Johnny Manziel is probably wishing he could play against the Bills every game.
Cleveland's second-string quarterback turned in his best performance in a Browns uniform Thursday night since coming on in relief of Brian Hoyer in Buffalo last season. Manziel led the offense on a 96-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, finishing it off with a 21-yard pass to Shane Winn. Manziel's best throw of the night came two plays earlier when he rolled left and hurled an off-balance throw to Darius Jennings for a 37-yard diving catch. He finished 10-of-18 for 118 yards along with three rushes for 19 yards.
The success came against Bills reserves, which head coach Mike Pettine was quick to point out in his postgame press conference when asked if Manziel's performance gave him a better chance at becoming the team's starter. Pettine affirmed that Josh McCown is still atop the depth chart despite two interceptions in his three first-half drives.
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"I'm not going to sit here and talk about trying to start up a quarterback controversy," Pettine said via Northeast Ohio Media Group. "We'd say it's possible [for Manziel to narrow the gap], but I think most teams, that's a pretty good drop off from any starting unit, down to the twos. There's a lot of twos with the starters, as well, so there's an even bigger drop-off to what Manziel was playing against. It gets factored in, but we'll see. We'll evaluate both guys.''
McCown did suffer an injury to his right ring finger during the game, but X-rays were negative. Manziel said after the game that he is focused on learning from McCown, rather than pressuring him for his job.
"I'm still going out trying to play my best and make an impression,'' Manziel said. "That's what I want to do. I want to have these guys go into the film tomorrow and turn on the tape and say, 'This guy's really doing things right and this guys really fighting hard to pick things up and make some plays.' That's what I'm trying to do.
Manziel's first significant action in his rookie season came in Buffalo last year, when he relieved Brian Hoyer and led the offense to the end zone on his first series. He was 5-for-8 for 63 yards, but it was all downhill from there when he assumed the starting job two weeks later.
After a stint in rehab, Manziel has been doing all the right things and is starting to show Browns fans a glimmer of hope as their potential quarterback of the future.