BEREA — The Browns believe sacking Johnny Manziel themselves will do him good.
One day after taking Manziel’s starting job from him for breaking his promise to stay out of the spotlight and behave during the bye week, Browns coach Mike Pettine explained his decision was necessary.
He benched Manziel because Johnny Football didn’t keep his word.
“It’s the trust, the accountability part of it,” Pettine said. “This is where we had an obvious shortcoming.”
Manziel was dumped as Cleveland’s starter and dropped to third string by Pettine, who was angry after a video emerged of the second-year QB partying last week in Texas while the Browns were off. Before Manziel left town, Pettine said he made it clear to Manziel that he needed to act in a responsible manner, one befitting a starting NFL quarterback.
When that didn’t happen, Pettine had no choice but to stick Manziel behind starter Josh McCown and Austin Davis on Cleveland’s depth chart. Manziel could be inactive Monday night when the Browns host the Baltimore Ravens, depriving the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner a chance to showcase his skills and progress on one of pro football’s biggest stages.
Despite the demotion, the Browns haven’t given up on Manziel.
“This is a heavy dose of adversity. We’ll see how he handles it,” Pettine said. “We told him yesterday, this isn’t a dead end. This is a hurdle.”
Pettine made the decision to remove Manziel as his starter after a video appeared of him rapping profane lyrics while holding what appeared to be a champagne bottle. This came just days after he was named starter and after he had talked with Pettine, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell about the team’s expectations for him in his new role.
Pettine was surprised by the video, but more disappointed than anything.
“It was right on the heels of discussions that not just I had with him but Kevin O’Connell and Flip and that trust was violated,” Pettine said.
Pettine said the Browns did not consider cutting Manziel, a first-round draft pick who has made more headlines with his off-field antics than anything he’s done between the lines.
And for those speculating that Manziel has played his last game with Cleveland, Pettine said that talk is premature.
“I certainly hope not,” he said. “He has made great progress. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a few forward.”
During the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media, Manziel stood with his hands tucked in his hooded sweatshirt and watched as McCown and Davis took all the snaps. At one point, Manziel dejectedly hung his head and stared at the grass under his feet as the Browns practiced on another shockingly mild late November afternoon.
The benching is a difficult blow to the 22-year-old, who was riding high after being named Cleveland’s starter for the remainder of the season last week. The same day he was promoted, Manziel, who spent 10 weeks in a rehab facility during the offseason, learned that the NFL had ruled he did not violate its personal conduct policy during a domestic incident last week.
Now, Manziel has fallen back to where he was at the start of this season — out of the lineup and out of favor with his coaches.
“You lose trust in buckets,” Pettine said, “and you regain it in drops.”
Pettine would not rule out Manziel starting again this season.
“Things can change,” he said. “I think a lot of it, too, is how does it get handled? Last week, we made him the starter for the rest of the season. We all saw how quickly that changed.”
Browns tackle Joe Thomas said Pettine’s decision was supported in Cleveland’s locker room.
“It’s important that if you have rules and guidelines and people tell you something that you have follow-through,” Thomas said. “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.”
McCown sympathizes with Manziel, who blew his chance to build off a 372-yard performance on Nov. 15 in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a credit to Johnny,” McCown said. “He came to work this morning and obviously with not the best circumstances and took notes and did everything he was supposed to do. Given everything that has happened it was the right response and I just appreciate that from him. We’re in this thing together.”
Manziel’s demotion will make it difficult for the Browns to assess Manziel’s future, but Pettine said that had no bearing on his decision.
“This was too important,” he said. “It was something that, it’s regrettable but we feel we had to do.”
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