Browns to start Johnny Manziel at QB for rest of season

It's Johnny time in Cleveland.

Mike Pettine announced on Tuesday that the Browns are handing the starting quarterback job over to Johnny Manziel for the remainder of the season.

It's a move that makes plenty of sense.

Bottoming out at 2-8, the Browns desperately need a spark. Manziel fits the bill after coming off the finest game of his career with 372 yards through the air in Sunday's 30-9 loss to the Steelers. Completing 73 percent of his passes and showing newfound patience in the pocket, the second-year passer earned high praise from Pettine for taking "a big step forward."

Pettine and his coaching staff have loyally tied Cleveland's caravan to veteran Josh McCown -- seeing him as the better of the two signal-callers -- but with the season out the window, it's time to unchain Manziel.

"He deserves this opportunity," Pettine told reporters following Tuesday's practice.

Later on Tuesday, the NFL announced that Manziel would not be disciplined for a roadside incident with his girlfriend on Oct. 12:

"Consistent with the procedures of the league's Personal Conduct Policy, we have examined the available evidence regarding the recent incident involving Johnny Manziel. Our investigation included a thorough review of information from law enforcement and our own interviews with multiple individuals, including the two involved in the incident. Based on the information gathered, we have concluded that there is an insufficient basis on which to take disciplinary action. In all cases of this nature, under the Personal Conduct Policy our concern goes well beyond the issue of discipline, and we have made comprehensive professional resources available on a confidential basis."

It's impossible to decipher how QB decisions are made in Cleveland, but the organization can feel good about this one. Coaches are fighting for their jobs, but a promising stretch by Manziel will do more for Pettine than watching 36-year-old McCown toil in December.

McCown was sturdy under center and played some of his best football this season, but Manziel has shown signs of on-field growth. With five touchdowns to two interceptions, last year's first-round pick has developed weekly and shown command of the playbook. He struggled to finish drives against the Steelers, but that came in a game that saw the Browns rush for 15 yards off 14 attempts while absorbing 188 yards in penalties.

With upcoming games against the Ravens (on Monday Night Football), Bengals, 49ers, Seahawks, Chiefs and Steelers, Johnny will have a chance to battle every team within the division. On the heels of seemingly hundreds of inept Browns quarterbacks who couldn't win inside the AFC North, pulling out a handful of wins would do wonders for Manziel.

But let's be honest: He makes a very dull team intriguing. That alone can save jobs and give hope to a franchise desperately searching for something to cling to. The move is overdue, but Pettine and the Browns got this one right.

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