Browns coach says no team ‘rift’ over McCown-Manziel debate


BEREA — Browns coach Mike Pettine understands there’s disagreement over his decision to start Josh McCown and not Johnny Manziel at quarterback.

He doesn’t think it’s dividing his locker room.

Amid lively debate among Cleveland fans — including “John-ny” chants during the game Sunday— Pettine said Wednesday that he’s confident the argument has not fractured the team.

Discussion? Yes. Dissension? No.

“Are we going to have one thousand percent agreement on how we’re using players? No,” he said. “It falls into coaches coach and players have their jobs to do. And are they going to have their opinions? Certainly. I’m confident there is no rift in the locker room. We always talk about controlling the controllables and external debate is something we don’t control, so we’re confident in our plan and we’ll move ahead forward with it.”

Pettine said he has not been approached by any players voicing their displeasure over his choice to go with McCown over Manziel, who led the Browns to a win in Week 2 but returned to his backup role last week.

“Given the veterans that we have in the room and being on the inside and talking to the players constantly, and getting feedback whether it’s other coaches or other players, and getting a sense for the pulse of the locker room, I’m confident this is not an issue,” Pettine said.

Meanwhile, the Browns signed third-string quarterback Austin Davis to a two-year, $4.2 million contract extension through 2017. Davis, who went 3-5 as a fill-in starter for St. Louis last season, hasn’t played yet this season while backing up MCown and Manziel. However, the Browns see enough potential in the 26-year-old that they wanted to secure him for the next two years.

The Browns first signed Davis on Sept. 7, two days after he was waived by the Rams. Davis came off the bench in St. Louis after injuries sidelined Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill, passing for 2,001 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

“We like his skill set,” Pettine said. “We like his mentality. We like his competitiveness, how he approaches football and felt that it would be a win for us to get him signed to a longer-term contract.”

The McCown-or-Manziel discussion has intensified outside Browns headquarters as some fans wonder why the club would go back to McCown after Manziel earned his first career win by throwing two long touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin — the game-winner on an improvised play with 2:52 — against the Titans.

The 36-year-old McCown, who is just 1-12 in his last 13 starts, passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Oakland on Sunday. In his first start since sustaining a concussion in the season opener, he was erratic in the first half and threw an interception in the final minute to seal the Raiders win.

McCown also injured his hand in the loss.

Pettine doesn’t think any of the outside noise will affect McCown.

“There aren’t too many NFL quarterbacks that aren’t in a quote-unquote tough spot,” he said. “It comes with the job. He has tremendous mental toughness.

“He’s been in this league a long time, and whether he’s personally gone through it, or a quarterback that he’s worked with has gone through it, I don’t think he’s any stranger to situations like this,” Pettine said. “That would be the least of our problems, worrying about how Josh is handling this.”

Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

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