After declining to commit to Johnny Manziel for the last several weeks, Browns head coach Mike Pettine appears to have made a definitive call on the team’s quarterback situation for the rest of the 2015 season. According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Twitter), the Browns plan to start Manziel over Josh McCown throughout the remainder of the second half.
Manziel, who turns 23 next month, has started the Browns’ last two games, a pair of losses that saw the team outscored by a combined score of 61-19. Still, the sophomore signal-caller has shown some positive signs, completing nearly 75% of his passes and racking up 372 yards through the air on Sunday against the Steelers.
Manziel will have nearly two weeks to prepare for his next game, since the Browns are off in Week 11, then play the Ravens on Monday night in Week 12. He’ll also play his next three games in Cleveland, with the club set to host Baltimore, Cincinnati, and San Francisco before heading back out on the road. The combination of the bye week, that somewhat favorable schedule, and the Browns’ 2-8 record should take a little of the pressure off Manziel as the team sees what it has in him down the stretch.
As for McCown, the veteran has been battling a rib issue, but figures to return to the No. 2 role when he’s healthy. He remains under contract with Cleveland through the 2017 season, so the decision to go with Manziel the rest of the way doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve seen McCown playing as a Brown for the last time.
Depending on how the second half plays out, McCown could return in 2016 to compete for the starting job — he also wouldn’t be an overly expensive backup, with a base salary of $4.375MM due next year. Of course, it’s also possible he’ll reclaim the starting role before year’s end, if Manziel struggles badly or goes down with an injury of his own.