Mike Pettine: Don't want Johnny Manziel to be pure pocket passer

ByPat McManamon via ESPN logo
Friday, November 6, 2015

CINCINNATI -- The Cleveland Browns do not want to harness Johnny Manziel into being a pure pocket passer.

Coach Mike Pettine said his halftime remark Thursday night that Manziel needed to "settle down" came from the fact that Manziel missed some reads in the first half.

"By no means was that a comment designed that we wanted him to stay in the pocket," Pettine said the day after the Browns' 31-10 loss to the Bengals. "But when there's a play to be made early, let's make them."

Pettine's "settle down" remark came on NFL Network as he left the field at halftime with the Browns trailing 14-10. Manziel had just guided a 92-yard touchdown drive, and the Browns were in the game. Manziel did little scrambling the second half, and NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk implied on the postgame show that Pettine was restraining Manziel.

Pettine seemed happy to be able to explain that was not the case. He said he was simply referring to some first-half check downs and shorter throws that might not have made a highlight reel but might have gotten first downs or kept drives alive -- and put Manziel at less risk.

"I think we all agree here that you can't put your quarterback on the run all the time," Pettine said.

The Browns spent a lot of time in the offseason and training camp trying to make Manziel a better pocket passer. Manziel responded and has earned praise from teammates and coaches for his efforts.

But the conundrum with his skills is similar to when he was drafted: He is effective when he improvises, but NFL offenses are structured, and the risk of injury increases with improvisation. The challenge becomes managing his ability to move with the need to protect his long-term health, while also operating the offense as it's been practiced for months.

"[Pocket passing] is an area of his game we want to develop," Pettine said, "and have it be complemented by his ability outside the pocket."

Manziel's final numbers came to 15-for-33 for 168 yards with one TD and no interceptions. His rating: 71.3.

Manziel was not helped by his receivers, whom Pettine said as a group did not play well. Taylor Gabriel did not make a catch on a potential touchdown early then had three drops later. Gary Barnidge slipped coming out of a break on one throw. Isaiah Crowell slipped running a screen pass that had potential for big yardage.

But Pettine added that Manziel tried to do too much in the second half, which implies he pressed after the first couple of possessions did not go well. His numbers in the second half plummeted to 4-for-15 for 40 yards.

"I thought in the second half they did a good job of taking away the first read initially," Pettine said. "I thought they did a better job of kind of staying in rush lanes and bottling him up."

Pettine added that successful NFL quarterbacks "have to operate from the pocket." If Manziel does that to go along with his running, "then you get the best of both worlds."

As for who starts against Pittsburghon Nov. 15 -- Manziel or Josh McCown -- Pettine said he will meet with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo next week to make that decision.

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