Mike Pettine explains why Browns needed a change at QB


Mike Pettine saw a few more cars and TV trucks positioned outside of his office Wednesday. This wasn't a surprise.

The excitement and "outside noise," as he described it, reached a season-high Tuesday when the Browns coach announced rookie quarterback Duke Johnson Jr. would make his first career start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The former Texas A&M star takes over for veteran Brian Hoyer at a pivotal point in the season when the Cleveland offense needs a jolt of energy to keep its AFC playoff hopes alive.

Less than a full day removed from the announcement, Pettine gathered his players for a team meeting and kept it real. Manziel might just be the spark Cleveland needs against the North-leading Bengals but he's not the cure-all.

"The move was made because of the lack of performance at the position over the last four games … but they have to understand it was as a unit," Pettine said. "If we don't pick up our play around the quarterback, we'd be extremely foolish to expect different results.

"I challenged the team today. We all share in the joy of a win, we all share in the agony of a loss. Everybody has to pick up their play as we head down the stretch."

Still, Pettine allowed himself a few moments to let his guard down at his Wednesday press conference. This is a unique moment in his first season, and he certainly understands why there's a little more buzz in the air as the Browns prepare for their final regular season game at FirstEnergy Stadium.

"I'd be a liar and say I wasn't excited about seeing him play because I've seen it in practice," Pettine said. "We got a small taste of it in Buffalo and we'd like to see it carry over, how we're able to build a gameplan around it and how we go out and execute it. I know that's human nature but I certainly don't want the team to get caught up in it, either.

"We want to make sure everybody's elevated their play and playing well around him to minimize the number of plays the quarterback position has to make."

Pettine said the decision to go with Manziel wasn't as taxing as the previous week's, when he mulled a change but ultimately stuck with Hoyer against the Colts. He stressed Monday and again Wednesday that he doesn't regret starting and playing Hoyer -- who completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions -- the entire game because "it's time in my life I'll never get back" and it's "unnecessary" to waste time second-guessing.

In the past four games, Cleveland went 1-3 as Hoyer threw eight interceptions and just one touchdown. He led the offense to one touchdown drive in the past two games. Manziel led the Browns to a late touchdown in the loss at Buffalo and did not see the field against the Colts.

Asked if the decision was an unanimous one among the coaches, Pettine said he didn't pool as many as the previous week but emphasized, "everybody I talked to felt good about it."

"We made the decision because it's what's best for the Cleveland Browns this week, but at the same time, a positive result of it is we do get a chance to see him," Pettine said. "You can't hide from the facts. He was a first-round draft pick. We all know the circumstances with Brian. It gives us a chance, one, to win a football game this week - that's our focus - but at the same time, to get a peek at potentially whether it's a long-term solution."

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