Is there any question Browns coach Mike Pettine is reaching for the panic button?
His team has lost four games in a row with an upcoming schedule that portends to something much, much worse.
So why did he say Tuesday that Josh McCown, if healthy, will open under center Sunday when the Browns invade Pittsburgh to play the Steelers?
First of all, McCown hasn’t been completely healthy since he got clobbered at the tail end of the first possession of the season opener against the New York Jets. If not a concussion, it’s sore ribs. If not sore ribs, it’s a sore ankle. If not a sore ankle, it’s a sore wrist. The guy can’t stay healthy.
Yes, he put up three consecutive games of more than 300 yards and established a club record in doing so. But how many games did the Browns win in that span? The correct answer is one.
McCown, thanks to a leaky offensive line, has been battered silly all season. In what amounts to six full games, he has been dropped 22 times. He might as well wear a bull’s-eye on his uniform.
Opposing teams laugh at the Cleveland ground game and concentrate on whoever lines up behind or under center Alex Mack. And Pettine wants to put his relatively immobile, bashed-up quarterback in there?
Does he honestly in his heart of hearts really believe this season can be salvaged? That his team, which hasn’t played a single complete game all season, can string together 60 minutes of solid football? If so, he is completely delusional.
He is clearly panicking. He sees the losses piling up with no relief in sight, each one moving him closer to the end of the head-coaching unemployment line. Never mind the future because he might not be part of that future.
That, perhaps, makes it more understandable why he favors a war-torn McCown over Johnny Manziel, who is much more a part of the future of this team than McCown.
If he didn’t have to worry about job security, Pettine might otherwise have plausible rationale to shut down McCown and see what Manziel could do. And that is the big problem.
Pettine is dancing as fast as he can, hiding behind his best-chance-to-win philosophy with McCown, his main man. “ . . . we are tasked as coaches to put the roster out there that’s going to give us the best opportunity to win,” he told the media.
Never mind that McCown is a football vagabond who has won only two of his last 18 starts. Never mind that he won’t be here next season. The future-be-damned approach would be much more understandable if the Browns were at least a .500 team. Not being even close shines a completely different light on the situation.
It’s entirely possible the quarterback dilemma would be a moot point if Manziel were more like McCown. His (to Pettine) annoying habit of often leaving the pocket too early most likely is a key factor in wishing McCown a speedy recovery.
Manziel’s ability to extend plays apparently is not being factored into the quarterback equation by Pettine. Had McCown been at quarterback inn the Cincinnati loss last Thursday, his sack total would have gone up significantly under a withering pass rush.
As it was, Manziel was dropped three times, all late in the game, but he was hampered by an offensive coordinator who stubbornly refused to call a run play even though the Browns were still in the game as late as the early part of the fourth quarter.
Here’s hoping McCown takes his sweet old time getting healthy enough to take snaps on Sundays. Nothing personal, but I sure would like to see what Manziel can do over an extended period of time.
If he can’t get on the field instead of a half battered veteran whose address will be different next season, then get rid of him now and chalk up drafting him last year as a bad mistake.