The Cleveland Browns are busy prepping for tonight’s Monday Night Football game, a contest ESPN is probably already regretting. Cleveland is a putrid 2-8 this season, and hardly a team worthy of a prime-time game. The Browns’ opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, are 3-7 and starting quarterback Matt Schaub in place of the injured Joe Flacco.
For all intents and purposes, this is a game nobody could honestly sell as watchable football. Any shot of bringing in viewers was destroyed when Johnny Manziel, who was due to start tonight, got sent to the bench for disobeying team orders by partying over the bye weekend and then trying to lie his way out of it.
Though Josh McCown will start for Cleveland, it still hardly erases the Manziel storyline from the game. Part of this is due to the fact the Browns are in a tricky situation when it comes to how they handle their controversial quarterback from here on out.
Cleveland sent a message when making the decision to not only take back the starting job from Manziel, but to also make him a third stringer. In this case, the punishment truly fit the crime, as there’s no excuse for Manziel’s attempts to not only lie about the video of him partying, but to also have his friends try and do the same.
However, the Browns have also gone out of their way to indicate this significant relegation hardly means Manziel is done with the team, despite many NFL pundits saying the exact opposite. Coach Mike Pettine has claimed he’s still not giving up on the young QB, while offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said it’s not out of the question to assume Manziel could be back on the field this season.
Obviously, saying all these “you never know” type statements days after demoting Manziel really complicates the picture for the rest of the season. With only six games left on the year, it’s clear Cleveland still has no idea what to do at quarterback.
The Browns can say there’s still a chance Manziel could return to the field, but what’s it actually going to take to make this happen?
McCown is still not the future, and the season has been over for weeks. Neither of these things are going to change anytime soon. Does Manziel have to wait for both McCown and backup Austin Davis to get hurt? Was this punishment just a one week ordeal? If McCown plays well tonight, does he start the rest of the year?
The aforementioned questions already muddy this situation, but there’s actually even more complication to add to this.
The Browns are looking at a potential top five draft pick next year. Do they target a quarterback with it? If they do, should they cut Manziel? Do they focus elsewhere, attempting a second season of McCown and hoping Manziel gets it this time?
As you can see, while Manziel needed to be punished for his latest incident, Cleveland is in one heck of a pickle because of it. The team can’t afford to go into the upcoming offseason still unsure whether or not its troublesome quarterback can cut it in the pros. Then again, this is only true if the Browns actually do plan on keeping Manziel in the picture, something which also isn’t clear at this point.
It’s safe to say I don’t envy the Browns after looking through the multi-faceted conundrum they’re facing by simply benching Manziel. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of easy call to make when it comes to where they go from here with him.
If you ask me, Cleveland either needs to just play Manziel or cut him. If the team has no interest in finding out what he can do this year, there’s no sense of keeping him around next season. The Browns can’t just keep him in the picture out of curiosity, as another year of having him sit and wait behind McCown is another year wasted.
Cleveland is at a true crossroads when it comes to Manziel, and it’s not clear which way the team is going to go with this. The only thing which is clear is that, if there’s any remote thought of keeping him in the picture past this year, the Browns not only have to find a way to put Manziel back on the field, but find a way to justify it, as well.