Cleveland Browns turning offense over to Johnny Manziel
By Thomas Moore
Nov 15, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine made it official on Tuesday.
The Browns offense is now in the hands of quarterback Johnny Manziel.
“I think the performance against Pittsburgh validated for us the progress that he’s made, the improvement that he’s shown and that he deserves this opportunity,” Pettine said in announcing the move. “Also just Josh McCown’s circumstances being what they are, not being entirely healthy at least in the short term. It’s something that we understand where our season is at this point and this is a kid we invested a lot in. This will give us an opportunity to see how far he’s come and what he’s capable of.”
It is the right decision at the right time for the Browns, who head into the bye week with a record of 2-8 and carrying a five-game losing streak.
“I think (Johnny) earned a lot of respect from the guys in that room of how he prepared for the week, how he went out and executed the game plan.” – Head coach Mike Pettine
Manziel showed enough on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers to confirm for everyone that the quarterback position is not the problem with the team, or at least not the main problem. Now that Manziel knows he is the starter, he can start focusing on figuring out how to score more than 10 points a game and work on his 1-3 record as the Browns main quarterback this season.
(Yes, we’re hanging the loss against the New York Jets on him as he played all but one series in that game. Not that there is much true value in a quarterback’s “record,” but that is the first stat everyone brings up with McCown, so it’s only fair to point out Manziel’s role in the Browns lost season.)
He also has another opportunity to prove that he can be a professional when he is away from the building.
“Coach Pettine came in and said he didn’t want to micro-manage me or any of the other guys on our time off, but at the same time I let him know that I am not going to do anything that is going to be a distraction to this team or be an embarrassment to the organization,” Manziel said. “That was the thing he stressed to me as well. I think it is a point in the season where it is a bye and it is well deserved. We can come back and gear up for these last set of games that we have. I don’t think you have to worry about me this week.”
The fact that the Browns can turn to Manziel because they want to, rather than because they have to, is a credit to Manziel for taking things seriously. The coaching staff also deserves credit, much to the dismay of some, for creating and sticking to a plan for Manziel that required him to earn playing time.
“No matter what happens, whatever you think, if this may be for next year or whatever the case is, we are going to win some of these games down the road.” – Johnny Manziel
“Obviously last year … didn’t go the way that I wanted it to so I was probably down on myself doubting my abilities a little bit then,” Manziel said. “Coming back to OTAs I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it’s been a progress getting to where the result was on Sunday. There probably was a little doubt toward the end of last season and then shaking that off, getting my head in the right place and being able to come back.”
In addition, unlike last season when the Browns called on Manziel to replace a struggling Brian Hoyer, this time Manziel has an ally in McCown. (Which is not a knock on Hoyer; he was in a different place career-wise than McCown.)
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“If you are the starting quarterback, you go out there and play the best ball you can. If you are the backup quarterback, you help that guy get ready to go and help him play the best ball he can so that the team can win. It is about the team,” McCown said on Monday. “I will support and help (Manziel) get ready just like I did this week and do everything I can to help him to play the best ball he can to help us win football games.
“That is the way I view – any player on a team – you do everything you can to help the team win and to serve the team in your role.”
By turning to Manziel now, the Browns will have almost 10 full games of Manziel on film – including eight consecutive starts – which should be more than enough for the coaching staff and front office to make a fair evaluation on how Manziel fits into the team’s future plans.
The Browns and Manziel have carried out the plan to rehabilitate Manziel’s game perfectly so far.
Now that he is taking over the offense, it is up to both parties to make sure that carefully crafted plan doesn’t go off the rails.