The word has come down that Johnny Football will rise again. With Josh McCown still nursing sore ribs, Manziel will get his third start of the season. NFL media insider Ian Rapoport cited a source that is close to the Brown’s organization. He also tweeted a clue to the puzzle that Head Coach Mike Pettine was offering the media on who would start.
Manziel made his second start of the season Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals, going 15-of-33 (45.5 percent) for 168 yards and a touchdown. As usual, his effectiveness declined sharply once his ability to navigate the pocket was taken away. Manziel and the Cleveland offense were limited to 32 yards of offense in the second half.
The Browns are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 2003. That was the year Manziel turned 11 years old. Talking via the Plain Dealer, Mike Pettine stressed the importance of a win against the Steelers. Cleveland is just 6-26 against the Steelers since 1999.
“This is game huge for us, huge,” said Pettine. “Just the lone game, sitting in that 20-plus day block, and it being a division game, first time playing Pittsburgh this year. We split with them a year ago. A win there would give us a road win at every division stadium in the last two years which I think would be significant.”
The Browns are playing their second straight battle against a division opponent. The Bengals proved to be too much and handed the Browns a 31-10 loss. The lone division win was against the Ravens in Week 5. That game went into overtime before Cleveland took it 33-30. Week 6 was a battle against the Broncos. The Browns played well enough to win but made too many costly mistakes and handed the game to Manning and Company.
Some fans might argue it won’t make a difference which quarterback plays for the struggling Browns (2-7). Pettine, a former defensive coordinator, said knowing who is playing in advance makes a big difference.
“If you’re game planning, let’s just say you’re going against a guy that can potentially scramble and you’re going to have calls up as far as setting your plan and kind of having your A plan and knowing who it’s going to be and being able to review that on a Saturday night,” he said. “You can force the mindset to kind of dovetail a little bit, `Hey, here’s plan A, here’s plan B,’ without saying, `It’s definitely going to be this.’”
The Cleveland Brown’s faithful would love to see Josh McCown pull off the heroics and play against the Steelers. It wouldn’t be wise. The Browns would be better off resting the 36-year-old quarterback and taking another look at Manziel. Let Josh heal over the bye and make a valid plan for the rest of the season. A win against the Steelers would have the Browns at 2-1 within the division, with six games to go. The miracle part comes into play if the Browns are able to run the table the rest of the season.
With games against the Bengals, Seattle, and the Steelers again, the hopes for a post-season Christmas present under the tree are looking bad for the Browns. Why not let Manziel finish the season and see how he reacts when given more time to prepare? A loss to either of those teams will be the nail in the coffin.
Browns safety Tashaun Gipson understands the importance of trying to win the rest of the games. His frustrations are on par with the fans.
“Division game or not, these last seven games are very important for this organization to show we’re going in the right direction. The fans are tired of losing, we’re tired of losing, the players and the coaches, we’re all tired of losing.”
[Feature Photo by Andrew Weber / Getty Images]