BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Johnny Manziel is no longer just a celebrated backup for the Browns.
The second-year quarterback will start the rest of Cleveland’s games this season, taking over for veteran Josh McCown, who missed the past two games with injured ribs.
The Browns made the announcement before practice Tuesday , two days after Manziel passed for 372 yards in a 30-9 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Manziel also flashed a few of those Johnny Football moments that made him famous at Texas A&M, scrambling to turn broken plays into big gains.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Manziel said after the Browns practiced on an unseasonably warm November day. “I was a little caught off-guard, just watching film this morning and coach Pettine kind of came in and grabbed me. I was very excited.”
“I was just looking forward to coming out and trying to have a little bit of a spark — and more than anything get some wins,” he said.
Browns coach Mike Pettine hinted at the switch on Monday when he offered high praise for Manziel, who has had a bumpy start in his NFL career but has shown progress. Manziel shook off an early turnover — he fumbled on Cleveland’s first play — and completed 33 of 45 passes with one touchdown.
“The performance against Pittsburgh validated for us the progress he’s made and the improvement he’s shown and that he deserves this opportunity,” Pettine said. “We understand where our season is at this point and this is a kid we’ve invested a lot in. This will give us an opportunity to see how far he’s come and what he’s capable of.”
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner followed a rough rookie season with 70 days in a rehab facility for an unspecified condition. However, Manziel has shown signs of maturing, though he remains under league investigation for a recent domestic incident.
Pettine said McCown’s health was also a factor in the switch.
With the Browns on a bye, Manziel will have some time off. Pettine spoke with him about his behavior and the club’s expectations for him away from the field.
“I let him know that I’m not going to do anything that’s going to be a distraction to this team or be an embarrassment to the organization,” Manziel said.
He said he’s ready with the rest of his team for a well-deserved bye.
“I’m going to come back and gear up for these last set of games that we have and come in fresh-minded, ready to go and excited to be back on the football field,” he said. “So I don’t think they’re going to have to worry about me this week.”
McCown, 36, was brought in to mentor Manziel and groom the talented and troubled quarterback. McCown played well but went 1-6 as a starter.
McCown said Monday that he could understand if the Browns wanted to turn their offense over to Manziel.
“Just from a philosophical standpoint, if you pick somebody in the first round and they start to play and start to do some good things, I understand it if that’s the decision,” he said.
The Browns won’t play this weekend before hosting Baltimore on Nov. 30 in a prime-time matchup certain to draw more TV viewers with Manziel starting.
“Coach Pett said I couldn’t ask for a better stage,” Manziel said.