33-30 overtime win over the Ravens on Oct. 11. It was the last win for the Browns this season as they’ve lost five in a row since. In the first game against the Ravens, McCown threw for a franchise record with 457 yards and two touchdowns in the Browns overtime win. On the season, McCown is 165-of-254 (65 pct.) for 1,897 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. His 1,154 yards during the span of weeks three to five set a franchise record over three games, surpassing Brian Sipe’s 1,038 in 1980.
McCown said he’s not trying to break any records, but is more focused on getting a win against Baltimore.
“I don’t know if I would go into the game trying to break the record, but it would be cool to get a win,” McCown said. “When you are a 2-8 team, it would be great to get a win in front of the home crowd and on Monday night. That is all I would care about. That is the thing as you go through the bye and you think through things and assess where you are, and 2-8 is obviously not where any of us wanted to be.
“You want to get a win for our team, for the guys in the locker room and for the fans and the people that support us,” he said. “The city has been awesome in how they support us. We need to put a good product out there and win the football game. That is my focus. If it means breaking a record, great. If it means watching Crow (Isaiah Crowell) or Duke (Johnson Jr.) break a rushing record, that would be awesome, too. All I want to do is win the game.”
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said that he expects McCown to adjust against the Ravens after having so much success in the first game.
“Obviously, I thought Josh played very, very well against the Ravens," he said. "The Ravens are a very good defense. I know from an offensive standpoint they are beat up a little bit, but they have everyone healthy on defense. We are going to have our hands full again with this guys. I like our plan. We should play with a lot of confidence on Monday night at home in front of our own crowd. I expect Josh and the other 10 guys to play well.”
DeFilippo said he doesn't think going from backup to starter once again, will affect McCown.
“From a guy that has been in the league as long as he has and been in some of the tough situations that he has, Josh is a pretty ‘take it in stride’ type guy. Whatever is dealt his way, he deals with it with a lot of confidence and poise, and I am proud of the way he handled this.”
Despite missing the last two games due to injury, DeFilippo said he thinks McCown is ready to shake off the rust of inactivity and use the whole playbook.
“From everything Josh has told me and from everything I have seen at practice, I have noticed, to me, he looks very, very healthy," DeFilippo said. "We are going in with a no-holds-barred mentality. We are going to try to attack this defense like we try to attack defenses every week. I am not going to hold anything back. I think he is healthy and ready to roll.”
Pettine expects McCown to be well prepared.
“Josh has demonstrated it throughout that he’s a competitor," Pettine said. "He wants to do anything it takes to help this team win. He’s preparing to go out there. He knows it’s not going to be similar to the first game that it’s not just they’re going to sit and give us the exact same coverages and the same opportunities, that we’re going to have to work for everything we do. I think that that’s where his preparation will come in, and we’re confident he’ll do a good job for us.”
McCown admitted that there is some confidence from the first game that can carry over to the rematch.
“Absolutely. Anytime you go out and win the game, perform well on both sides and have Travis (Coons) kick a field goal like that, just everybody coming together and doing their part to win that game, I think there is certainly value in that for sure when you see an opponent a second time around.
“Yeah, I think you can draw on that from past performance,” he said. “You also know they are going to watch that tape and take some of those things a way. It is not like you can just roll the ball out here and say this is going to happen again. We will have to tweak some things that we have done and put together our own plan. The coaches will do a good of that, and we will be ready to roll.”
McCown has played well for the most part while he was healthy in the seven games that he’s played in. Overall, he is ninth in fourth quarter passing among NFL quarterbacks with a 103.8 rating. His 95.2 passer rating is best on the Browns and 13th in the NFL, overall.
McCown suffered a concussion on the openingg drive of the season opener against the Jets and then was inactive the following week against the Titans. He played the next six games before injuring his ribs and throwing shoulder on Nov. 1 against the Cardinals. He sat out the next two games and was preparing to backup Manziel the rest of the season until Manziel violated the team’s trust and was sent back to the bench.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the switch from Manziel back to McCown didn’t affect their preparation.
“It was early in our preparation,” Harbaugh said. “Doesn’t really affect us that much. I think the offenses are the same for both guys essentially. There might be some subtle differences as far as any offense is going to gear toward what the quarterback is comfortable with and things like that. They run basically the same offense. With Josh, he’s more experienced obviously so he’s got more experience to draw on that way. We have a lot of respect for Josh. He’s always played well. He certainly played well against us last time so we think a lot of him as a player and we’re preparing for him.”
Pettine on Manziel Lying: Pettine didn’t want to talk any more about the Johnny Manziel situation, despite reports that Manziel lied to the Browns and tried to cover up his off the field incident.
“I already addressed it [Wednesday," Pettine said. "I said trust and accountability was where we had a short fall. Like I said, I have nothing more to add.
“I addressed the situation in detail on Wednesday and when I say I’m sorry to disappoint, I’m not really,” he said. “We have a game to get ready for. I dealt with it Wednesday and am moving forward.”
Pettine was asked if Manziel will be inactive on Monday Night as the third quarterback.
“I haven’t done the worksheet yet,” he said. “But, it always comes down to projected health at other positions and we haven’t got to that point.”
Pettine has already said that Manziel will be the third quarterback behind McCown and QB Austin Davis.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was asked about Manziel.
“I think all of us as people, myself included, we all are a work-in-progress every day," DeFilippo said. "Some of us are dealing with some different issues than others. We know Johnny’s issues and we are working with him every day. There is no doubt in my mind that Johnny is going to bounce back.”
DeFilippo was asked how he feels he can trust Manziel going forward and answered 'yes' when asked if he felt that Manziel could be a franchise quarterback.
“Just by knowing the person," he said. "I know the person more than a lot of people. We all make mistakes. We all hope as an organization that he has learned from some of the mistakes he has made. Like I said, we all are a work in progress, and we are going to keep working with him.”
DeFilippo said he likes the progress that Manziel has made this season and wouldn't rule him out playing over the final six games.
“I like what I have seen. I really do," he said. "Even the jump he made from the Cincinnati game to the Pittsburgh game was a huge jump. I think we would all agree on that, as well. I think Johnny has played enough football where we know what we have in him, and as well we all know, a six-game season in the NFL is a long stretch, a very long stretch.
"We are a long way from the end of the season," he said. "You don’t close doors on anything. You never say never in this profession. To say that Johnny Manziel will not play again this season, I am not ready to say that.”
Bitonio Practices: OL Joel Bitonio (ankle) returned to practice Friday on a limited basis. Pettine said he might get some team work on Saturday if he progresses, and has a chance to play Monday night if he’s totally healthy.
“On the good news front, Joel will have a chance to do a little individual work,” Pettine said. “And get some team work Saturday and we’ll see where he is.”
Pettine was asked if he’d start Monday if he’s cleared.
“If he’s cleared 100 percent,” he said. “If it’s a situational that he’s functional, but not 100 percent well have to decide that.”
If Bitonio doesn’t play, rookie OL Cam Erving will get his second NFL start in Bitonio’s place at left guard.
“We all saw there was a handful of glaring mistakes,(Erving’s) only going to get better, the more he plays,” Pettine said. “Cam needs to play. It will be a good opportunity for him (if he gets to play). As I’ve said 100 times, there’s no substitute for playing.
“We’re most pleased with the play he played with an edge.”
Haden Hung Up: Pettine said that DB Joe Haden has not been able to pass the written/computer part of the concussion protocol and cannot progress until he gets back to the baseline in the process. Also, WR Andrew Hawkins and WR Taylor Gabriel are still in the protocol and it’s looking more likely that all three will miss Monday’s game.
“You get to the testing part where there’s a written test and a computer test and right now I think that’s the obstacle.”
The other players limited or missing practice is Bitonio and DL Randy Starks (knee).
If Haden missed Monday, it will be his third-straight game and fifth of the last six games he would’ve missed due to a concussion.
“It impacts (our offense) a good deal,” DeFilippo said regarding the absence of Hawkins and Gabriel. “To lose guys who’ve played a lot is difficult.”
Bowe’s Role to Expand?: With Hawkins and Gabriel likely out this week, DeFilippo was asked if WR Dwayne Bowe would be more involved in this week’s plan.
“It could be that Dwayne could be needed,” DeFilippo said. “Dwayne will be ready if he’s called upon.”
After signing a two-year $12.5 million contract, Bowe has caught just three passes on the season for 31 yards, all on Nov. 6 against the Bengals. Bowe has been inactive for six of the 10 games, including last week against the Steelers.