Based on everything coming out of Cleveland, Johnny Manziel is saying the right things, he’s doing the right things, and he’s even playing a little bit better than he did last year.
So, with the regular season less than two weeks away, who’s the Browns quarterback? Is it Manziel or Josh McCown?
“It’s still Josh McCown,” Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan host Ken Carman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They’ve been steadfast that it’s Josh McCown’s job and that Johnny Manziel would have to do something pretty incredible to take that job – and now he’s got the elbow soreness so he’s not going to be able to do anything. But Johnny, I got to look at him for what he is and what he believes he is. He’s admitted that he has a problem with either drugs or alcohol or both. And so he personally has to make himself feel better. I think that we get so focused on the football aspect of things and think, ‘Well, now that he’s out of rehab, he’ll be perfectly fine and everything’s going to be fine.’ No, no no, no, no. For him, he’s going to have to continue to work on his sobriety and his lifestyle and what he wants to do as a person before football – because he’s going to have a long life after football. He’s got to make himself the type of person he wants to be first before he makes himself the (type of) quarterback (he wants to be). Now that he’s actually playing, he’s looked good.”
But there’s still the off-field baggage to consider.
“It’s not just about what Johnny says,” Carman said. “Johnny has said a lot of the right things before. Johnny has called himself an idiot and said, ‘Well, I really got to get my act together’ and then he would go on another trip and act like an idiot. Now I think that he’s a guy who desperately wants to be better. I think that he’s embarrassed by – and he should be embarrassed by – what his performance was on the field last year. He’s tried to do the right things, and I think his actions have definitely been louder than his words. He’s picked up most of the offense, if not all of it. He’s got the nomenclature down. He’s making pre-snap reads. He’s going in there and making adjustments and audibles at the line – things he should have been able to start learning as a rookie, but because of the demons and because of the outside influence, he wasn’t actually able to do so. So for him, he’s making strides. At some point this year, they’re probably going to need him. We never go through an entire season with one quarterback . . . as the starter so we’re probably going to need him. So hopefully he gets a little bit healthy and then you can kind of turn him loose and see what he can do.”
While Cleveland’s quarterback situation is fluid, the rest of the Browns’ backfield is completely up in the air with Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Duke Johnson fighting for carries (and not looking all that great while doing so).
Is it possible the Browns could sign Ray Rice? Would the locker room be okay with that?
“I think the locker room just wants to win football games,” Carman said. “It would turn to the point of, every single day you’re going to be asked a question about Ray Rice. I don’t know if they know what Ray Rice can give you. So is his talent – is what he’s going to be able to do on the field – worth the distraction of bringing him in? If the guy could average 4.0 yards a carry and had 1,100 yards the year before the incident, he’d already have a job. We wouldn’t even be discussing Ray Rice. I think a lot of teams would take that risk. But when you have the type of season he had – it was just such a down year.”
Rice rushed for 660 yards and four touchdowns in 2013, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Then the Elevator Incident happened.
“When you have those questions and then you have a year off as a running back, it’s almost not even necessarily much of a question of do we forgive him? Do we think he’s really contrite? Does he really mean it?” Carman explained. “It’s, is he going to be worth the distraction? I think the Browns, as well as a lot of other teams, are thinking, ‘We don’t know.’ And if we have to cut him in a few weeks, is it worth bringing him in considering that a lot of questions are going to be asked about this guy and we’re going to be answering a lot of questions about one player and putting some guys in some tough positions? (If we) have to make a tough decision, that might not even make it worth it.”