"He earned the right to be our starting quarterback and I think he gives us the best opportunity to win on Sunday," Browns coach Mike Pettine told reporters Wednesday, adding the coaching staff did not discuss any kind of leash for McCown.
In McCown's absence, Manziel flashed both of his trademarks since entering the league: Exhilarating play-making ability and puzzling decision making. He helped lead the Browns to a 28-14 win over the Titans last week on the strength of two air-it-out touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin, leading some to believe he had eclipsed McCown for the starting job.
Pettine didn't exactly downplay that notion, either. In interviews as late as Tuesday, he was touting McCown's ability as a sideline mentor, leaving the door open for Manziel to make yet another start.
Unfortunately for the former first-round pick, that won't happen. At the moment, Cleveland probably feels like its defense is good enough to win them games. Pettine was bred in the school of coaching that teaches the benefits of a quiet, mistake-free, clock-control offense that is buoyed by a haunting defense.
"I thought Johnny did an outstanding job with his opportunity," Pettine said.
While Manziel certainly offers the ability to extend certain plays and create stunning touchdowns out of thin air, his propensity to turn the ball over was tough to overlook.
"He knows there's things he needs to get cleaned up," Pettine said. "Actually, the quarterback group knows we need to be protective of the football. But as I said before, very proud of him personally and professionally, the progress he's made."
This likely won't close the book on Manziel, though, who has yet to really earn himself a thorough evaluation period as Cleveland's starting quarterback. That will depend on McCown coming back strong this week.