BEREA: Browns coach Mike Pettine insisted Wednesday he has knocked Johnny Manziel down but not out of Cleveland.
Although Pettine demoted Manziel Tuesday from starting quarterback to third on the depth chart because of his off-field behavior during a recent five-day, bye-week vacation, he said the organization never discussed cutting the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft.
Asked Wednesday if Manziel has played his last game with the Browns, Pettine said, “I certainly hope not. He’s made great progress. There’s no better proof than [Nov. 15] against Pittsburgh [when Manziel threw for a career-high 372 yards in a 30-9 loss].
“But sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to take a few forward. We told him yesterday, ‘This isn’t a dead end. This is a hurdle. It’s an obstacle.’ Part of success is dealing with adversity, and this will be an example of it.”
Pettine conceded his decision to bench Manziel will hurt the franchise’s ability to evaluate him as a potential quarterback of the future, but the coach felt the need for discipline could not be neglected.
“It does have an impact,” Pettine said. “We do have a much better sense than we did a year ago. I think from a pure, quarterbacking play standpoint, the arrow is up. But I didn’t want that to be a deciding factor in this — ‘Well, let’s not do anything because we need to see.’ This was too important. It’s something that is regrettable but we feel we had to do.”
Pettine made the call to bench Manziel because he broke the coaching staff’s trust in him. He partied just days after he had been named the starter and discussed the team’s expectations for his off-field conduct with Pettine, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell. A video showing Manziel clutching a large bottle while singing and dancing with fellow revelers late last week in a nightclub in Austin, Texas, surfaced online Monday.
“It’s the trust, the accountability part of it,” Pettine said. “It was right on the heels of discussions that not just I had with him but Kevin O’Connell and [DeFilippo]. That trust was violated.”
Pettine was asked whether Manziel left town last week aware he was on a zero-tolerance policy.
“I think that was made reasonably clear to him,” Pettine replied.
Of course, Manziel’s partying is a concern because of his history. A hard-partying lifestyle led him to spend more than 10 weeks this past offseason in an inpatient rehabilitation facility specializing in alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
“We want what’s best for him,” Pettine said. “There’s no personal rift between he and I. ... There’s nobody that’s going to be more proud when he does turn the corner and he’s a success. I don’t think anybody will be more proud than I am. But when you’re a parent, you know the concept of tough love is usually the best.”
Will the Browns ask Manziel, 22, to go back to rehab or urge him to do so?
“Certainly a lot of things will get discussed, but I won’t go into the details,” Pettine replied. “It is very private.”
In the wake of Manziel’s fall, Josh McCown is the starting quarterback, and Austin Davis will serve as the primary backup moving forward. Pettine wouldn’t commit to sticking with the same pecking order for the final six games of the season.
“Josh McCown is our starter,” Pettine said. “Austin Davis right now is our two. Johnny is our three. I won’t speak beyond that right now. Things can change. As far as declaring a starter the rest of the year, I just want to see how this plays out.”
McCown will start when the Browns (2-8) host the Baltimore Ravens (3-7) next week on Monday Night Football after sitting out the last two games with a rib injury suffered Oct. 25.
“You never want to regain a job this way,” McCown said Wednesday. “... You want the best for [Manziel], and when you feel like the best thing is not happening, it doesn’t give you a good feeling.”
All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas said he thinks all of the players support Pettine’s decision partly because the situation surrounding Manziel probably involves “more than what you see on the surface from a TMZ report.”
“I think it’s important that if you have rules and guidelines and people tell you something, that you have follow through,” Thomas said. “I think it’s important in every walk of life to be a man of your word and do the things you say you’re going to do and be held accountable.
“That’s one of the things that I really respect about Coach Pettine. Since he’s gotten the job, he’s been holding the players accountable. He doesn’t run from challenges. He faces them head on, and he does what he thinks is right in all circumstances, even if maybe it doesn’t look good off the bat.”
Along those lines, Pettine stressed quarterback will always be held to a higher standard than any other position.
“To be successful at the position requires a great understanding of what’s involved in the non-physical aspects, the leadership, the trust, the accountability, responsibility, the diligence,” Pettine said. “You have to take the mentality that no one is going to outwork you. That has to be understood when you play the position at this level, and when you have a great opportunity in front of you, it’s important that you demonstrate that you can handle the responsibility that comes with it. And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the trust and the accountability piece.”
Pettine said he’s on the same page with owner Jimmy Haslam and General Manager Ray Farmer regarding Manziel.
“We all feel the same way: disappointed but not ready to give up [on Manziel], encouraged by the progress that he’s shown, especially from a football standpoint,” Pettine said. “... But on the personal front, we all recognize that he still has a ways to go.”
Pettine said Manziel was disappointed when he broke the news to him Tuesday.
“This is a decision that I know for him in particular stings in the short term,” Pettine said. “But [I] feel it’s absolutely necessary to maximize his chance for future success.
“This is a heavy dose of adversity. We’ll see how he handles it.”
McCown complimented Manziel for taking notes in meetings and doing everything he was supposed to do Wednesday despite the circumstances.
But it will take much more for Manziel to earn back trust, if he ever does.
“We tell our players you lose trust in buckets and you regain it in drops,” Pettine said, “and I think that certainly applies here.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.