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Mike Pettine explains decision to go with Johnny Manziel

It was clear Monday how impressed Mike Pettine was with Johnny Manziel's progress between his starts at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and the decision that followed Tuesday served as the confirmation.

Pettine cited the growth, development and improved pocket presence Manziel showed in Cleveland's 30-9 loss to Pittsburgh as the drivers behind his decision to name him the team's starting quarterback moving forward.

"I think the performance against Pittsburgh I think validated for us the progress that he's made, the improvement that he's shown and that he deserves this opportunity," Pettine said after Tuesday's practice. "It's something that we understand where our season is at this point and this is a kid we invested a lot in. This will give us an opportunity to see how far he's come and what he's capable of."

Manziel and the Browns have six games to prove their resiliency from a disappointing 2-8 start. For Pettine, the goals he's set for Manziel are simple: keep doing what worked so well against the Steelers.

In his start against the Bengals, Manziel made a number of plays out of the pocket in the first half before he was completely shut down in the final 30 minutes. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in a game that saw Pettine and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo asking him to stay true to his reads and progressions within the pocket before making a run for it.

Manziel's biggest pass against the Steelers came in similar fashion, a 61-yarder to Travis Benjamin that was aided by Manziel's improvisation, but the vast majority of his passes were made within the confines of the offense and pocket.

The performance -- 33-of-45 for 372 yards, a touchdown and an interception -- was a product of Manziel's preparation throughout the week, Pettine said, and it didn't go unnoticed.

"I think he earned a lot of respect from the guys in that room of how he prepared for the week, how he went out and executed the game plan," Pettine said.

As Pettine stuck with veteran Josh McCown through the first half of the season, he maintained he would play the quarterback that gave Cleveland the best chance to win. McCown has been out with injured ribs the previous two games and his uncertain status played a part in the decision to move forward with Manziel, Pettine said.

The difference between the two, considering what Manziel was able to do against the Steelers and considering where the Browns sit as a 2-8 team, is "negligible," Pettine said.

"You're not going to hold me down and I'm going to choose one over the other," Pettine said, "but that gap is very small."

Though Pettine was comfortable talking about Manziel's future when it pertained to the rest of Cleveland's 2015 schedule, he was reluctant to look at what his performance over the final month-plus would mean for 2016 and beyond. The focus for Manziel is on the present, a week-to-week approach with the backing of his coach and players around him.

"We want to get a good sense of where he is and I think when the season's over that you always clear the table and evaluate each position," Pettine said. "This will allow us to have a lot more information as we assess the quarterback position moving forward."

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