It appears Josh McCown is heading to the bench, and the Cleveland Browns are going to see what they have in Johnny Manziel.
On Tuesday, the Browns announced that Manziel will be the starter for the remainder of the season.
After McCown sat out Week 10 with a rib injury, the Browns gave Manziel his second start of the season.
The move comes after Browns coach Mike Pettine wouldn’t commit to making Manziel the permanent starter after Week 10. It seems the Browns had discussions, and at 2-8 with the playoffs basically out of reach, they have decided to give Manziel a spin.
For Manziel, this is his first true shot in the NFL, and it basically acts as a six-game tryout.
Manziel’s rookie season went horribly. In his first start, he was pounded by the Cincinnati Bengals en route to an 80-yard, two-interception loss. He was hurt the next game, and didn’t play again.
This season, Manziel has actually shown vast improvement, albeit in small doses. He had a solid preseason, and when McCown got concussed on the first drive of the NFL season, Manziel played well in two appearances. In Week 2, he led the Browns to one of their two wins this season with a 172-yard, two-touchdown performance over the Titans.
Manziel has shown progress as a traditional passer, combining his trademark scrambles with more patience to let big plays develop.
However, Manziel was benched when McCown came back in Week 3, and McCown played well enough that there wasn’t an immediate need to bench him (despite the Browns losing).
Additionally, Manziel had a run-in with the law after an alleged dispute with his girlfriend. The Browns and the NFL didn’t punish Manziel, but he remained a backup until McCown’s most recent injury.
Now is Manziel’s chance to show the Browns what he’s got. In a Week 10 start, he went 33-45 for a career-high 372 yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, the Browns were still crushed 30-9 by the Steelers.
With the Browns heading toward a high draft pick and with McCown turning 37 this offseason, the Browns need to know whether Manziel has a future as a starter. If not, they could end up using that high draft pick on a new quarterback.
If things don’t go well, it does not necessarily mean that Manziel would be cut after the season as his rookie contract is a favourable deal. With just two years and a little over $US5 million in total cap hits, if the Browns don’t like what they see, they could send Manziel to a QB-hungry team in exchange for a late-round draft pick.
If things go well, the Browns would obviously keep Manziel around and let him continue to develop next season when, barring some unforeseen change, they’re once again in a rebuilding year.
After almost two seasons of rare opportunities, Johnny Football is finally getting his chance to prove he belongs in the NFL.
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