Today, we begin our annual training camp positional previews for the Cleveland Browns! Following our schedule, we will focus on quarterbacks for the next couple of days before moving on to the running backs/fullbacks.
In Mike Pettine's first season as an NFL head coach, he entered training camp with a quarterback competition. Pettine is a big fan of having competition at every position on the roster, even throughout the regular season, but quarterback is an entirely different animal. This year, for various reasons, he has taken a different approach by remaining firm all offseason that veteran Josh McCown will enter training camp as the definitive No. 1 quarterback ahead of Johnny Manziel.
1. JOSH MCCOWN - STARTING QUARTERBACK
I don't blame Brian Hoyer for how he handled the quarterback competition a year ago. He was finally receiving the opportunity to be a starting NFL quarterback, yet all anybody wanted to talk about was Johnny, Johnny, Johnny.
Hoyer was respected for the amount of work he put in toward returning from an ACL injury and for the command he had of the offense, while Manziel, by all indications, still thought he was back in college where he was free to party and could roll out of bed to take the league by storm. Everything could have turned out wondrous for Hoyer in Cleveland, except that his productivity declined significantly in the back half of 2014. The coaching staff could handle a non-mentoring veteran quarterback, as long as they were producing -- one or the other had to be there. Once Hoyer lost both of them, he was out.
Enter McCown, who is coming off of a 1-10 season with the Buccaneers as a starter. No one is painting McCown to be a quarterback who is going to light up the division, considering he has only had one above average season in 13 years in the NFL (two years ago with the Chicago Bears, when he threw 13 touchdowns to just 1 interception). Even McCown knows that he is not going to be a sole difference maker on offense -- he's stated that he'll be successful if the system around him is successful.
The primary reason that McCown ended up in Cleveland is the fact that the team believes he was the best bridge quarterback available after their efforts to acquire Sam Bradford did not pan out. Can McCown keep his teammates on the same page for a first-year offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo? Yes. He's also said that if the coaching staff feels like Manziel needs to take over at some point, he'll accept his role as a backup and support Manziel 100%. We never heard that from Hoyer.
Job Security: C+
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. JOHNNY MANZIEL - BACKUP QUARTERBACK
All things considered, the Browns have done a good job with their handling of Manziel this offseason, and that includes tough love from his teammates and the coaching staff.
It's possible that Manziel could already be a lost cause when it comes to being a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL. If he isn't, though, the Browns are setting Manziel up to succeed. He wants less of the spotlight, and Pettine is helping him with that by telling the media that McCown is the starting quarterback and that Manziel still has a lot to work on.
The Browns have found the right mix of condemning Manziel for last year and praising him for the effort he's put forth in 2015. A lot of people might not see it yet, but the narrative is right there in plain sight for Manziel to overachieve at training camp and show enough upside to where he's named the opening day starter. Think of it this way: all he has to do is show that he's better than Josh McCown. You'd hope that your first-round quarterback from a year ago can show more promise than a 13-year journeyman, right?
If Manziel still needs more development, though, it won't be a big story that he continues to sit on the bench. Again -- it's all because of the narrative that the Browns have crafted and committed to this offseason. The tough part about coaching Manziel is finding the right mix between still letting him freestyle, while making sure it's drilled into his head that more times than not, he needs to stay in the pocket and go through multiple reads. I don't think we'll see an all-star performance from Manziel in training camp, but if he shows off some of his X-factor playmaking capability, then he should be inserted into the starting role at some point during the season.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
We are splitting up our quarterback preview into two parts -- today covered McCown and Manziel, and tomorrow will cover Connor Shaw and Thaddeus Lewis. Feel free to discuss your thoughts on the Browns' quarterbacks below. Our poll asks whether you feel Manziel is still the team's future, long-term starting quarterback.