The drama continues in Berea.
Fans and media reacted passionately Tuesday following the Browns' unexpected decision to bench Johnny Manziel due to a new video of the 22-year-old quarterback partying during the bye week.
On Wednesday, head coach Mike Pettine and several Browns players followed with their feelings about the move.
At a midday press conference in Berea, Pettine talked at length about the quarterback situation. In his opening statement, shown live on ESPN's SportsCenter, Pettine said:
"On the decision that was made yesterday, we are always going to do what is best for the team in all of the decisions that we make. The position of quarterback is always going to be held to a higher standard than any other position on the team. That is the reality. It is not just about talent. It is not just about what you do on the field. To be successful at the position requires a great understanding of what is involved in the non-physical aspects – the leadership, the trust, the accountability, responsibility, the diligence. You have to take the mentality that no one is going to outwork you. That has to be understood when you play the position at this level. When you have a great opportunity in front of you, it is important that you demonstrate that you can handle the responsibility that comes with it. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the trust and the accountability piece. This is where we had an obvious short coming.
"I won’t get into the details of our meetings before the bye other than what is out there, and I won’t get into the details much of our meeting yesterday. As I said yesterday, everyone in this organizations wants what is best for Johnny Manziel. He has shown tremendous improvement, but he has to make better decisions. We are going to continue to support him, help him and coach him in every way possible to get him where he needs to be. This is a decision that I know, for him in particular, stings in the short term but feel it is an absolutely necessary to maximize his chance for future success."
Following Pettine's opening statement, the media grilled him about the decision. Of the 24 questions asked, 22 were in regards to Manziel. [Transcript / video available here.]
Some of the highlights include:
Has Manziel played his last down as a Brown?
"I certainly hope not. He has made great progress. There was no better proof than last Sunday against Pittsburgh. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a few forward. We told him yesterday, ‘This isn’t a dead end. This is a hurdle. It is an obstacle.’ Part of success in athletics is dealing in adversity. This will be an example of it."
Do general manager Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam agree?
"Discussed this in great length with them, both right when it occurred and yesterday again. We are all very much on the same page. They supported the decision whole heartedly. I don’t know if there really needs to be any statement from them. I think they will essentially repeat what I have said."
Will Manziel play again in 2015?
"It is the short term. Things can change. I think a lot of it, too, is what I just talked about. How does it get handled? Last week, we made him the starter for the rest of the season. We all saw how quickly that changed. The NFL landscape is obviously a very fluid one. ... Josh McCown is our starter. Austin Davis is our two. Johnny is our three. I won’t speak behind that right now. Things can change. As far as declaring a starter for the rest of the year, we will see how this plays out in the short term."
How can Manziel earn back trust?
"It will be a process. There is no magical solution to that. We tell our players, ‘You lose trust in buckets and you regain it in drops.’ I think that certainly applies here."
Does this decision hinder the team's ability to evaluate Manziel?
"It does. It does have an impact. We do have a much better sense than we did a year ago. I think from a pure quarterbacking play standpoint the arrow is up. I didn’t want that to be a deciding factor in this. ‘Well, let’s not do anything because we need to see.’ This was too important and it is something that is regrettable, but we feel that we had to do."
Following Pettine's press conference, a number of players spoke to the media about the decision.
As usual, left tackle Joe Thomas was asked to weigh in about the young signalcaller. The Pro Bowler said of Manziel:
"It's important in every walk of life to be a man of your word and be accountable ... We're not ready to shut the door on him. It's a step back for him ... I'll let coach Pettine dig into the justification, but I think it's probably more than just what you see on the surface from a TMZ report or whatever report. Like I said, we support coach's decision."
McCown, now the starting quarterback again, showed remorse for Manziel:
"You never want to regain a job this way. Any teammate, you'd be disappointed for them. You want the best for people."
Wideout Brian Hartline showed less sympathy for Manziel. When Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan asked the veteran wide receiver what he thought about fans calling Pettine's decision "unjustified," Hartline said:
"No one said [Pettine] couldn't do that. That's the thing you don't understand, you're talking about things that are in the locker room that you don't know all the facts to and you're making a lot of assumptions. How we handle our business and go about things is on us and we stand behind the coach."
As Pettine said in his presser, the club seems to be united in the decision to bench Manziel. Pettine feels Manziel violated the team's trust, and the players seem to agree.
Six games still remain on the schedule, and a lot can happen between now and the end of the season.
Will Manziel play again this season? Will the Browns and Manziel part ways at the end of the year? Only time will tell, but Johnny's future in Cleveland looks murky.