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Pettine seems to be done with Manziel, but are the Browns?

Johnny Manziel


With Josh McCown injured and Austin Davis getting the nod on Sunday over Johnny Manziel, it’s increasingly clear that Browns coach Mike Pettine has permanently lost the ability to trust Manziel as the starter.

The broader question is whether the Browns, too, are done with Manziel, if the Browns end up being done with Pettine.

At a time when some league insiders believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that Pettine and G.M. Ray Farmer will be fired by owner Jimmy Haslam at the end of the season (if not sooner), the organization likely intends to keep Manziel around, at least for now. And for two reasons.

First, Manziel has trade value, especially since Cowboys owner and G.M. Jerry Jones periodically reiterates his affinity for the Texas native, whom Jones wanted to select with the 15th pick in the first round of the 2014 draft. The Browns could unload Manziel, pick up a draft pick or two, and save plenty of face by dealing Manziel to Dallas.

Second, the next coach in Cleveland (if/when there is one) may want Manziel. Indeed, there’s one potential candidate who has raved in recent days about Manziel, lobbying a week ago for the Browns to give Manziel another chance and -- in a dramatic break from Gruden’s habit of praising everyone and everything in order to burn no NFL bridges -- expressing disdain for Pettine’s decision to keep Manziel on the bench during Monday night’s Ravens-Browns game.

“This is punishing everybody,” Gruden said after Davis replaced McCown. “It’s not just punishing Johnny Manziel. It’s punishing the owner, Jimmy Haslam, who’s trying to turn this franchise around. That kid needs to be playing. This is his opportunity to launch his career. He’s coming off the best game he’s played. They need to get him on the field, hopefully next week.”

Tomorrow is next week, and Manziel won’t be playing. Instead, Manziel will be spending his 23rd birthday watching when the Browns host the Bengals, who trounced Manziel and the Browns, 30-0, in his first career start last December.