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Browns' Johnny Manziel start ideally 'not opening day'

It often seems forgotten that the Cleveland Browns' first first-round pick in May's draft was cornerback Justin Gilbert, not quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The little-discussed reason the Browns' brass targeted a corner over a more valuable position like quarterback had to do with team building.

Browns coach Mike Pettine told The MMQB's Greg A. Bedard the Browns are trying to emulate the defense-first, team-building strategy employed successfully by the NFC's top two teams: the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.

"That was our point all along, let's build the best team first, let's not take the quarterback," Pettine said. "There was so much pressure internally to take a quarterback with the fourth pick (but) we weren't going to do it because the grade didn't justify it; we weren't going to draft for need."

Instead the Browns went defense and targeted a different sort of quarterback later.

"My point was," Pettine continued, "I hope we're not drafting fourth again anytime soon. Let's look at the model. If you don't have that guy, then you need to build it like Seattle did, like San Francisco did. Get a guy with some unique traits, but first and foremost, he's not going to lose the game for you.

"Building a great defense and offensive line so we can run the ball -- the quarterback's going to look good because you're not going to be in third-and-8, you're going to be in third-and-4," Pettine went on. "Percentage-wise you're going to convert more. Then ask the guy to make a couple plays with his feet, complete a fourth-quarter comeback half the time. Next thing you know, you look up and you're pretty damn good."

On the latest Around The League Podcast, we discussed that there were only two dominant teams in the AFC (the Patriots and the Broncos). It's not far-fetched to think the Browns, emulating the Seahawks and 49ers model, could earn a playoff bid.

There were many other great tidbits from Bedard's discussion with Pettine. You can read it here, but below are a few more bullet points:

» On Johnny Manziel and the starting gig:

"We felt this entire draft class, every single one of (the quarterbacks) needed a redshirt year, with Johnny really being the only one that had a chance given the right circumstances to be an opening-day starter," Pettine said. "It could happen, but in my ideal world, it's not opening day."

» On the perception of the Browns' offense under Kyle Shanahan:

"I don't want to be ground-and-pound," Pettine said, despite spending years under Rex Ryan with the New York Jets. "People have already attributed that to us. But I don't. I want to score points. But I think you have to have the ability, especially here in Cleveland."

»On what kind of offense he'd like:

"I think you need to vary tempo, like New England does, which is smart," Pettine said. "What I found going against our offense (during practice in Buffalo) is it just got rhythmic. I do have to call faster and have a sense of urgency, but then it's like anything else, you get into a rhythm."

In the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the guys make the case that multiple teams have closed the gap on the Seahawks and 49ers in the NFC.

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