Cleveland Browns (2-7) coach Mike Pettine does not want Johnny Manziel as a pocket passer entirely.
Coach Pettine’s halftime remarks on Thursday night about Manziel had more to do with the young pivot “to settle down” because he missed some of the reads. Despite the missed reads by Manziel, he still finished the first half 11-18 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Manziel would’ve had another touchdown, but Taylor Gabriel dropped one in the endzone. Instead of it being knotted at 14, it was the Cincinnatti Bengals (8-0) 14 and the Browns 10.
“By no means was that comment designed that we wanted him to stay in the pocket,” Pettine said the day after the Cleveland Browns 31-10 loss to the Bengals. “But when there’s a play to be made early, lets make them.”
On the NFL Network at halftime, coach Pettine made a remark that Manziel had to “settle down” despite the Browns were only trailing 14-10. And had Taylor Gabriel made that catch in the end zone, the game would have be squared at 14. Manziel, right before the half, guided Cleveland on a 92-yard touchdown drive and the Browns were certainly in the game. Then for some reason, his creativity was halted in the second half, and on the post game show, Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk of the NFL Network implied that Mike Pettine had restrained Manziel.
Mike Pettine almost seemed happy to explain that wasn’t the case at all. He said that Manziel missed some first-half checkdowns and shorter throws that would’ve gotten them first downs or kept drives alive, but wouldn’t have made the highlight reel – and put Manziel at less risk.
“I think we all agree here that you can’t put your quarterback on the run all the time,” Pettine said. Even though Manziel only had four carries for 31 yards.
Manziel and the Browns spent a lot of time in the off season and training camp to improve his ability as a pocket passer. Manziel has responded, even earning praise for his dedication from some of his toughest critics—his own teammates and coaching staff.
“[Pocket passing] is an area of his game we want to develop,” Pettine said, “and have it be complemented by his ability outside the pocket.”
Manziel was certainly not helped by a few of his receivers, which Pettine noted in his press conference. Taylor Gabriel, who dropped a would-be touchdown in the first half, also had three more drops in the game. Tight end Gary Barnidge fell down coming out of a break on one throw, while Isaiah Crowell slipped on a screen pass that had major potential for a big gain.
Manziel’s final numbers were 15-for-33 for 168 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His rating was 71.3.
You have to wonder why Manziel didn’t try to improvise a little more in the second half like he did in the first, which seemed to work out for the Browns offense. Maybe Mike Pettine is the only one with the answers to that?
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