Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine says there is no real quarterback competition, despite many reports that have indicated Johnny Manziel has a legitimate chance to start over Josh McCown.
As he told MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas, McCown is “firmly” the starter at this time, echoing statements made throughout the offseason and into camp.
“What has helped this year is Josh knowing he is firmly the No. 1,” Pettine said. “It’s unfair to look back to a year ago and say, well, Brian Hoyer obviously didn’t help Johnny. They were in a competition. The circumstances are different this year. Josh is secure in his job, but at the same time he can help mentor those other guys in the room.”
By all accounts, Manziel has the look of an actual NFL quarterback this year, which is a far cry from the party-boy celebrity who showed up at last year’s camp as a rookie. It is for this reason that he has been given chances to work with the first-team offense this past week, but so far the Browns are content with Manziel playing the back-up role to McCown.
Perhaps we should have known this was the case when neither he, nor Pettine, made any kind of a big deal out of the announcement that he might receive first-team snaps this Thursday when the Browns host Washington, which has quarterback issues of its own.
“I’m definitely not getting caught up or enamored with the whole starter-backup role,” Manziel said last week (cleveland.com). “I’m kind of deferring to Coach Pett on that and not getting too caught up in it, because last year I think that was probably a little bit of my problem as well, getting caught up in the starters and the reps with the ones and the backups and all this.”
Manziel is clearly still the backup quarterback, and he is saying all the right things at this time.
However, all this will certainly change if McCown stinks it up during preseason games—especially if Manziel comes out and moves the offense consistently. Cleveland isn’t likely going to compete for the AFC North title, and a wild-card berth is still something of a pipe dream for the 2015 campaign.
That said, the Browns feature one of the league’s most underrated defenses. If McCown plays well, showing solid decision-making by not turning the ball over, then Pettine and his staff will almost surely stick with the veteran to open the season. Limited turnovers and strong defense often wins games, so the quarterback that can take care of the ball best will certainly win the job.