Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, the Cleveland Browns coach emphasized that trust was broken after a series of photos and videos showing Manziel allegedly partying during the team's bye week surfaced over the weekend.
Deep-sixed down the depth chart, Manziel isn't likely to play again this season, but Pettine stressed that his future as a quarterback in Cleveland isn't over.
"I certainly hope not," Pettine said, when asked if Manziel has played his last game as a Brown. "He's made great progress and there was no better proof than last Sunday against Pittsburgh. But sometimes, you gotta take a step back to take a few forward. ... We told him yesterday -- this isn't a dead end. This is a hurdle. It's an obstacle. So, part of success in athletics is dealing with adversity, and this will be an example of it."
Pettine shared that Manziel was "disappointed" by his benching, saying: "He's competitive. He wants to be out there."
Johnny, though, gave the team little choice but to discipline him after his latest off-field adventure. Pettine emphasized that everyone inside the organization -- general manager Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam included -- were on-board with the choice to demote last year's first-round pick.
"The position of quarterback is always going to be held to a higher standard than any other position on the team," Pettine said. "That's the reality. It's not just about talent. It's not just about what you do on the field. To be successful at the position requires a great understanding of what's involved in the non-physical aspects: The leadership, the trust, the accountability, responsibility, the diligence. You have to take the mentality that nobody is going to outwork you. That has to be understood when you play the position at this level."
Said Pettine: "I can't emphasize enough the importance of the trust and the accountability piece. This is where we had an obvious shortcoming."
So many of their troubles channel directly to the organization's inability to find a franchise quarterback, but Pettine can't be blamed for the front office opting for Manziel -- and the baggage that came with that pick -- over Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. Those quarterbacks have made the job a 24/7 priority, while Manziel's stunted growth has plenty to do with his overall approach to the game.
The Browns have spent more time babysitting their first-round pick than playing him. That dynamic has served as a massive disappointment for this battered fan base, but an even bigger headache for the team's coaching staff.
"Last week we made him a starter for the rest of the season. We all saw how quickly that changed," Pettine said of Manziel. "The NFL landscape is obviously a very fluid one."
Especially for a Browns coaching staff wondering if bigger changes still lie ahead. Make no mistake about it, though, this is Pettine's signature moment as Cleveland's leader. Instead of pandering to his players, Pettine has drawn a line in the sand. Put football first, or take a seat.
For a team still mired in deep darkness, Pettine's handling of this latest debacle is admirable.