Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Cleveland Browns spent an entire week preparing for a game while not knowing who would be the starting quarterback.
Josh McCown has been good at times this year, but is also still recovering from a rib injury. Johnny Manziel, a player the coaches trust only as far as they can throw him, has taken first team reps all week, but still hasn’t received the green light to start.
Though I doubt there was much baited breath from Browns fans waiting to see who’d be behind center when this 2-7 team takes on the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, you couldn’t help but wonder who Cleveland would end up going with. Today, coach Mike Pettine gave an update on the whole situation.
Apparently, Pettine knows who’ll be starting for Cleveland this Sunday. However, he doesn’t plan on revealing this until the morning of the game. It appears Pettine thinks keeping Steelers coach Mike Tomlin guessing as to who’ll start is one heck of a strategy.
As cagey as Pettine thinks he’s being here, there’s a good chance it’s all for naught. In fact, I highly doubt the Browns coach is keeping anyone with Pittsburgh on their toes by not revealing whether he’s going with McCown or Manziel.
First of all, it’s been quite some time since an NFL team struggled with its Sunday strategy because they had no idea which quarterback it would be playing against. Most coaches see their opponents have two potential candidates to start, and game-plans for both accordingly.
However, I guess you can say there’s a tiny bit of difficulty thrown Tomlin’s way by not knowing who Cleveland is starting. Much of this is due to the fact McCown and Manziel are two completely different quarterbacks.
That said, any mystery Pettine was hoping to utilize essentially disappears when you break down the events of this past week.
For one, McCown has only been a limited participant all week long as he continues to wait for his ribs to heal. He also admitted Wednesday he’s not quite sure he could even handle taking a big hit at this point.
In the meantime, Manziel has taken all the first team reps every day in practice. It’s very difficult to see the Browns spend all week prepping Manziel to start, then swapping him out for McCown if the vet is fully recovered by Sunday morning.
On top of this, based on comments from the Cleveland locker room, it sure sounds as though Manziel will be starting Sunday.
“(McCown) took snaps here and there today (but) just because of what Pittsburgh does, we’re so focused on preparation and with Johnny in there, we have to be preparing like he’s the starter,” claimed guard John Greco.
Whether or not this was true sentiment or a quote encouraged by Pettine to keep the gamesmanship alive is anyone’s guess. However, it certainly sounds like the team is much more prepared to play with Manziel at QB instead of McCown.
Toss it all together with Pettine claiming he wasn’t even planning on telling his quarterbacks who’ll start until Sunday morning, and you’ve got a weak strategy made weaker by some obvious cues from the team.
Honestly, it’s tough to believe anyone in Pittsburgh cares whether McCown or Manziel starts Sunday. The Steelers will be strong favorites regardless of who’s under center for the Browns, and I’d be hard-pressed to find any of their players who are legitimately worried over whether a wounded McCown or an undeveloped Manziel is starting.
If Pettine thinks he’s being crafty, fine, enjoy believing you’ve got your opponent freaking out. For what it’s worth, multiple outlets are already saying Manziel is expected to start.
At the end of the day, though, it’s pretty difficult to see anything coming from this strategy beyond another notch in the loss column.