After the Cleveland Browns’ embarrassing debacle of a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10, it was all but confirmed the team would be cleaning house in the offseason. GM Ray Farmer’s pitiful draft record already ensured he’d be receiving a pink slip in January. Meanwhile, coach Mike Pettine would surely pay for how badly the Browns have regressed on the field this year.
It was easy to assume none of this would change over the span of the bye week. However, at least one member of the Browns staff might have earned himself a pass thanks to the power move he made with the team’s controversial quarterback.
Yesterday, after having to answer for yet another embarrassing video of Johnny Manziel at an excessive party, Pettine demoted him all the way down to third string. After officially deeming him the starter just days earlier, Pettine asked Manziel not to do anything over the bye week which would embarrass the team. Manziel did just that, and Pettine decided enough was enough.
Make no mistake, the move was made as a clear message to Manziel that his blatant disregard of team orders – which were as simple as “please don’t do something stupid” – would result in severe punishment. On top of this, said move may have helped Pettine save his job.
There will no doubt be consequences for how badly this season has gone in Cleveland. Nothing the team does in the final weeks is going to change this. However, there are reasons Pettine’s benching of Manziel might help him avoid the firing squad this offseason.
First of all, it’s tough to believe the players in the locker room aren’t 100% behind this move. What Manziel did – claiming he wouldn’t do anything stupid, then doing something stupid – was a selfish and clear message to the team that he didn’t feel he needed to follow orders. Had Pettine seen this latest video and, after telling Manziel to be smart over the bye week, kept him in as the starter, the rest of the players would’ve felt the QB was above the law in Cleveland.
Instead, even though the smart move was to see what the team had in Manziel, Pettine proved to the rest of the locker room that he’s not just going to accept Manziel’s blatant disregard of simple rules just because he was given the starting gig.
Additionally, that Pettine consulted with owner Jimmy Haslam says a lot about how this move affects the coach’s future in Cleveland.
Though it’s yet to be confirmed, it’s difficult to believe Haslam wasn’t the one who made the call to draft Manziel in the first place. He no doubt was in full support of Pettine giving the QB the starting job after the Steelers game. It also wouldn’t have been too surprising if Haslam tried to get Pettine to let this latest Manziel incident pass.
However, Pettine said enough to convince Haslam that, regardless of his preference for Manziel, a player can’t blatantly disobey orders and still get rewarded with a starting job.
Haslam knows Josh McCown isn’t the future at quarterback for the Browns. He also knows Manziel could’ve potentially been. At 2-8, not only did Haslam have every right to veto the move back to McCown, he also could do so thinking “what’s the difference, Pettine won’t be here next season anyway.”
Yet, he didn’t take that route. He let a coach many thought was already on his way out make a bold move of demoting a potential solution at quarterback all the way down to third string despite the fact the team as a whole is going nowhere this year.
If Haslam is already working on Pettine’s walking papers, why would he accept the idea of sending the QB he coveted down to third string and replacing him with a veteran who clearly isn’t the answer? Why wouldn’t he just thank him for the suggestion, then deny it?
Pettine may still end up getting fired at season’s end. As mentioned, the Browns have been pathetic all season long, and people with the team will pay for this.
Still, it’s very telling Pettine getting the owner’s approval to punish Manziel for another embarrassing incident despite the fact the team was ready to see if he could be the quarterback of the future says a lot. If Pettine does end up getting another season in Cleveland, we’ll look back at this moment as a clear sign such a thing was possible.