Browns to start Johnny Manziel at Bengals

A day away from battling the undefeated Bengals, the wandering Browns are turning the offense over to Johnny Manziel.

With veteran passer Josh McCown battling a painful rib injury, Browns coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Manziel would get the starting nod. NFL Media's Rand Getlin first had the news of the Browns' plans to start Manziel.

McCown said Tuesday it would take longer than a few days or perhaps weeks for his ribs to heal, per Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer. The 36-year-old passer wouldn't say if his ribs were broken, but McCown -- who's had trouble breathing and sleeping -- "didn't sound good or optimistic" about suiting up Thursday. McCown did not practice Tuesday night, according to Cabot.

Manziel played a handful of snaps in relief of McCown at the end Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, his first on-field action since guiding the Browns to a 28-14 win over the Titans in Week 2.

Manziel was given a full week to prepare for Tennessee, but Thursday's task is a tall order for the second-year passer: Rolling into Cincinnati to face an AFC heavyweight on a short week.

Teams typically stage a practice and a walkthrough before Thursday night tilts, barely enough time for Manziel to get a handle on the game plan. That's the world of a backup quarterback, though.

The positive for the Browns is the fine work of first-year coordinator John DeFilippo, who has milked solid performances out of McCown and Manziel when most wrote off both quarterbacks before the season.

Still, Manziel's critical second campaign now takes a challenging turn. The Browns are shorthanded on offense and a wild mess on defense. Rolling out an inexperienced passer doesn't help. Unlike last year's fellow rookie starters -- Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater -- Johnny has barely seen the field.

While some might wonder if Manziel is being thrown into the fire at the worst possible time, this also represents a prime opportunity to shift perceptions about his up-and-down career on the national stage.

It's your move, Johnny.

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