UPDATE (3:50 PM): The Browns have benched Manziel. Click here for the latest.
Last Tuesday, with a bye week approaching, head coach Mike Pettine finally gave in and named Johnny Manziel the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback for the final six games. Right after that announcement, the media asked Manziel on if it was important to show he could be trusted off the field now that he was the No. 1 quarterback, here is how he responded:
"Coach Pettine came in and said he didn’t want to micro-manage me or any of the other guys on our time off, but at the same time I let him know that I am not going to do anything that is going to be a distraction to this team or be an embarrassment to the organization. That was the thing he stressed to me as well. He stressed that back. I am going to get a chance to go and relax like everyone else in this locker room is. I think it is a point in the season where it is a bye and it is well deserved. We can come back and gear up for these last set of games that we have. Come in fresh-minded, ready to go and excited to be back on the football field. I don’t think you have to worry about me this week."
Over the weekend, a video surfaced on TMZ Sports of Manziel partying with a bottle of champagne in his hand. The team is back in town this week as they prepare to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. In light of the video, though, Pettine indicated to the media on Tuesday that he is considering benching Manziel and going back to veteran Josh McCown this week.
"Disappointing, it's very" - Pettine on Manziel's action. Sounds as though Pettine seriously considering benching him.— Tom Reed (@treed1919) November 24, 2015
Pettine on Manziel: "I want to sit down and discuss it before I do a knee jerk and go off on a tangent." #Browns— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) November 24, 2015
Pettine also indicated that if they make a change, McCown is cleared and would be able to start against the Ravens. If you recall, McCown was outstanding against Baltimore earlier this year in a 33-30 overtime victory in which he threw for 457 yards and 2 touchdowns while rushing for another.
I think Anthony Lima of 92.3 the Fan made a good point regarding the situation on Twitter:
For Pettine to say that today I wonder if Manziel promised he wouldn't drink. Video was nothing really different from anything before— Anthony Lima (@SportsBoyTony) November 24, 2015
Pettine and Manziel clearly had conversations prior to the bye week about Manziel's behavior, and Manziel even said it himself that he would not do anything to embarrass the organization. While I have never been overly concerned with Manziel's off-the-field issues, the team has surely asked him to take greater responsibility and now put himself in position to be caught on tape by the paparazzi, even if that means sacrificing a bit of his personal life.
If Manziel told Pettine something like, "trust me, coach, you won't see any negative bye week stories about me" and they shook on it, can Pettine legitimately play Manziel and show that there are no consequences to the culture he's attempting to build? Remember that Josh Gordon, Justin Gilbert, and Terrance West all faced discipline in different ways last year for their off-the-field behavior.
I'm worried that Pettine might be serious about making the switch to McCown, which would be a disappointment because I think the team really needs the on-field evaluation of Manziel for these final six games. If the trust issue is severely lacking, I understand that something needs to be done, but I hope that benching him isn't the be-all-end-all solution.