CLEVELAND (AP) — Johnny Manziel’s prime-time TV performance didn’t earn him a full-time gig. At least not yet.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said Friday he’ll wait until next week before deciding on whether to stick with Manziel as his starting quarterback. Manziel filled in for injured starter Josh McCown on Thursday night against Cincinnati and delivered some Johnny Football moments as well as a few he’d like to have back during a 31-10 loss to the unbeaten Bengals.
After playing three games in 12 days and not having a break this season, Pettine said he and his coaching staff “all are going to hit the pause button and get away for a little bit.”
When they return, the Browns (2-7) will then decide whether to keep McCown, who is still recovering from injured ribs, as their starter or turn Cleveland’s offense over to Manziel, who capped a 92-yard scoring drive with a touchdown pass late in the first half against the Bengals but was shut down after halftime.
Pettine said his choice will be based on the same criteria he has used since training camp.
“We’ll make the decision each week based on, as I’ve said all along, who gives us the best opportunity to win,” he said.
However, with another season quickly unraveling following a fourth straight loss, the Browns could be shifting toward seeing what they have for the future. It might be time to see if Manziel, who completed 15 of 33 passes for 168 yards against Cincinnati, can be a long-term solution at a position that continues to drag down Cleveland’s franchise.
While he’s clearly better than he was as a rookie, Manziel remains an unpolished product. He posted solid stats — 11 of 18 for 128 yards — in the first half, but Manziel also fell back on old habits, scrambling and improvising the way he did in college.
It’s tough to do that consistently in the pros, and although he couldn’t argue with Manziel’s early success, Pettine said the Browns would prefer if the 22-year-old would make more plays from the pocket.
During a halftime interview, Pettine said the Browns would try to get Manziel “calmed down” in the second half.
On Friday, Pettine made it clear he doesn’t want to prevent Johnny from being Johnny.
“I thought he did some good things getting out of the pocket in the first half, but there were a couple plays where the read was there early,” Pettine said. “Those are the plays we want him to make when they are there. I thought in the second half that they did a good job of taking away the first read initially.
“They did a better job of staying in rush lanes and bottling him up. By no means, was that a comment designed to say, ‘Hey we wanted him to stay in the pocket.’ When there are plays to be made early with the first read, let’s make them. Then if it breaks down and we need you to get out then go ahead and get out.”
In the first half, Manziel completed 11 of 18 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. In the second, he went 4 of 15 for 40 as the Bengals kept him from rolling out where he can be so dangerous. The Browns didn’t pick up their initial first down of the second half until late in the fourth quarter.
“His last 15 snaps when the game kind of got away from us, he did not play very well,” Pettine said. “But in the beginning, he was solid and graded out pretty high. It still falls back on what I’ve said all along: We’ve got to be better around him.”
McCown might not be ready for the Nov. 15 game against Pittsburgh — Cleveland’s only game in a 24-day stretch — so it’s possible Manziel will get a second straight start by necessity. However, he’s still under review by the NFL, which is investigating whether Manziel violated its personal conduct policy during a fight with girlfriend Colleen Crowley on Oct. 12.
Whatever the outcome, Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz believes he’s seen enough of Manziel to think he could be the long-term starter.
“He has all the abilities to do it,” Schwartz said. “He is making a huge progression. He has made such a big jump in his second year. As long as he keeps on top of it, I think he can be very productive.”
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