The Cleveland Browns made the smart, conservative choice by sticking with veteran quarterback Josh McCown as the team’s starter this week.
The 36-year-old is the most experienced, dependable option on the team’s roster and gives them the best chance to win now. The decision is also the fair one for both McCown — who won the starting job and was only replaced because of a concussion — and his teammates, who deserve to play alongside the guy who is more likely to lead them to victories.
At first glance, it looks like the right call, but it’s not.
Johnny Manziel, while only the temporary starter, deserved to hold onto the starting role after the way he played in Week 2. Although he didn’t set the world on fire, completing just 8 of his 15 passes, Manziel provided both the explosive, game-changing plays McCown cannot conjure and the victory McCown didn’t ensure in Week 1. Manziel deserved a second opportunity to prove he has the ability to sustain success, but Cleveland’s coaching staff and management are too worried about appearing to be a good team to save their jobs.
McCown is more likely to lead Cleveland to a few early wins this season working as a game manager who holds onto the ball, but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s not leading this team to an AFC North division championship. While Manziel certainly isn’t ready for that challenge yet either, pulling out the quarterback with momentum on his side because he’s a risk-taker and could cost you one game in September is cowardly.
The Browns should have rolled the dice with the former Heisman Trophy winner against the Oakland Raiders, a non-division opponent that he could have beaten despite his inexperience. Manziel has shown a much more mature side this season since cleaning up his act and heading to rehab and has earned the right to be trusted with one measly game in third week of the season.
Look, I understand Browns head coach Mike Pettine doesn’t look at their schedule with the same skeptical outlook as the media. My job isn’t on the line if Manziel stinks it up against the Raiders and McCown is left disgruntled. There’s also plenty of logic in holding back the young, former first-round pick who is still learning what it takes to be the franchise QB of an NFL organization. He’s a fragile asset that wasn’t deemed ready to start last week until he was the only option available.
That said, this has got to be a difficult decision for Browns fans to swallow. Just once, it would have been nice to see Cleveland face reality and take a one-week, do-or-die risk with the hot hand in Manziel. Playing the gunslinger might have been the wrong decision, but Pettine should also realize that sticking to your guns can backfire on you all the same.