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Pettine won't commit to another Johnny Manziel start

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Johnny Manziel flashed moments of potential, especially in the first half, during Thursday night's 31-10 Browns loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Following the contest, Cleveland coach Mike Pettine was frugal with his praise of the second-year quarterback and wouldn't commit to starting him next Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"No, I can't (say he'll play the next game)," Pettine said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "When we get in and get back from this time off, we'll assess what pool of players are available and go ahead and make those decisions from there. This will be a good time to step away and reassess where we are moving forward."

Josh McCown missed Thursday night's game with a rib injury. Pettine said Friday he doesn't have a feel yet for whether McCown will be healthy enough to play against the Steelers next week. Given the coach's lukewarm praise of Manziel, the 36-year-old is likely to get his job back.

Pettine didn't sound like a coach who is ready to give a young quarterback a long leash and allow him to grow on the field.

"It was just inconsistent," Pettine said of Manziel's play Thursday. "He did some good things, but in the second half, especially after we fell behind, he was just trying to make too many big plays instead of just taking completions ...

"It's also a function of how well we play around him," Pettine added. "I don't know if in the second half we played well enough around him for him to play well."

Manziel's stats weren't impressive -- 15-of-33, 168 yards and a TD -- and he bogged down in the second half when the Bengals didn't allow him to escape the pocket, but he's clearly made strides this season and impressed teammates.

"I definitely think he took a step forward," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "He was better than the last time he played (against) Tennessee. You see him making some great plays in the pocket, which is where he's been working the most, throwing the ball on time, not making any mistakes, no fumbles, no interceptions ..."

In fairness to Pettine -- who looked like a beaten man following Thursday's loss -- quarterback play hasn't been the biggest issue with the Browns this season. However, it seems silly for a 2-7 team to keep tossing out a 36-year-old quarterback without giving it's first-round quarterback a chance to grow on the field.

With a dreadful defense, Pettine is fighting to keep his job. If he believes McCown gives him the best chance to win a couple games and avoid the chopping block, that's who will start, even if it might not be the best for the organization's future.

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