BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Johnny Manziel is no longer just a celebrated backup for the Browns.
The second-year quarterback will start the rest of Cleveland’s games this season, taking over for veteran Josh McCown who missed the past two games with injured ribs.
The Browns made the announcement before practice on Tuesday, two days after Manziel passed for 372 yards in a 30-9 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Manziel also flashed a few of those Johnny Football moments that made him famous at Texas A&M, scrambling to turn broken plays into big gains.
Browns coach Mike Pettine hinted at the switch on Monday when he offered high praise for Manziel, who has had a bumpy start in his NFL career but has shown some progress. Manziel shook off an early turnover – he fumbled on Cleveland’s first play – and completed 33 of 45 passes with one touchdown.
The Browns (2-8) had hoped to get that kind of performance earlier from the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, who followed a rough rookie season by spending 70 days in a rehab facility for an unspecified condition.
McCown was brought in to mentor Manziel, and by all accounts, the 36-year-old has helped groom the talented and troubled quarterback. McCown played well but went 1-6 as a starter, and the Browns believe it’s time to get a longer look at Manziel to determine if he is their future franchise quarterback.
McCown said Monday that he could understand if the Browns wanted to turn their offense over to Manziel.
“If that’s the case, that’s the case,” he said. “We’ll move forward accordingly. Just from a philosophical standpoint, if you pick somebody in the first round and they start to play and start to do some good things, I understand it if that’s the decision.”
On the same day he was named a starter, Manziel also learned he will not be fined or suspended for his actions in a domestic incident last month in Avon, Ohio. The 22-year-old was questioned on Oct. 12 by police following an in-car argument with his girlfriend.
The league said it interviewed several people, including Manziel and his girlfriend, who told police he had been violent with her. Manziel admitted to drinking before the argument. He was not arrested.
The Browns have a bye this week before hosting Baltimore on Nov. 30 in a prime-time matchup certain to draw more TV viewers with Manziel starting.