BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Johnny Manziel’s antics have the Browns in a jam. This time, a positive one.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said Monday that Manziel’s first career win on Sunday over Tennessee has Cleveland’s coaching staff considering maybe keeping him as their starting quarterback even if Josh McCown returns from a concussion.
Manziel threw two long touchdown passes to wide receiver Travis Benjamin, the second an improvised 50-yarder with 2:52 left to seal a 28-14 victory.
Although his statistics (8 of 15 for 172 yards) weren’t great and he fumbled twice, Manziel led the Browns (1-1) to the win and that may be enough to move him ahead of McCown, who sustained a concussion in the season opener and remains in the NFL’s protocol on head injuries.
Until McCown is cleared, Manziel will start for the Browns, who host Oakland this week. But that could change.
Pettine will meet with his staff and have a “what-if discussion tonight and we’ll see where that takes us.”
“To me, it’s a positive conversation because you have a young quarterback that’s been through a lot, that has gone out and led his team to a win,” Pettine said.
“We were all able to enjoy it last night. I’m proud of him because if you had said back early in the offseason if this was going to happen, I think a lot of people would have said pretty slim chance.”
McCown may give the Browns the better chance to win, and Pettine and his coaches have to weigh that against getting Manziel playing time to see if he can be their long-term answer at quarterback.
Sticking with Manziel might be an easier choice if McCown, who signed a three-year, $14.5 million deal in March, hadn’t shown promise while guiding Cleveland on a 17-play, 90-yard drive before he got drilled in the helmet diving into the end zone.
Pettine said last week that McCown would have likely played against the Titans if he had practiced just one day, but he suffered a setback on Friday. With a chance to make his third pro start, Manziel, who went 0-2 last season, stepped in and produced.
While an argument could be made that the Browns need to see what they have in the 22-year-old Manziel, Pettine said his status as a first-round pick is not a factor in any decision.
“We’re tasked with winning football games, and the decisions we make are what gives us the best opportunity to win this Sunday,” he said. “I know that on the outside those things get brought into it. And we’ve already seen circumstances have come about for us to get an evaluation of him.
“We’re not going to use a season and look at it that way, say ‘Hey, we need to know.’ We think over the natural course of events we’ll find out.”
Manziel’s performance was personally satisfying for the former Heisman Trophy winner, whose bad rookie season was followed by a stint in rehab. He’s worked hard at getting himself turned around both on and off the field, and Pettine has been impressed by the young QB’s growth.
Manziel, who was overmatched in two starts last season, showed Sunday that he’s capable of leading the Browns.
“I just think quarterback play from A to Z he’s improved in all areas in our mind,” Pettine said. “Johnny has made a lot of progress in the right direction. Still a lot of things to get cleaned, but we certainly feel like the arrow is up.”
Manziel does need to hang on to the football. He’s fumbled four times in two games, but the Browns were able to recover his two miscues against Tennessee.
“That can not become his flaw,” Pettine said. “We have to get that cleaned up. But I thought he did a really good job of recognizing what they were in, knowing where to go with the ball.”
Browns linebacker Craig Robertson was impressed with Manziel’s composure.
“Every quarterback in this league can make throws, but to be poised under pressure, that’s a great attribute for a quarterback,” said Robertson, who refused to voice an opinion on who should start. I play defense. I have no business talking about that. Whatever we got to do to win games, that’s what I’m all about.”
NOTES: Pettine said LB Barkevious Mingo “dinged” his knee against the Titans but should be fine. … DE Desmond Bryant will likely miss some practice time with a shoulder injury that limited him last week.