BEREA (AP) — The Browns started the season with a quarterback plan: Josh McCown is the starter, Johnny Manziel is his backup.
They’re going back to it.
McCown was cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol Wednesday to practice and will start against Oakland, moving back into the lineup ahead of Manziel, who threw two touchdown passes and led the Browns to their first win on Sunday.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said he considered several factors into account, but that his final decision was based on one thing.
“For us, it’s very bottom line,” Pettine said before practice. “You weigh everything. You look at the game plan. You look at where we are, and it’s who gives us the best opportunity to win.”
McCown sustained a concussion trying to dive into the end zone on the first drive in the season opener against the New York Jets and sat out last week against Tennessee because of lingering symptoms.
McCown was only released from the concussion program Wednesday morning by an independent neurologist, the final stage before he can practice
McCown had been expected to return last week but had a setback.
Manziel will now return to his backup role just days after getting his first career win. The second-year QB, who has overcome personal issues, threw two long touchdown passes in a 28-14 win over Tennessee on Sunday. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 172 yards, but had two more fumbles, giving him four in two games.
Pettine said he leaned on offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell before finalizing his decision to go back to McCown over Manziel, whom he said handled the news well.
“We all felt the same way,” Pettine said. “Johnny has made a lot of strides, but we have no problems with him playing football for us. He’s headed in the right direction, but ultimately we went with Josh.”
Pettine and his staff feel more comfortable having their offense led by the 36-year-old McCown, who signed a three-year contract during the offseason and led the Browns on a 90-yard drive on Sept. 13 before he was hurt trying to launch himself over the goal line.
McCown may be just 17-33 as a career starter, but he has deep knowledge of Cleveland’s offense and the respect of his teammates. While Manziel has made major improvements personally and professionally, he remains a work in progress, but the Browns are confident the 22-year-old can succeed.
“Johnny did an outstanding job with his opportunity,” Pettine said. “He knows that there are some things that he needs to get cleaned up. We need to be more protective of the football. Very proud of him personally and professionally with the progress that he’s made.
“We feel we have a backup that can come in and he’s already proven that he can move the team and make plays and win games for us. He’s making great strides and if he continues to make strides, ultimately he can get where we all want him to be.”
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