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Mike Pettine explains decision to stick with healthy Josh McCown as starting QB

Mike Pettine stuck with Josh McCown as his starting quarterback because of everything he's seen from the veteran since he joined the team and how it affects his belief about who gives the Browns the best chance to win Sunday.

One strong performance from Johnny Manziel, while incredibly encouraging about the second-year quarterback's development and the Browns' overall depth in the quarterback room, wasn't enough to deviate from the plan.

"He's done everything we've asked of him in the offseason and so far this year. He'd earned the right to be our starting quarterback," Pettine said before Wednesday's practice. "We feel he gives us the best opportunity to win on Sunday. That was truly the basis on the decision."

McCown, who suffered a concussion at the end of Cleveland's first offensive series of the season, was cleared to return to the practice field Wednesday after an examination from an independent neurologist. He'll man the spot Manziel held throughout last week's preparations for the Titans as the Browns work toward Sunday's game against the Raiders.

Manziel will be back in the No. 2 role he held since the start of offseason workouts. He returns to the spot buoyed with confidence after leading the Browns to their first victory of 2015 and his first victory as a starter last week against the Titans.

The feeling is mutual among Pettine, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell after Manziel completed 8-of-15 passes for 172 yards and two long touchdowns in the 28-14 victory.

"Johnny did an outstanding job with his opportunity. He knows there are some things he needs to get cleaned up -- the quarterback room knows we need to be more protective of the football," Pettine said, referencing the five fumbles (three lost) by Browns quarterbacks this season. "Very proud of him personally and professionally with the progress he's made. Very positive thing for us. This is all very positive. We know we have a backup that can come in and he's already proven he can move the team and make plays and win games for us."

Manziel has said he'd be fine returning to the backup role, and Pettine said he handled the news well Wednesday.

How McCown, an avid Manziel supporter who has relished the opportunity to mentor the fellow Texan, responds isn't a concern to Pettine. There's no such chatter about a "short leash," either.

"Any player, anytime you put a guy on a leash and in the back of his mind it's, 'hey, if I make one mistake I'm out,' I don't think that's any way to play," Pettine said. "In most situations that becomes self-fulfilling. He's our starting quarterback and we'll take the situations as they unfold.

"Knowing what I know about Josh, I would be surprised if he didn't handle it well."

Pettine said Monday the fact that he, DeFilippo and O'Connell had to have a discussion about who would be the team's starter was a positive development because it was spawned by a backup rising to the challenge rather than a starter underperforming. In his series against the Jets, McCown completed 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards and ran three times for 23 yards. He was hit hard by two Jets and fumbled as he attempted to dive into the end zone.

McCown took all of the first-team repetitions throughout the preseason, completing 29-of-39 passes for 207 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. All of it contributed to a discussion Pettine said was somewhere between quick and lengthy to determine who would start Sunday.

"His experience, the understanding of our offense, the intricacies of it, having been with (DeFilippo) before, the way he executed it when he was in there," Pettine said, rattling off the reasons why McCown was the pick over Manziel. "There was a reason we started the season with Josh as the one and Johnny as the two. That was our plan and at this point we're not seeing a reason to deviate from it."

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