AFC North: Cleveland Browns
- He has five starts.
- He went 1-4 in those games.
- He has played in parts of six other games.
- He has completed 57.7 percent of his 163 passes (league average: 63.1 percent).
- He averaged 6.8 yards per attempt (league average: 6.7).
- He has five touchdowns and four interceptions.
- He was sacked 17 times.
- He fumbled six times, losing three.
- He missed two preseason games with elbow tendinitis.
- His passer rating is 78.5 (league average: 88.4).
- His career high for passing yards in a start was 372 yards. His career low was 80 in his first start.
A full timeline of Manziel with the Browns is available here.
Even with this, and even with the reality that Manziel lied to his coach, the Browns say he could find his way back to the field again this season.
“Josh McCown is our starter,” coach Mike Pettine said. “Austin Davis is our two. Johnny is our three. I won’t speak beyond that right now. Things can change. As far as declaring a starter for the rest of the year, we will see how this plays out in the short-term.”
“You know, you don’t close doors on anything,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. “You never say never. To say Johnny won’t play again this season, I’m not going to say that.”
Pettine and DeFilippo were probably the two people most involved in the decision to demote Manziel.
“I think all of us as people, myself included, we’re all a work in progress every day,” DeFilippo said. “Some of us deal with different issues. We know Johnny’s issues. We’re working with him every day. And there’s no doubt in my mind Johnny’s going to bounce back.”
Browns coaches had done all they could to help and support Manziel throughout the year.
His response: Look them in the eye and lie to them, a league source told ESPN.com. And to tell his friends to lie as well, per Fox Sports.
This speaks to deeper issues for not only the Browns' relationship with Manziel, but Manziel himself.
The video alone gave the Browns little option but to take the starting job from the young quarterback. The fact that he then lied about when it was recorded and tried to get others to lie to cover for him makes it more than clear why head coach Mike Pettine was so upset, and why Pettine stressed time and again that the decision was a matter of trust.
A guy is allowed to have fun, but this action by Manziel was an affront. This wasn’t Manziel being caught in the background of someone else’s video, it was Manziel posing, posturing and playing right to the camera.
The last person a team needs trust issues with is its quarterback. He is not only the leader of the team, he is the team’s face. A team has to trust its leader for him to be a leader.
Manziel has made himself a third-teamer without even taking a snap.
The Browns stuck their neck out to support Manziel after a rockier than rocky rookie season. They stood by him when he went through 10 weeks of rehab. They supported him to the brink of coddling after his rehab, all with the noble intention of helping a young man get his life together.
Manziel responded to that support with a string of troubling incidents: He was questioned by police after witnesses reported he was driving 90 mph on the shoulder of a highway while he argued with his girlfriend; social media posts revealed he was partying in College Station, Texas, two days after a Thursday night game in Cincinnati; and now the video from the Austin nightclub during the Browns' bye week.
Were he not to play another down this season, it would make sense. Josh McCown has tried to play with a rib injury that did not allow him to breathe. Austin Davis has done nothing but put in the work needed.
The guys who are truly committed deserve to play.
Manziel has turned into an annoying sideshow that he makes worse with his actions away from the team. He has taken the team to the point where it simply cannot believe what he says.
Consider before the season finale in 2014 when Manziel promised he had to do everything right, then missed the team’s final walkthrough and his treatment because he had been out late the night before.
His words following that incident? The same as the week before, the same as his promise not to do anything embarrassing during this season’s bye week.
They speak loud ... and mean little.
Pettine said trust is lost in buckets and regained in drops.
Manziel, it seems, has lost a watercooler of trust with a team that has gone beyond the extra mile to support him.
In one week, Manziel went from starter to third team without taking a snap.
He also went from staring at the opportunity to seize the starting job heading into 2016 to possibly being inactive for Monday night's tilt with the Ravens (depending on how the roster is broken down).
This alone expresses the depth of the Browns' sentiments regarding Manziel’s recent video escapade from Austin, Texas. The Browns did the right thing. Manziel’s actions following the decision to name him the starter demanded the team hold him accountable.
It’s hard to guess the last time Manziel was a third-teamer. It may have been back in grade school, if ever. This demotion has to sit like an old carpet in his stomach.
Some might say it was unfair. Some might say it took too long. (Remember Pettine saying Manziel had been “A-plus in the building” following the Avon, Ohio, driving incident?) But had the Browns ignored what happened over the weekend, they would have forfeited credibility.
Manziel had issues that sent him to seek treatment in the offseason, and he deserved respect for taking that step. (But the steps he’d taken basically since Josh McCown returned from injury after the Tennessee game led Pettine to the point where doing nothing was no longer an option.
At various points of the past two seasons, the conversation has been dominated by Manziel, both positive and negative.
Coming off a bye week on Monday, the focus should have been on the excitement of the team’s first Monday night game since 2009. Instead, the discussion again was dominated by talk of Manziel. Pettine seemed weary just talking about it.
The Browns have been patient with and supportive of Manziel.
They stood by him through treatment and backed him afterward. They structured media appearances to help him as much as possible. They did not discipline him publicly after the October driving and domestic incident.
That patience ran out with Manziel mugging for the camera in Austin and holding what looked like a pink champagne bottle.
The Browns had to act. Manziel gave them no choice.
Mike Pettine's decision to take the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback job from Johnny Manziel came because of a series of off-field missteps by the second-year quarterback, which culminated with the most recent video of him holding what appears to be a pink champagne bottle at a club in Austin, Texas. Here's a look at Manziel's time with the Browns, going back to the draft:
- Feb. 14, 2014 -- Before the draft, Manziel says many things about Johnny Football being gone and taking his job seriously.
- May 9 -- Manziel texts the Browns during the draft and urges the team to take him so they could “wreck this league” together. After being taken 22nd overall, Manziel does his money sign as he walks on stage.
- May 10 -- After the draft, Manziel parties the night away with magnums of champagne and celebrities.
- May 26 -- Manziel appears in several online photos in Vegas during a down time in the team's offseason work.
- June 10 -- The infamous photo is taken of him on the floating swan with a bottle of champagne.
- June 16 -- The “money phone” video appears.
- June 27 -- At the rookie symposium, Manziel speaks with the media and says he would not change his life for anybody.
- July 4 -- A photo of Manziel rolling money into a small tube in a Vegas bathroom appears.
- July 25 -- The Browns admit they are “alarmed” by some of Manziel’s behavior.
- July 26 -- The Browns call Manziel in the day before training camp and speak pointedly to him about his off-field habits. Owner Jimmy Haslam says the team “expects better from him.”
- Aug. 14 -- Manziel is late for a training camp meeting, saying he “misread the schedule.”
- Aug. 18 -- Manziel extends his middle finger to the Redskins' bench in a nationally televised game, for which he is fined $12,500.
- Aug. 20 -- Brian Hoyer is named the starter and Manziel admits to not being ready.
- Nov. 22 -- There is a lobby incident/fight between Manziel, a friend and a fan Manziel describes as aggressive and intoxicated. The Browns express disappointment at the timing of the incident, at 2:36 a.m. the morning the team is flying to Atlanta for a game.
- Dec. 1 -- Manziel replaces Brian Hoyer in Buffalo and runs for a touchdown to end his first drive.
- Dec. 12 -- Yahoo! posts a story detailing the crazed lifestyle Manziel had in college, and how he went from being a college player "to Elvis."
- Dec. 14 -- Manziel starts his first game against Cincinnati and throws for 80 yards as the Browns lose 30-0.
- Dec. 21 -- Manziel pulls his hamstring and leaves the game just before halftime in Carolina.
- Dec. 23 -- Manziel says he intends to take his job more seriously, that “it’s a job for me now.”
- Dec. 27 -- Manziel does not show up for a team walk-through and treatment, with Browns security going to his home to find him. He later admits to being out the night before.
- Dec. 29 -- Manziel says he can't say anything more to prove himself, that he has to put his words into action. The team agrees.
- Dec. 30 -- The Instagram video appears with Manziel wishing LeBron James happy birthday.
- Jan. 16, 2015 -- Manziel and Josh Gordon spend time in Aspen, Colorado.
- Jan. 23 -- An ESPN.com story appears chronicling Manziel’s rocky rookie season.
- Jan. 28 -- Manziel enters treatment at the Caron Center outside Reading, Pennsylvania.
- April 11 -- Manziel leaves treatment after an extended 10-week stay.
- June 1 -- Manziel throws a water bottle at a badgering fan at the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament in an incident that is dismissed as "fairly straightforward" by a police spokesman in Irving, Texas.
- June 17 -- Manziel meets media for the first time, promises to junk the signature “money sign” and says he will do all he can to tamp down the off-field hype.
- Aug. 13, 20 -- Manziel has a running and passing TD in each of the first two preseasons games.
- Aug. 23 -- Manziel leaves practice with elbow soreness. He would miss the final two preseason games.
- Sept. 13 -- Manziel takes over after Josh McCown leaves the opener with a concussion and has poor results.
- Sept. 20 -- With McCown out, Manziel throws two long TD passes to Travis Benjamin in the Browns' first win of the season.
- Sept. 27 -- McCown returns to the starting lineup against Oakland.
- Oct. 12 -- Manziel is questioned by police after witnesses called to report he had been driving dangerously on the shoulder. He parks his car in Avon, Ohio, where his girlfriend tells a witness he had been beating her. Manziel admits to drinking downtown during the day. No charges are filed and the couple is allowed to leave together.
- Nov. 5 -- Manziel starts for an injured McCown in Cincinnati and struggles in a 31-10 loss.
- Nov. 7 -- Manziel is honorary captain at Texas A&M and parties that night in College Station, Texas. Photos appear on social media early the following week.
- Nov. 15 -- Manziel starts in Pittsburgh and plays well, throwing for 372 yards in a 30-9 loss.
- Nov. 17 -- Mike Pettine names Manziel the starter for the rest of the season. In doing so, he tells Manziel he has to live up to the responsibility. Manziel promises he will do nothing the bye week to embarrass the team or the organization. Later that day, the NFL announces Manziel will not be disciplined for the Oct. 12 incident under the league’s personal conduct policy.
- Nov. 23 -- A video appears online on bustedcoverage.com and TMZ.com showing Manziel singing a hip-hop song while holding a bottle that appears to be pink champagne at an Austin, Texas, club. Other photos appear from his Thursday and Friday evenings in Austin.
- Nov. 24 -- Pettine expresses his disappointment and frustration with Manziel’s actions, then announces he has lost the starting job. Pettine says McCown will start Monday night against Baltimore. Manziel is made the team’s third quarterback.
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel's decisions off the field this season have cost him the chance to establish himself on the field.
Coach Mike Pettine announced Tuesday that Manziel had not only lost the starting quarterback job, but he also would be the third quarterback, behind both Josh McCown and Austin Davis, for Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Clearly, the team's level of frustration and disappointment -- to use Pettine’s words -- over Manziel’s off-field actions has hit the breaking point.
One week ago, Manziel was named the starter for the rest of the season. He was coming off a 372-yard passing performance in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which he played well and earned further opportunities.
At the time, Pettine made sure to tell Manziel he had a responsibility to act properly during the bye week. Manziel publicly promised he would do nothing to embarrass the team or the organization.
Then a video appeared online of Manziel holding what appeared to be a pink champagne bottle singing "March Madness" by Future with a DJ at an Austin, Texas, club. The exact date the video was filmed is not known.
The Browns were not at all pleased. Manziel’s recent actions have eroded the trust the team has in him.
The team supported him during his 10-week stay in treatment in the offseason and stood by him after he returned. But on Oct. 12, he had an incident with his girlfriend while driving in suburban Avon, Ohio. He told police he had been drinking downtown. He was not charged, and the league did not discipline him, but there were concerns over what happened.
In the weekend following a Thursday night game in Cincinnati, Manziel appeared in social media photos at parties at Texas A&M.
Then came the video and photos on bustedcoverage.com and TMZ.com showing Manziel singing to the camera in Austin.
When Pettine spoke about Manziel on Tuesday, he did so with words that made the eventual decision clear. He said he is particularly concerned by the fact that there have been multiple incidents.
“That’s all a part of the frustration, the disappointment,” he said. “It’s a little easier to handle when it’s just a one-time occurrence, but then the behavior repeats -- not just him but with anybody -- it’s certainly a cause for concern.”
The Browns' statement said the decision was Pettine’s, and it came with the support of general manager Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam. The decision was based on the fact that the team did not feel Manziel lived up to the responsibility given him as the starter and his actions did not support the team as a whole.
Johnny Manziel couldn’t have scripted it better if he had written it himself.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and noted Browns tormentor Justin Forsett both were lost for the season to injury in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams. Flacco has a torn knee ligament, Forsett a broken arm.
That’s five key skill players, including the leader of the defense.
This also is not your mother’s Ravens defense. Josh McCown threw for 457 yards as the Browns scored 33 points in a win in Baltimore earlier this season. The Ravens' pass defense started Sunday in the bottom quarter of the league.
Flacco has not missed a game since he was drafted in the first round in 2008, but he’ll miss Monday night. Matt Schaub will start his first game since the season finale in 2013, when he played for the Houston Texans.
There is no such thing as a gimme. Not for the Browns. But this script seems perfect for a young quarterback trying to prove he belongs.
The Browns play at home.
Manziel is coming off a 372-yard passing day.
And the Ravens are decimated by injury.
If Manziel and the Browns can’t succeed Monday night, a game that has first-overall-draft-pick implications, you wonder when they will ever be successful.
Comments by some folks with the Cleveland Browns have raised proverbial eyebrows as the team heads into a welcome bye weekend with a woeful 2-8 record.
From coach Mike Pettine: “The two groups we thought were going to be anchors for us were the offensive line and the secondary, and both have underperformed for a variety of reasons up to this point.”
It’s rare for a coach to call out two specific groups, but Pettine is a pretty blunt coach.
The secondary has been beaten up, with injuries to Joe Haden and Donte Whitner taking a toll. Compounding the fact is that Haden has not been his Pro Bowl self when he has played -- a problem that has been present all season.
As for the offensive line, there's an interesting contradiction between Pettine’s words and the analytics.
ProFootballFocus.com rates Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz second and fifth in the league among tackles. John Greco is the 17th among guards. And Alex Mack is 17th among centers. Yet this unit is holding the team back. Interesting.
From Pettine: “There are times in our defense where our corners are going to have to play on-top man.”(
On one hand, Pettine lamented losing Haden. On the other, the Browns ask the remaining corners to do the same thing Haden did even though they’re not as good at doing it. Pettine clearly has disdain for the Cover 2, and hindsight is 20-20, but asking the personnel on the field against Pittsburgh to play “on-top man” was like asking a tenor to sing baritone.
It can be done, but it won't be pretty.
From Pettine: “We need to play better. We need to play better defensively. We need to trust our technique. ... Unfortunately, you get guys in the game, and they kind of lose their minds a little bit. We gave up some big plays that way, but as a result, I am not looking to make wholesale changes.”
The Browns rank 29th in total defense, 28th in scoring, 31st in rushing, 26th on third down and 27th in penalties. To hear Pettine, it’s not in the least the system or the coaches. That leaves one other group.
Finally, running-backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said this of the running game: “It’s hard when you don’t get opportunities to carry the ball. Everything you do as a runner, you have to get in rhythm.”
Last season, the Browns ran 47 percent of the time, the sixth-highest percentage in the NFL. That was the blueprint heading into this season, or at least that’s the way it was advertised. But the Browns run 35 percent of the time, 29th in the league. In the past three weeks, they’ve run 28.5 percent, a league low. Isaiah Crowell has had one game with than a dozen attempts. As a team the Browns average 22.6 carries per game, 30th in the league.
Of course it’s not as if the backs demand the ball with their play. Crowell is averaging 3.1 yards per carry, Duke Johnson 3. The team leader is Robert Turbin at 3.3 yards, and he's no longer with the Browns. The Rams’ Todd Gurley has seven runs of 20 yards or more, and he’s averaging 42 yards on those seven runs. Crowell has had seven games when he didn’t gain 42 yards.
Reducing the decision to that phrase grossly oversimplifies the situation.
Manziel earned the right to keep the job with his play in Pittsburgh, and even though it was in a bad loss, it was enough for the coaching staff to flip the switch and say it is time to see what Manziel can do.
If coach Mike Pettine made anything clear this season, it was that he was not going to play Manziel “just because.”
The list of “just because” stuff isn’t tough to bring to mind.
Just because he was a first-round pick.
Just because the team was losing.
Just because the Browns needed to know what they have in their first-round pick.
That isn’t Pettine. He needed a reason to believe Manziel deserved to be on the field, a reason to believe the offense would not be the messy quagmire it was in Cincinnati on Nov. 5.
Manziel gave the team that reason Sunday in Pittsburgh, when he threw for 372 yards -- and more important, ran the offense like an NFL quarterback.
The weird thing is the Browns didn’t want to play Manziel against the Steelers. Had Josh McCown been healthy, he’d have been the starter, and had McCown kept the game close, he probably would be the starter heading into the Monday night game against Baltimore.
But doctors advised McCown not to play, which gave Manziel a chance.
And unlike the fumbled chance he had in Cincinnati, Manziel took advantage in Pittsburgh. He made throws from the pocket. He made throws on third down. He read the defense and took what was given. He could have had two more touchdowns, but one was dropped and another was called back by penalty (after Manziel missed scoring by one foot). He ran when he had the chance but didn’t put himself at risk by running too quickly or recklessly. And he shrugged off a first-play fumble to go on and throw for seven fewer yards than Ben Roethlisberger.
He did things that many thought he could not or would not do. And he did it after seeing over and over on film the things he did not do in Cincinnati. It was alarming to hear Manziel compare the second half of the Bengals game to last season’s disastrous opener. It was encouraging to see him show that this time he learned from it.
Manziel has to sustain what he did in Pittsburgh. He has to avoid off-field issues. He has to realize 52 other players are counting on him to be a professional through the bye weekend and into next week’s preparation. He did learn late in the day Tuesday that the NFL was taking no action for his Oct. 12 incident in suburban Cleveland and said he was "not going to do anything that’s going to be a distraction to this team or be an embarrassment to the organization" during the bye week.
Manziel finally has the chance he -- and his many passionate supporters -- have wanted.
Because if he sustains what he did in Pittsburgh and shows he can handle an NFL offense, the Browns may be able to go into the offseason with a totally different feeling about him compared to a year ago when the offseason began.
The feeling that they can count on him to be in the mix, and perhaps even start, when the 2016 season begins.
The Cleveland Browns had 12 selections in the 2015 draft. Here’s a closer look at how their picks have contributed:
2015 draft class:
On the cusp: The Browns liked what they saw in cornerback Charles Gaines during training camp and the preseason; he played better with each game. But late in camp, Gaines hurt his hamstring severely enough that the Browns placed him on injured reserve-designated to return. Gaines was activated this week, and with Joe Haden still in the concussion protocol, Gaines could get on the field sooner rather than later.
Undrafted free agents they like: Unlike a year ago, when the Browns discovered WR Taylor Gabriel and DB K’Waun Williams, the team has had almost zero contributions from undrafted free agents. The most prominent one is TE E.J. Bibbs; he has been active in one game, and he was on the field for two snaps in Cincinnati.
My take on class: It has not been good. Shelton was drafted to help the team’s run defense, and the Browns rank last in the league. Shelton has had trouble getting off blocks and making impact plays. Cameron Erving has been used mainly as an extra tight end, but he lacks the conditioning and strength to be effective immediately. The best player has been Duke Johnson, but even his impact has been less than advertised. He’s a role player touted as a solution. For a team with 12 picks, including the 12th and 19th overall, to have this little production is not good. Grade: D.
Mel Kiper’s take on class: Johnson Jr. is one of the better receiving threats out of the backfield to enter the league in the past few years. He's piling up the catches and can even line up at wide receiver as needed. The biggest question is can Danny Shelton be an impact defensive tackle or is he better suited as more of a rotation player? So far, it's been more of the latter. Cameron Erving should be a good one once he's called upon.
But he did offer some effusive praise for the young quarterback.
Pettine said he and the coaching staff would decide whether the team will finish the season with Manziel or go back to Josh McCown as part of its normal bye week evaluation.
“We’ll talk about all of it,” Pettine said, one day after Manziel threw for 372 yards and completed 73 percent of his passes in a 30-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pettine said Manziel by far had his best game in his nearly two seasons in Cleveland.
“The film showed it even more; he showed significant progress,” Pettine said.
Pettine pointed out that Manziel had a fumble on the Browns' first snap of the game when the ball slipped out of his hand as he tried to throw. It didn’t faze Manziel, though, as he scampered out of the pocket and completed a 61-yard pass to Travis Benjamin on the next possession.
Manziel went on to throw for just seven fewer yards than Ben Roethlisberger.
“Given what he’s gone through, you’re just proud of the kid and happy for him,” Pettine said, no doubt referring to the 10 weeks Manziel spent in a treatment center in the offseason. “You wish you had a better result from a team standpoint because, pardon my (wording), he played his ass off.”
Manziel was especially impressive throwing from the pocket, an area where he struggled against the Bengals. (Against the Steelers, though, ESPN Stats and Information reported that Manziel was 29-for-35 for 282 yards from the pocket, a completion percentage of 83 percent. He threw his only touchdown pass from the pocket, and nearly had a second except that Benjamin dropped a sure score.
Manziel spent a lot of time with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell between the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh games, going over the missed chances against the Bengals. The point was emphasized to him over and over: Take the throws that are there, even if it’s just for a few yards.
He alluded to being more aware of that when speaking with the media last week, then went out and showed he had listened.
“I was proud of him because he was so effective from the pocket,” McCown said, adding that successful NFL quarterbacks have to start with that skill. “Then when all the other stuff happens, it is icing on the cake. I thought he captured that and had a great balance of those things.”
“It’s just all about him being prepared,” Benjamin said. “He’s comfortable and well-prepared this year, that’s all.”
McCown said he was very close to playing in Pittsburgh, but doctors advised against it. He also understands that Manziel could get the starting call after the bye.
“When that day comes, then Johnny will be playing and I won’t; I will support and help him get ready just like I did this week and do everything I can to help him to play the best ball he can to help us win football games,” McCown said.
Left tackle Joe Thomas said he and his teammates are fine with whatever Pettine decides. He then showed that Manziel had gained some respect with the team by the way he played Sunday, and with the way he responded to the Bengals loss.
“I think that (Manziel) has done enough that he has proven that he can be a winning quarterback in the NFL based on the performance he has had the last couple weeks,” Thomas said. “Josh has done the same amount so I think whatever decision Coach Pettine makes, he is not going to make a bad decision. That is a good position for him to be in.
“I think everyone is comfortable with both guys being able to go out and execute and give us an opportunity to win.”
PITTSBURGH -- Not that Antonio Brown's elite footwork on the field was ever in question, but now he's got a former Olympic star validating his skills, too.
Former U.S. star gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who won all-around gold at the 1984 Olympic Games, gave Brown a flawless score for his end-zone flip that punctuated a 56-yard touchdown in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-9 win over the Cleveland Browns.
— Mary Lou Retton (@marylouretton) November 16, 2015
After breaking free in the open field in the fourth quarter, Brown planted both feet by the goal line and launched into a flip. His landing really was perfect -- no imbalance, no stutter, both feet landing softly.
Brown told reporters after the game that the nearest official would give him "probably a 10."
"A little excitement, having fun with it," Brown said Sunday after his 10-catch, 139-yard, two-touchdown performance. "Gotta be smart. But I definitely stuck the landing."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked after the game that Brown definitely should not do that again. No one in the Steelers' locker room wants to risk injury to their precious commodity.
NFL peers took notice of Brown's flip, including a punter who cracked a lighthearted joke.
Antonio Brown did a front flip into an end zone today.. I just got up off my couch for the 1st time in 6 hours.. Basically the same thing
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) November 15, 2015
Manziel learned from the things he didn’t do in the loss to Cincinnati and used that information to make adjustments that allowed him to throw for 372 yards against Pittsburgh, just seven fewer than Ben Roethlisberger.
Manziel’s team didn’t win, and the Browns scored just nine points. But when it came to operating the Browns offense, standing in the pocket and making throws, this was a different Manziel than the Browns had seen before.
“If you just look at it individually, I thought he took a big step forward,” coach Mike Pettine said.
Pettine would not commit to keeping Manziel as the starter when the Browns return from their bye week, but if Sunday was his new standard, he deserves the starts the rest of the season.
Manziel threw a ridiculously high total of 45 passes because the Browns were behind and couldn’t run (14 carries for 15 yards); he completed 33. He threw a touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge, and twice came just short of additional touchdowns when Travis Benjamin dropped a throw that was right into his hands at the goal line and when Manziel came within a foot of running for a score.
“Don’t do the same mistakes twice,” Manziel said of his process since the loss to the Bengals. “There were times I needed to stay in the pocket and trust and throw the ball before guys were out of their breaks and times when I needed to run around a little bit and make a play. Like I said, I think I had a good balance of that today.
“Overall the big picture is I’m progressing. I’m getting better. That’s what I want to be doing.”
Manziel completed 83 percent from inside the pocket and 81 percent when he was not pressured, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
He took the throws that were there, taking the advice of the coaching staff to take the short throw and make it second-and-4. He also threw a perfect touch fade to Gary Barnidge in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. And when he had to move, he did so effectively.
“He showed some toughness," safety Mike Mitchell said. "His scrambling is really elite, something special. I knew he was going to be good at it, I didn’t appreciate he was going to be that good at it. He really tested our cardio a lot.”
Manziel’s previous single-game high for passing yards was 182, which came when he relieved against the Jets after Josh McCown’s first drive. In games he started and finished, his high was 172 against Tennessee. He doubled that total on Sunday.
“I was seeing things a lot better than I did last week [against Cincinnati],” Manziel said.
Nobody would say things went ideally, not when a team loses by 21 and turns a first-and-goal at the one-foot line into second-and-goal at the 25 thanks to penalties and a sack, a series Manziel called “senseless.”
But Manziel showed for the first time that he is capable of handling an NFL offense and operating like an NFL quarterback. The Steelers may have conceded the short stuff to avoid the big play, but Manziel still deserves credit for taking what was given and being productive.
As for the rest of the season, the NFL still has to rule on whether Manziel will be disciplined for an Oct. 12 incident in which police were called when he was arguing with his girlfriend. Pettine merely said the staring quarterback will be part of an overall bye week evaluation.
Manziel made his feelings clear.
“I want to keep playing,” Manziel said. “Every game that I keep playing, I keep learning.”
Ben Roethlisberger: This one's too easy. Roethlisberger barely practiced during the week because of a foot sprain, didn't have an extensive game plan and still imposed his will on the Browns with 379 passing yards.
Antonio Brown: Brown continued his surgical receiver work. He's got 27 catches, 423 yards and two scores the last two weeks. Enough said. Brown has been uncoverable.
Cam Heyward/Mike Mitchell/Stephon Tuitt: Here are three of many who produced defensively with big plays. One sack apiece for Heyward and Tuitt, and another turnover for Mitchell, who's caused four of them in the last five games.
Michael Vick: The team must not trust him with the offense if they kept him inactive in favor of a hobbled Roethlisberger. Vick told reporters during the week that he was the No. 2 quarterback.
Jacoby Jones: Jones hasn't looked crisp since his arrival on waivers. He muffed a punt that he recovered and almost picked up a kick that would have lost major yardage.
Johnny Manziel: His coach said he took a big step forward and he did, completing 33-of-45 for 372 yards and one touchdown. Manziel also had a touchdown dropped, and missed a rushing touchdown by one foot.
Travis Benjamin: His 113 receiving yards gave him his third 100-yard game of the season -- though his day also included a dropped touchdown catch.
Gary Barnidge: The tight end caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season. That is tied for second among tight ends in Browns history and two behind Ozzie Newsomen's team best total of nine.
Cam Erving: The rookie first-round pick started his first game and had glaring moments when he struggled. He was bowled over on the pass rush and in the run game at least once, and his holding penalty negated a touchdown run in the third quarter.
Johnson Bademosi: A lot of players struggle against Antonio Brown, so Bademosi isn't the first to give up a 56-yard touchdown to Brown. But forcing Bademosi into the lineup as a corner puts him in a spot that he can't handle.
Justin Gilbert: The eighth overall pick was inactive so the team could get a look at sixth-round pick Charles Gaines. When Gaines struggled, Bademosi took over. Given the way they played, it's worth wondering how far Gilbert is from seeing the field.