Put aside your feelings about Manziel, one of the league’s most polarizing players. They’re justified.
It’s entirely possible that Manziel cannot play at all in the NFL. Analysts talk about him using his “Johnny Football” improvisational skills only because he made a mistake and missed something while in the pocket, giving him no choice but to take off and run and try to make something happen. That doesn’t work consistently in the NFL. Maybe he won’t succeed at this level and the Browns wasted the first-round draft pick they used on him.
But first the need to find out, definitively, if that’s the case.
It was time to find out last season, when Manziel was a rookie and the Browns finally turned to him over Brian Hoyer. Manziel played poorly in his two starts. The early returns were not at all promising.
But that was only two starts. After an offseason stay in a treatment facility, Manziel managed to put himself back into Cleveland’s quarterback conversation during the preseason. The Browns chose McCown as the starter entering the season, and Manziel played in the season opener in relief only because McCown suffered a concussion. Manziel started this past Sunday against the Tennessee Titans only because McCown had not been cleared to play.
Manziel made things happen on offense, though, with two long touchdown passes to wide receiver Travis Benjamin. That makes it three Manziel-to-Benjamin touchdowns in two games this season. The Browns beat the Titans and Manziel had his first taste of success as an NFL starter.
It is understandable that Coach Mike Pettine is reluctant to trust Manziel. When teams lose, it is the coaches who pay with their jobs. Manziel might be an NFL failure and bring Pettine down with him.
But the Browns owe it to themselves to be sure about that before they give up on Manziel, and now is not the time to turn back to McCown.