Can the Browns trust Johnny Manziel as the franchise quarterback going forward?

Even if Johnny Manziel shows he can be a good NFL quarterback for the Browns, Mike Pettine said there's still more to it moving forward

BEREA—Barring another ‘incident’, Johnny Manziel is going to get his chance to show that he can be the Browns long-term answer at quarterback.

However, Mike Pettine said despite his play, there is more than just what he does on the field. Pettine said Manziel will be able to earn back some of the trust that he has lost with the coaches and the organization. 

“Four weeks is a long time so I think we’ll have a good sense of that then and then I think at the end of the season or as the seasons winding down as we look ahead to the break – it’s not just with him – we’ll meet with all of our players and have a plan for them and have open discussion," Pettine said. ‘Here’s where we see you. How do you see yourself? These are the things you need to work on.’ It’s A-to-Z. Sometimes it’s football related. Sometimes we’ll talk about if there’s potentially off the field issues. That’s part of the exit process for everyone.”

Despite the violation of trust, Pettine made it clear that it was more important to see him play.

“On the decision to go with Johnny at quarterback, we want to see him play," Pettine said. "We want to see him build off the improvements that he made on the field."

Pettine said there is a concern that even if he shows he can be the quarterback the team thought when they drafted him in the first round last year, there is concern that he cannout be trusted as the face of the franchise.

"He and I talked, and he also understands – I’ve said this a lot – to be a starting quarterback in this league, it is so much more than what’s done on the field," Pettine said. "There’s an added responsibility. There’s the responsibility that you have when you’re an NFL football player and then you add to it when you’re an NFL quarterback. That’s a big part of it. Earning respect of teammates and trust of coaches is just as important as what you’re doing on the field. He understands it. He’s working hard, and I’ll be surprised if he goes out there and he’s not dialed in and prepared for this defense. Like I said, he understands it and he knows this is an opportunity for him, and we all want him to take full advantage of it."

Had Josh McCown not broken his collar bone when Manziel lost his starting opportunity two weeks ago, Manziel might not have been given another chance.

“I wouldn’t say, that but we have to be able to put a team out there and play," he said. "We know that there are some off the field issues there with Johnny. That’s been very public and debated. Those are things that we’re well aware of. We’re going to spend some time whether it’s now doing what you can and after the season addressing those. We made the decision to go with Austin (Davis) and here we are with Johnny. Like I said, we want to see him play.” 

Pettine said that Manziel has been progressing on the football side of things.

“First of all the on the field – we had the well documented violation of trust, but everything else has been solid, the preparation in the building. Even when he wasn’t the guy, whether it was  Josh or whether it was  Austin, he was very supportive," Pettine said. "He upheld his responsibilities as the backup as is required in that room.

"We’ve seen the improvement that he took," he said. "The Pittsburgh game wasn’t that long ago. It was a step backwards, but that didn’t have anything to do with football. We have a guy that we’ve invested a lot in. We have four games left, and this will give us a good sense of where we are with that room moving forward.”

Pettine was asked if there would be a ‘zero tolerance’ policy with Manziel going forward with regards to off the field incidents.

“It’s hard when you have to put things in a vacuum," he said. "I don’t want to sit here and say that because then you look at the degree of the incident. It would be hard for me to sit here and say we have a zero-tolerance policy, but if something were to occur, I could imagine that the repercussions would be harsh.”

Pettine said that Manziel can still prove he can be the team’s quarterback moving forward. Pettine was asked what he needed to show in the upcoming games. 

“Do his job," he said. "Do his job and understand that it’s not just about on the field. I’ve said that: to be a starting quarterback in this league, with that comes great responsibility. The field is part of it and off the field is another part of it.

"What does he have to do? It’s day today and work," he said. "We already talked about getting things rebuilt, and that does take time, but for all of our players, what you strive for is respect of your teammates and trust of your coaches. It’s even more so when you’re a starting quarterback. We feel he’s capable of getting there, but it’s a process.”  

Extra Points

Mangini’s Revenge: Former Browns head coach Eric Mangini will take on the Browns this week as the 49ers defensive coordinator. He would like nothing better to shut down the Browns this week.

 I’ve known Eric for a long time," Pettine said. "I know that group is going to be very prepared, well-coached, dialed in to what we do, have a plan to take away our strengths." 

Mangini coaches the Browns in 2009-10 and was 5-11 in each season.

Erving Benched: First round pick (19th overall) OL Cameron Erving has been benched after two starts in place of OL Joel Bitonio. Erving was replaced in the fourth quarter of the Bengals game and replaced by OL Austin Pasztor. 

“We are going ahead and give Austin Pasztor the start,” Pettine said. 

Pasztor was claimed off of waivers from the Jaguars early in the season.

 Bitonio was placed on season-ending injured reserve, so it was assumed that Erving would get the rest of the season to play.

“I don’t think anybody is more frustrated than he is because he will have a stretch of four or five good plays where he does his job, does it well, but he has made critical mistakes and ones that have had a big effect, whether it is giving up a quarterback hit or a sack," Pettine said. "We have not lost confidence or faith in Cam, but it is just something that Austin is a guy here on campus that we also want to see play, and he has been great since he has been here. He works his tail off and he knows what to do. We will see how he is this week, but we just felt it was best to go ahead and switch those two.”

Pryor Sighting: With WR Andrew Hawkins and WR Taylor Gabriel still in the concussion protocol, along with WR Travis Benjamin (shoulder), WR Marlon Moore (ribs) and WR Brian Hartline (hip) slowed with injuries, Pettine said that WR Terrelle Pryor might be active this week.

“There is a reasonable chance that he will be up this week," Pettine said. "To his credit, he came in here in very good shape, and the knowledge that he gained of our system quickly came back to him. That was a positive. You assume the worst when a guy just gets here. ‘Let’s assume he hasn’t done much and is out of shape and he has forgotten a lot of what we have done.’ That is not the case with Terrelle. Hopefully we can get him out there sooner than later.”

Injury Update: The Browns injury report had those with concussions still on it DB Joe Haden, DB Justin Gilbert, WR Andrew Hawkins and WR Taylor Gabriel.  WR Brian Hartline (hip), TE Gary Barnidge (ankle), OL Cameron Erving (ankle), WR Travis Benjamin (shoulder) and WR Marlon Moore (ribs) were limited in practice. 

 “On the injury front, the injury report is a little long," Pettine said. "Travis Benjamin has the shoulder and all the guys in the concussion protocol will not practice. Everybody else on the list will be at least limited in some form.” 

 Johnson to IR: FB Malcolm Johnson was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury and was replaced on the active roster by OL Darrian Miller. Johnson was a sixth-round draft choice from Mississippi State in 2015 by the Browns. He caught four passes for 15 yards in 12 games. Miller has played in two games this season.

Practice Makes Perfect: The Browns added TE Connor Hamlett and DB Tim Scott to the practice squad. To make room on the roster, the team released DB Kendall James from the practice squad.

 Hamlett (6-7, 259) from Oregon State where he totaled 104 catches for 1,109 yards and 10 TDs in 47 career games and 29 starts. A native of Edmonds, Wash., Hamlett was originally signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and was released at the end of training camp. He also spent time on practice squads for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints. 

 Scott (5-11, 195), started 45 of 50 career games at North Carolina, totaling 212 tackles, 25 passes defensed and eight INTs. Scott originally signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and was released at the end of training camp before spending time on the Cowboys’ practice squad. 


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