Browns coach not ready to make Johnny Manziel starter

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Johnny Manziel answers questions on Nov. 15. (Fox 8 file photo)

BEREA, Ohio– The Cleveland Browns will use the bye week to do some soul searching. The team has lost five straight games and is 2-8 on the season. Owner Jimmy Haslam said on Sunday there will no changes coming this week.

“Being a 2-8 football team forces you to question yourself and question your methods,” said head coach Mike Pettine on Monday. “The fact of the matter is that we are not playing good enough football. We are not playing complete football games. We are not playing well enough. We are not coaching well enough. That all has to be improved.”

The Browns are 2-13 in their last 15 games under Mike Pettine and there is plenty of speculation that Haslam will pull the plug on this regime at season’s end.

“If you start coaching to save your job, then you are not doing your job,” Pettine said. “I am passionate about my job. I love it here in Cleveland. I love the guys in the locker room and on the staff. There is nothing that I want more for this team and for this city than to be successful.”

One topic of discussion this week among the coaches will be whether or not to turn the offense over to quarterback Johnny Manziel, who played perhaps his most fundamental game of the season. Pettine is not committing to Manziel as starter, but it is being discussed.

“He stayed in the pocket. He did the things that he needs to do to continue to grow and play the position,” said quarterback Josh McCown who missed Sunday’s game with a rib injury. “The first third down was nice – the one he moved to get to Trav (WR Travis Benjamin) for the long gain. My favorite one was the one where he hung in there and ripped that ball in there to (WR Brian) Hartline on a big third-and-long. For me, that is what you are looking for in an NFL quarterback.”

One of the biggest disappointments so far this season has been the play of the Browns defense, the highest-paid in the league. They are ranked 29th in the league giving up 407 yards per game. They have the worst rush defense and on Sunday they gave up 399 passing yards to the Steelers. Mike Pettine, a former defensive coordinator, said he will not control the game day operations for the defense despite the weekly struggles.

“I don’t know if we are ready for that drastic of a move,” said Pettine. “We need to play better. We need to play better defensively. We need to trust our technique. We get some guys out there, some young guys who fall back into some old habits on game day.”

Despite being 2-8, the Browns are not ready to jump ship; in fact, one of their free-agents, Travis Benjamin, plans to return next season despite all the losing.

“Not at all, not at all,” said wide receiver Travis Benjamin. “As long as we get the right pieces in here and the right staff and anything we need to make this team great, I’m willing to stick by for the long haul.”

The long haul appears to be six more games, then Jimmy Haslam may decide to start all over once again.

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