After the NFL decided not to discipline Johnny Manziel for an incident involving his girlfriend, the Cleveland Browns signal quarterback received further good news. The former first round pick will start the remainder of the games for the games for the Browns.
Manziel will have a chance to show that he can be the player he was in college and be the face of the struggling Browns for the future. Coach Mike Pettine announced Tueday that Johnny Football would get a chance to show he can lead the team.
Manziel has started the past two games for the Browns with Josh McCown out with injured ribs. The team lost 31-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals and 30-9 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in those games. Manziel threw for 168 yards and had a 75.5 rating against Cincinnati, but he rebounded to throw for 372 yards with a 95.8 rating against Pittsburgh.
Despite enduring a loss against the Steelers, Pettine said that Manziel performed well enough to earn the chance to start for their remaining matches this season.
“He took a big step forward in a lot of the small details of quarterback play,” Pettine said via ESPN. “It’s as simple as that for us, just to continue to get better. He did some good things but there’s some things that can be improved upon.”
The Browns are 2-8 and look to be out of the playoff picture. Giving Manziel a chance could be a shot in the arm for the franchise. With the Browns being so far behind, rumors are afloat that Pettine may be starting Manziel to position Cleveland for a better draft pick next year. When asked about the possibility, Pettine was adamant about the team evaluating positions. He mentioned nothing about the draft.
“We want to get a good sense of where he is and when the season’s over, you always clear the table and evaluate each position,” Pettine said. “This will allow us to have a lot more information as we assess the quarterback position moving forward.”
The Browns’ coach went on to explain that every game presents a new learning situation for Manziel. He has to be willing to learn how to read different defensive schemes. Manziel has to learn how to adjust to what’s being done and adapt the Cleveland game plan accordingly.
Manziel said he was watching the Browns’ game film when Pettine told him about the decision.
“It’s a great opportunity for me. I was a little caught off-guard, just watching film this morning and Coach Pettine kind of came in and grabbed me. I was very excited.”
Josh McCown, who went 1-6 as the starter, was brought in to mentor Manziel, and by all accounts, the 36-year-old has helped groom the talented and troubled quarterback. Though his record doesn’t show it, Manziel has been decent in his starts. He has thrown for 933 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Those numbers are good for an 88.4 passer rating. His rating is higher than Peyton Manning’s, at this point.
Manziel still does things that drive offensive coaches crazy. He leaves the pocket when there’s no pressure. He has a tendency to look down at the rush and not deliver the ball in the rhythm of the offense. But he gets his shot in the last six games. Josh McCown is under contract for next year but isn’t the future. If Manziel fails badly in this chance to shine, it’s back to the drawing board in Cleveland.
“We’ll move forward accordingly,” McCown said. “Just from a philosophical standpoint, if you pick somebody in the first round and they start to play and start to do some good things, I understand it if that’s the decision.”
The future is definitely now for the Browns.
[Feature Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]