And so it begins.
The Cleveland Browns took to the field for OTAs for the first time in 2015 on Tuesday, as the local media caught a glimpse of the 90 players who will be fighting to make the 53-man roster all the way through the end of August. Last year, head coach Mike Pettine had an offseason-long competition at quarterback between QB Brian Hoyer and QB Johnny Manziel. While some good came out of starting Hoyer, by the end of the season, the position was a disaster, and Manziel's personal life got to the point where he needed to check into rehab.
This offseason, the Browns signed veteran QB Josh McCown and have pretty much anointed him the starter from Day 1, even if everybody knows he is not going to be a "light 'em up" type of quarterback. What he does offer is some stability, though -- and if Pettine got this team off to a 7-4 start last season with Hoyer at quarterback, McCown can do the same by managing the game.
Why not just re-sign Hoyer, then? Because McCown has been much more open about the idea of being a mentor to Manziel if that's what the club ultimately asks of him. With Hoyer, it was all about trying to securing a big contact (which I can't blame him for). For reporters hoping to get some nice quotes from Manziel on what in the world happened over the past few months, they had to settle for McCown after practice -- the scoop on Manziel will have to wait.
The division at quarterback was clear right off the bat: McCown is the starter, playing with the first-teamers, and Manziel is the backup, playing with the second-stringers. McCown was quick to embrace the possibility of having to relinquish his starting role at some point, but also said that not having a quarterback competition all offseason helps cut down on distractions for the team:
"We [the quarterbacks] are all in this together. I've said it from Day 1, I want to see the Cleveland Browns and the quarterback position be better than it has been. I want to do my part to help that happen on the field, but if something happens and I'm not playing, then whoever is playing, that those guys play productive too."
"For Johnny, it's just one day at a time, you have to keep stacking good days. I will say that to this point, from everything I've seen, every day has been a good day, stacking up the good days. I'm really proud of him for that. He's in there working, asking questions, staying late, and doing all the little things that it takes to play this position. This position is very demanding. It's demanding of a lot of things -- emotionally, the time, the effort, and I think he's understanding that. He's embracing that, and that's the key because if you don't embrace those things, you won't have a fighting chance. From that aspect, I think he's done an outstanding job. It's helping me, too. In life, when you can give away something or teach something, that's the next step of mastering something -- when you give it away and teach it. The whole room benefits when we have that kind of relationship."
Doesn't that sound like the polar opposite interview that Hoyer would give last year? McCown also offered a compliment on Manziel's arm strength:
"Until you throw with a guy, you don't know how strong a guy's arm is. But man, he can really spin it. Really spin it. Some of the things we're asking the quarterback to do now, he's handling that too, which is tough for a young quarterback especially."
You can watch the full interview here. And, I have to admit, that new "Dawg" logo on the shirt looks pretty bad ass after seeing it a couple months later, doesn't it?
When it came to other players speaking up about the quarterback situation, nobody was more vocal than SS Donte Whitner:
Donte Whitner: I remember playing the Bears when I was a 49er and thinking Josh McCown looks better than Jay Cutler. Josh has looked great— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) May 26, 2015
Donte Whitner: There are certain guys who are here early and stay late every day -- Johnny Manziel has been one of those guys— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) May 26, 2015
Asked Donte Whitner if he checks in w/ Johnny Manziel re any meetings, sobriety process. Said no, but LeBron bud Maverick Carter does...— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 26, 2015
Here are some highlights from Browns.com:
Football stuff. https://t.co/wk0VwgeSJK— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 26, 2015