Cleveland Browns Rumors: Johnny Manziel Heads Back To The Bench, But On Path To Become Starter

Nathan Francis - Author

Sep. 23 2015, Updated 8:20 a.m. ET

The Cleveland Browns are sending Johnny Manziel back to the bench, but rumors indicate that he may not be staying there forever.

Manziel won his first start of the season in Week 2, coming off the bench in relief of the injured Josh McCown and leading the Browns to a 28-14 win over the Tennessee Titans. While Manziel looked strong in his performance, the Browns appear committed to allowing him to develop on the bench behind McCown. They confirmed that on Wednesday, naming McCown the starter now that he’s healthy again.

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After a very rocky first season, in which he struggled both on the field and off, Johnny Manziel appears to be making strides to become a true starting quarterback. But with Manziel just months removed from a long stay in rehab, rumors indicate that the Cleveland Browns are afraid to rush him to the field.

USA Today reporter Chris Chase said it is the right move.

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“The Browns want Johnny Manziel to be their quarterback of the future. But, with a team that still isn’t ready for primetime, minus the occasional Travis Benjamin highlight, putting in Manziel now is essentially setting him up to fail. If he were made the starting quarterback in late September, there’s a high likelihood he’d be back on the bench in mid-October because of a failure to produce. Some of that would be his fault, a lot of it would be because of his supporting cast. The clamoring for the 36-year-old John McCown would get deafening and Mike Pettine would have no choice but to cave to a decision he already made in the preseason. (And that’s not to be underestimated either: Pettine had already decided this on his starter this year.)”

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Though the setup may be unusual in the age of Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, top draft picks who were expected to start immediately and succeeded in doing so, there is quite the historical precedent for bringing a prospect like Manziel along slowly. Many quarterbacks, including Brett Favre and Steve Young, were served well by spending their first few NFL seasons on the bench rather than the field.

Still, it’s a move not popular with everyone. Deadspin reporter Barry Petchesky said the Browns have nothing to lose by accelerating Manziel’s development on the field.

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“Mike Pettine says McCown gives the Browns the best chance to win games, and who the hell knows if that’s true, but I can’t see the potential downside to letting Manziel figure things out on the field, and only sending him back to the bench if and when he begins to struggle. But then, I can’t see why the Browns do a lot of things they do.”

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Things could change quickly, however. If the Cleveland Browns go on a losing streak with McCown at quarterback, the rumors about Johnny Manziel taking over could start to increase.

[Picture by Jason Miller/Getty Images]


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