Apparently, two touchdown passes and a nice victory weren’t enough to break that unwritten rule that a player, especially a quarterback, shouldn’t lose his starting position due to an injury. Cleveland Browns head coach, Mike Pettine, is holding true to that unwritten rule by starting Josh McCown this coming Sunday, instead of Johnny Manziel. McCown, was injured in the Browns first game against the New York Jets and underwent concussion protocol. He’s now cleared to play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, and Pettine had no hesitation in naming him the starter. Pettine, going back with McCown begs two questions. One. Is it the right decision? Two. If not now when for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland?
Granted, Manziel didn’t have a great performance (8-15, 172 yards, 2 TD’s 0 INT’s) by any stretch of the imagination this past Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. Granted, the Titans aren’t exactly a Super Bowl contender (neither are the Browns), nor will their defense remind you of the ’85 Bears (nor will the Browns). But, it was largely a mistake free outing. Interception free, anyway. The main thing, is Manziel did nothing to get his team beat, while making a few dynamic plays that we’ve been accustomed to seeing Johnny Football make since he came on the scene at Texas A&M. One of those plays came late in the 4th quarter after a Marcus Mariota TD pass, to cut Cleveland’s lead to 21-14. It was 2nd and 8, and as Manziel dropped back to pass, the Titans’ outside linebacker Brian Orakpo gave chase. As Manziel rolled out, it looked like Orakpo would get the sack and put the Browns in a 3rd and long situation, with only the one score lead. But, Manziel was able to elude Orakpo and find his receiver, Travis Benjamin, open down field for the game-clinching score. It would be the second time that Manziel would hook up with the speedy Benjamin on the day. The bottom line is, Manziel made plays when he had to in the face of some adversity, and he didn’t make any big mistakes.
Isn’t that what Pettine should be looking for here? Wasn’t Manziel the Browns first round pick a year ago? McCown, certainly wasn’t. In fact, McCown was drafted in the 2002 draft’s third round by the Arizona Cardinals and has played for a plethora of teams since. Nothing wrong with that, and nothing wrong with the Browns having him around. But, shouldn’t your first round pick get more of a look than a 13- year veteran journeyman? McCown, was supposed to be insurance for Manziel. Not the other way around. What is Pettine expecting with McCown? An AFC North Division title? Sure. There’s only the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals standing in the way of that. Forget a division title, maybe he’s expecting a Super Bowl run. Can’t you just picture Josh McCown outdueling Tom Brady in the AFC Title game in snowy, cold Foxboro, then outplaying Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl 50? Maybe, Pettine can. Because, that is the only reason you would go back with McCown at this point.
Cleveland just may not be the right place for Johnny Football. The Browns staff seems scared to play him. ESPN’s First Take personality, Skip Bayless made the point that the Browns staff seems more inclined to not play Manziel, because McCown gives the Browns a shot at being sort of competitive to a point where they would be able to keep their jobs. I’m not so sure he’s not right. However, keeping your first round pick on the field is the right thing to do. The Oakland Raiders are coming to town. Which means another chance for Manziel to gain a little confidence in a very winnable game. The fans are and have been screaming for Johnny Football for a since the night he was drafted. Can you imagine how Browns fans would feel if they’re team was 2-1 with Manziel as their QB? Conversely, can you imagine if the Browns win Sunday with McCown under center? It certainly won’t have the kind of exciting feel as it would with Manziel. It should be all about the future in Cleveland. Unfortunately, it’s not. Which means, if not now when for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland, will probably turn into never.