In a training camp that was free of a quarterback controversy so far, has the annual conversation piece for Cleveland Browns fans back following the Browns 11-10 preseason loss Thursday night to the Buffalo Bills? Well hopefully not, but after the performances of Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel it’s hard not to avoid the topic.
“I just don’t want too much read into that,” head coach Mike Pettine said during a conference call on Friday afternoon. “We have a pretty good plan, we feel, for Johnny’s development, and I think we’re on schedule with it. He’s shown great improvement from the day he set back into the building. We get very individualized in the preseason. We just want him to go out and do his job for one play and hit the reset button; do it again. Don’t want to get too wrapped up in the big picture stuff. Those meetings are all down the road, but we feel good where Johnny is at the No. 2, and we feel good about where Josh is at the No. 1 and understand that a large part of this is the supporting cast thing. But again, our thoughts on the quarterback picture are the same this morning as they were going into last night.”
Manziel threw for 118 yards and a touchdown in Thursday’s loss, while McCown threw for only 57 yards with a pair of interceptions. Manziel lead the Browns on a 96 yard scoring drive and tried to get the Browns in position to kick a potential game winning field goal at the end of the game. What needs to be considered is that Manziel was doing all of those good things against Bills backup defenders and guys who probably won’t make the final 53-man roster. McCown was facing the starting Bills defense that is one of the best in the league last season and is expected to be excellent this season.
“First of all, with Josh, I think there were a couple of throws he’d want to have back,” Pettine said. “I thought he made some good plays. He just wasn’t as settled with his feet in the pocket as he had been, and that’s something that we need to work on. Our protection wasn’t what it should be. That was a pretty good front we were going against. Overall, I thought he did some good things, had good command. We’re in a results business, and unfortunately, he had the one tipped interception which was unfortunate. The other one was a ball that clearly he forced it, and that’s a lesson that we’d rather learn in the preseason than in the regular season. I thought Johnny early on did some good things. As I said last night, I thought it got a little bit ragged at the end. That might have been more of a function of the circumstances of the game and who he was out there with. Overall, I think he made strides, was still calm in the pocket. Got flushed probably more than we wanted him to get flushed, but he still made some plays on the move with his feet and those were some encouraging things to see. Overall, there were some good teaching moments for both those guys.”
Another factor that lead to the quarterback controversy talk in Cleveland on Friday was related to an injury McCown suffered during Thursday’s game. McCown had his ring finger on his throwing hand checked out. It’s hard to determine when the finger injury took place but it doesn’t appear to be a concern for McCown or his head coach.
“Yeah, he was checked out this morning, Pettine said.. “He’s good to go.”
“Just jammed the finger so making sure everything is ok,” McCown said. “Just super cautious. Everything is fine. It feels fine.”
While McCown is most likely going to be the starting quarterback to begin the regular season on September 13 against the Jets in New York, Pettine didn’t officially announce who the starting quarterback will be to kick off the 2015 season.
“I’ve said that before, I’m not into guaranteeing or announcing a game (one) week starter,” Pettine said. “To me, that comes down the road. We’re just looking for a good week of preparation for Tampa and to get better.”
The Browns next preseason game is on August 29 in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers, McCown’s former team. It will be interesting to see how much playing time McCown will get in preseason game number three, also known as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Perhaps then the whole quarterback controversy talk can be sacked for good, or at least for a little while.