Just a short time after it began, head coach Mike Pettine took exception to a series of photos and videos that surfaced of Manziel allegedly partying during the Browns' bye week last week. The various media, which show Manziel wielding a champagne bottle just months after completing rehab, frustrated his head coach to a point that could seriously alter the Browns' future.
When asked about the photos on Tuesday, Pettine said he was considering a benching. By late afternoon, he made it official, and dropped Manziel all the way to No. 3.
"Josh McCown will be the starting quarterback on Monday night against the Ravens," Pettine said in a statement released by the team. "I informed the quarterbacks of that decision after I sat down and spoke with Johnny, Flip (John DeFilippo) and Kevin (O'Connell) after practice today. Johnny will be the third quarterback. I've spoken to Ray (Farmer) and Jimmy (Haslam) to inform them of my decision, and they are in full support.
"Everyone in this organization wants what is best for Johnny just like we do for every player in our locker room. I'm especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard. The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level. It goes well beyond the field. We are going to continue to support him in every way possible, but at this point, we've decided it's best to go with Josh as the starter going forward."
To say Manziel will be embarrassed by the situation would be an understatement. Or maybe it would be a gross overstatement considering that the quarterback cannot find himself free of controversy. It has pocked his short Browns career to this point and set back a franchise finally hoping for answers at quarterback. Instead, the team will start a player in his late 30s to end another lost season. At the moment, the Browns are in line for the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL Draft.
This incident, like a few others, has to leave everyone wondering if Manziel has taken his last snaps in Brown and Orange, and just how quickly his next NFL chance will come. It's true that his off-field lifestyle is par for the course among certain successful players in football right now. It was certainly the norm more than a decade ago.
"To whom much is given, much is expected," Pettine said earlier in the day.
Much was expected of Manziel and maybe still is. There's always a chance that a late-season squeeze could force Pettine's hand back to the mercurial passer. But for now, the coach seems determined to force the lesson on Manziel the hard way. There's a good chance he ends up a healthy scratch on national TV on Monday.