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Mike Pettine press conference - 9/23

Opening statement:

"I will start out addressing the quarterback position: (QB) Josh (McCown) was cleared by the independent neurologist this morning so he is 100 percent cleared to return to play. He's done everything that we have asked of him in the offseason and so far this year, he had earned the right to be our starting quarterback. We feel that he gives us the best opportunity to win on Sunday. That was truly the basis for the decision. From a coaching standpoint – I know there were a lot of exterior factors – but for us it is very bottom line. You weigh everything, you look at the game plan and you look at where we are, who has gotten what reps and how we feel about things, it was who gives us the best opportunity to win. With that being said, I thought (QB) Johnny (Manziel) did an outstanding job with his opportunity. He knows that there are some things that he needs to get cleaned up. Actually, the quarterback room knows that we need to be more protective of the football. As I said before, very proud of him, personally and professionally, with the progress he has made, a very positive thing for us. This is all very positive that we now feel that we have a backup that can come in, and he has already proven that he can move the team and make plays and win games for us. He is making great strides, and if he continues to make strides, ultimately, he can get where we all want him to be, but where we are right now, we look forward to Josh leading the offense against the Raiders on Sunday.

"On (offensive line coach) Andy Moeller, we released a statement and you all saw it. His status with the team has not changed. I do not have anything to add at this point.

"On the injury front, (DL) Des(mond) Bryant would be the only addition to the list. He will not be available to practice today. (RB Robert) Turbin is making progress as is (LB) Scott Solomon. They both will remain out this week.

"Big challenge this week. Team coming off of a big home win. They beat obviously a quality opponent in Baltimore. Very good game. They found a way to win in it the end. They are coming in here with a big, big wave of momentum. Offensively, led by (Raiders QB) Derek Carr. He has made some big strides heading into Year 2. He has done a real nice job. He can make all the throws, very accurate. He is good on his feet. They are doing a lot of things with him to get him on the move, very accurate throwing on the run. We have to have a plan to affect him just like we affected (Titans QB Marcus) Mariota a week ago. Any quarterback, we always say, if you let it be pass scale 7-on-7 and they can sit in the pocket and its's clean and they can make their reads and throws, you are going to get diced up pretty good. That's certainly the case this week with Carr. He has a much deeper wide receiver room than a year ago. (Raiders WR) Amari Cooper does not look like a rookie. He has already made some big plays for them. The (Raiders WR Michael) Crabtree signing was big for them. He has already proven he can make some big plays.

"Defensively, they challenge you up front. Ken Norton is the coordinator. He has brought the Seattle defense to Oakland. They are going to put a lot of guys up tight and dare you to execute in the run game and they are going to dare you to win on the outside. (Raiders DB) Charles Woodson, amazing, still at age 38, 18th year in the league still playing at a high level. He is certainly someone we need to be aware of wherever he is.

"Special teams, talking to Tabes (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor), this is likely one of the best core special teams groups – big guys that can run. We challenge our guys to win their matchups this week. Challenges across the board. We are looking forward to it, especially getting another opportunity to play in front of the Dawg Pound. Hopefully, we can get them cranked up again.

"One other note talking about special teams and Tabes: We all know that (WR) Travis (Benjamin) was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Big tip of the hat to him but also Chris Tabor, (assistant special teams coach) Shawn Mennenga and (special teams coaching intern) Stan Watson. Those guys have done an outstanding job preparing our units. They are always ready to go. I believe this is the sixth time under Chris a Brown has won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week."

On if it was a close decision when determining the starting QB:

"I solicited the opinions of Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and of (quarterback coach) Kevin (O'Connell). Those were the main guys that I leaned on. We were all in agreement but all felt the same way that Johnny has made a lot of strides and we have no problem with him playing football for us. We have a plan for him, and we feel that he is headed in the right direction, but ultimately, we rolled with Josh."

On if McCown is on a short or long leash, if any at all:

"I think with any player, anytime you put a guy on a leash and in the back of his mind it is 'Hey, if I make one mistake, I am out'. I don't think that is any way to play. In most situations, that becomes self-fulfilling. He is our starting quarterback, and we will take the situations as they unfold. We never talk in terms of leashes."

On if Browns players were paying close attention to see who would be named starting QB:

"No, I get where you are going with it. Is team morale taken into account when we make a decision like this? We factor in all circumstances. It wouldn't be at the top of the list, but to say that we would ignore it completely wouldn't be true either."

On if it was a hard decision with quite some time spent on or a check to see if other coaches were in agreement with his sentiment about starting McCown:

"Probably a little bit in between. We spent some time with it – it wasn't lengthy – but it wasn't 15 seconds. We spent some time."

On former Browns and Texans QB Brian Hoyer and Manziel's competition last year factored into who would start at QB Sunday:

"I did not factor that in. Kevin and Flip were not here last year so it didn't affect their perspective. No, we just felt that Josh had been the starter and put in quality reps through training camp and had led us on a pretty good drive right up until the 18th or 19th play of that drive. There was just no reason to alter our original plan."

On his sense on if Browns players are on board with the QB decision:

"First of all, I don't know if they all know. We just came off the field from the walkthrough. Like I said before, that is a factor that we would consider, but these guys are professionals and they all have their own jobs to take care of. There might be some differences of opinions. I doubt you are going to have your entire team 100 percent on board with what you are doing. We are confident that our guys are going to be behind Josh and go out and play hard."

On considering a package of plays for Manziel:

"I don't see that right now. That's something maybe we can discuss down the road. It's comforting to know now that through his preparation – that showed up in Week 1 – that he went into that week knowing that he was clearly going to be the two and there was a more than reasonable chance he wasn't going to have to play and ended up having to play a full three quarters of the game and I thought handled his business very well from a mental standpoint. It was obvious to us that he was prepared, and that needs to continue and he knows that. When we talked to him this morning, that was part of the conversation, that there's no reason to change the approach now. He should also know how quickly things can turn and that the preparation is important because he'll be one play away."

On if Manziel's full week to prepare for Tennessee was a significant factor in his performance:

"Yeah, and he has to be ready to go both ways. Going back to the Jets situation that he did show that he was prepared, I've been around some backups over my time in the league that it's exactly what you're talking about – when they had the week, they knew they were the guy, they were fine, but when they had to come in midstream, the preparation was not where it should have been. It's a valuable lesson learned, and I think all the quarterbacks should look at that and say 'Hey, I'm one play away. I have to prepare as if I'm the starter.' I think Kevin and Flip do a great job of giving those guys a lot of the prep work to make sure. We don't just test the quarterbacks. I think their test is probably a little bit more extensive than the other position groups, but we test all of our players to make sure that they're dialed in on the game plan and we've taught everything right and they have a good understanding of it. A part of that is on them to make sure they're prepared, but as coaches, it's on us to hold them accountable."

On if McCown is better able to handle the QB situation than Hoyer, considering Manziel's 'huge shadow':

"I think its two very different situations. I know Josh has been around for a long time, and he's been through a lot. At times he's been the starter then had to – very similar circumstances in Chicago when he was there. I can only really speak to Josh right now. I think the circumstances were a little bit different with Brian. Knowing what I know about Josh, I would be surprised if he didn't handle it well."

On his comments that the Browns would know more about Manziel by the end of the year:

"I think we already saw it with him having to play – what is it? Seven quarters now? We went into the season where he was going to be the backup. I think if you look at the league, it's rare and some of it depends on your style of play and how your quarterback is sometimes from a risk-taking standpoint, but I think it's rare that backups don't have to go in and play. It's already been proven for us this early. We're two games in. That was all I was talking to was just that at some point, he's going to have to play. We also can see a lot of his progress if he's not playing, just how he's preparing and how he is on the practice field and just going about his daily business."

On if Manziel can make enough strides as the No. 2 QB to reach his potential:

"I spoke on this before that we are tasked with as a staff to put the lineup together that we feel gives us the best chance to win. We're not going to try to manipulate it – 'OK, are we preparing for the future with a guy that we see right now as our backup?' That's not the way we do our business and that's what I said before. Naturally, you would think the circumstances would come up where you could get that evaluation, and it already has. We've gotten seven quarters worth of football from him and the results have been encouraging. The carelessness with the ball is well documented, but he knows that, and that something that that room needs to work on, that we'll continue to stress and coach it hard. Just the overall quarterback play, I think he's risen to a much higher level than he was a year ago."

On how Manziel will handle returning to No. 2 QB:

"He'll be fine. He was good this morning with it. He understood. Just given how hard those guys are coached and how much interaction we have with them, I think it would be difficult to slide away and let things slip just because of being upset about not being 'the guy.' He's competitive. I know all of our guys that aren't starters they all want to be out there. If they weren't competitive that way, they wouldn't be here. You want to fill your roster with guys that are passionate and competitive and want to play, and that's only natural."

On how McCown gives the Browns the best chance to win, given he's only played one drive:

"It goes back to the same reasons why we made Josh our starter. His experience, his ability, the understanding of our offense, the intricacies of it, having been with Flip before, just the way he executed it when he was in there. Still, like I said, this was a positive thing for us that our second quarterback went it and played well, but there was 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 that."

On if the playbook is more open with McCown, particularly late in games:

"We would have gone conservative in the Titans game with Josh as our quarterback. I do not think that Flip's mentality or my mentality changed at all with Johnny in the game, that we didn't trust him to make a throw, that we would have been more run first, pass second with a 21-point lead with Josh. I think that's another reason that we're encouraged that I think we realize that 'Hey, I have just as much faith in Johnny as I do in Josh so my play callings not going to change.'"

On if any part of him is torn about sitting Manziel, who has the 'hot hand':

"No, I think that that factors in a little bit, but as I said before that Josh had built a volume of reps and has the experience and had the job. We feel good about and we're hopeful he'll have a good week of prep and play well on Sunday."

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