Browns showing their support of Manziel
CLEVELAND (AP) — Johnny Manziel isn’t always a club-hopping, $100 bill-signing, side-arm-slinging quarterback.
The Browns say there’s another side to Manziel only they witness: Johnny Focused.
A day after Manziel played perhaps his best all-around game as a pro, Browns coach Mike Pettine, who seemed to have run out of patience with his young QB just a few weeks ago, said the 23-year-old is doing everything the team has asked. Manziel may not fit the prototypical mold of an NFL starter, but he’s not lost the trust of his teammates.
The Browns say they have his back.
“Here’s a guy that shows up to work every day excited,” Pettine said. “He puts in his preparation so he grinds in the meeting room. He asks great questions. He brings up good points. Guys respect that.”
Making his first start since Pettine benched him, Manziel passed for 270 yards and a touchdown as the Browns (3-10) beat the San Francisco 49ers 24-10 to snap a seven-game losing streak. Manziel only had one glaring mistake, throwing an interception late in the first half that he followed up by bashing a tablet into his head.
Other than that, Manziel, who has given the Browns their share of headaches in less than two seasons, was composed and confident.
Pettine said he made good adjustments and had command of the huddle.
“He made good decisions. He was accurate with the football,” he said. “When he could stay in the pocket, he did and made plays.”
Talk about running a reverse.
It was only days ago when Pettine expressed his disappointment in Manziel for defying the team’s wishes and becoming a distraction during the bye week. Pettine demoted him to third string, and there was a growing sense that Manziel had finally worn out his welcome in Cleveland.
But there’s evidence Manziel has learned from his mistakes.
Granted, he faced a 49ers defense missing some key pieces, but Manziel, who was captured by TV cameras signing “Money Manziel” (his nickname at Texas A&M) on a $100 bill for a fan before the game, showed poise completing passes from the pocket. And when he felt pressure, Manziel bought time the way only he can and scrambled to make throws or first downs.
Browns tight end Gary Barnidge, who caught a 2-yard TD pass from Manziel, said his teammate is understanding the necessary commitment to succeed.
“I definitely think he is starting to see it,” Barnidge said. “I think it has shown in the way he is playing on the field, in practice and in the game. He is going to keep learning and keep maturing. We are going to be behind him no matter what, too.”
The Browns have warned Manziel that his promises to work hard will ring hollow if he doesn’t act on them.
Pettine said teammates are responding to his competitiveness and work in practice.
“They see him in game, in the huddle, his presence and what he’s been able to do. That gets our guys going,” Pettine said. “When they see him frustrated after throwing a boneheaded interception and get after himself a little bit, there’s some respect there because they see how competitive he is.”
Stringing good games together will be much tougher. The Browns visit Seattle this week, where the Seahawks have some of their Super Bowl swagger back.
Manziel will face one of the league’s most hostile crowds and defenses. Pettine said the Browns won’t be intimidated.
“We’re going to go up there and cut it loose,” he said.
NOTES: With his future being feverishly debated by outsiders, Pettine said his only focus is on the next three games and that “however it falls out, it falls out.” … Pettine said WR Brian Hartline will likely have surgery Tuesday to fix his broken collarbone sustained Sunday. Hartline had eight catches for 107 yards before getting hurt. … WR Taylor Gabriel is expected to be back this week after missing three games with a concussion. He returned to practice last week.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP—NFL