CLEVELAND (AP) – No glaring mistakes, no distractions, no nonsense.
Johnny Manziel didn’t crumble from the pressure while playing on the road Sunday against one of the NFL’s fiercest defenses and in front of its wildest crowd.
Seattle’s soundstage wasn’t too big or noisy for Johnny. His teammates, though, looked overwhelmed.
Manziel took another positive step and showed more improvement during Cleveland’s 30-13 loss. But the Browns (3-11) couldn’t overcome another injury, dropped passes, missed tackles and a few more head-scratching plays in a season that sunk weeks ago.
Although Manziel couldn’t get the Browns back into the end zone following an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game, he earned high praise from Cleveland’s coaches and a few teammates for a solid all-around performance.
“I thought he handled it very well,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “There wasn’t at any point during the game where I felt he was unnerved or flinched or lost his poise.”
Manziel finished 19 of 32 for 161 yards, but his statistics are secondary to what the Browns are hoping to see from the second-year QB down the stretch. In his second straight start and fifth this season, Manziel again looked like he belonged on the field. He commanded the huddle and efficiently ran the offense, checking out of plays during his pre-snap reads.
He scrambled – but only when he had to – and Manziel briefly silenced Seattle’s 12th Man when he fired a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Gary Barnidge in the first quarter.
This was the Manziel the Browns have been waiting to see.
“He was very calm, made some plays,” Pettine said. “We went right down the field, made some throws. Overall, Johnny did a lot of positive things. I’m sure there’s some plays that he would want to have back as most quarterbacks would, but overall a lot of positives, a lot to learn from. I think the reason that he did the good things that he did, they’re a result of his preparation. He doesn’t coast through the week and all of a sudden just show up and play. That’s a product of how well he’s preparing.”
Manziel’s progress has been one of the only positives lately for the Browns, who seem destined for another front office and coaching overhaul following the Jan. 3 season finale.
It’s nothing new for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who has played for five coaches in Cleveland since 2007. And unless Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is convinced Pettine has things headed in the right direction – and his 3-16 mark in his last 19 games won’t help Pettine’s cause – Thomas could soon be playing for a sixth coach in nine years.
Thomas would prefer stability, knowing that turnover brings required regression.
“Any time you make a change in an organization on the coaching staff or you make a change in the organization, there is a one step back that you have to take and that is just a part of making a change,” he said. “You are going to get a lot of new players. You are going to get new coaches, new people in the building. It does take time to teach people the new philosophy, the new procedures, the new schemes and certainly this NFL game is something that takes more than one or two years to be really good in a scheme.
“There is a level of proficiency that you can get in a year to be OK, but it really takes a few years in a scheme before you can get really good at something.”
Thomas said he has never been asked by Haslam about the coaching staff. But given the chance, he would gladly offer his feelings.
“I am happy to talk to anyone in the building if they are interested in hearing my input, but I am happy to give a lot of input or just be the left tackle,” he said. “It is not in my job description to discuss changes or anything like that. If somebody asked me my opinion on things, I would be happy to give it to them.”
NOTES: Pettine said RG Joe Greco’s season-ending knee injury will give rookie Cam Erving two more starts. Erving, who has struggled mightily, came off the bench after Greco was hurt on Sunday’s second play. … Thomas quashed the idea that Pettine’s comments last week about Russell Wilson motivated the Seahawks’ QB. Pettine doesn’t think Wilson belongs among the league’s top four QBs. “I think the majority of the guys in the NFL are so self-motivated to be perfect that it really doesn’t matter what anybody else says about them,” Thomas said.
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