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Mike Pettine on Johnny Manziel: ‘I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t excited to see him play’

Johnny Manziel

Count Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine among those who cannot wait to see Johnny Manziel play in his first NFL start on Sunday in a divisional showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t excited to see him play,” Pettine told reporters Wednesday, per “We’ve seen it in practice. We got a taste of it in Buffalo.”

It makes sense, after all, as Pettine’s future with the organization is now likely linked to the rookie quarterback’s ultimate success.

The first-year Browns head coach said the decision to go with Manziel had everything to do with trying to get the 7-6 team back on track and in the playoffs.

“We wanted to make a change to do some different things schematically,” he said. “We did feel he’s gives us a better chance to win.”

Pettine hedged his bets a bit regarding whether the move from Hoyer to Manziel was permanent, saying it only gives the team “a peek at whether it’s potentially a long-term solution.”

“I wouldn’t want to go on record saying we’ve seen the last of him,” Pettine said of Hoyer, noting that it was “very hard”  to tell the quarterback he had been benched, but defended the decision by stating that “the production was trending in the wrong direction.”

As it relates to his new QB, Pettine also suggested that caution should be exercised concerning Manziel and any expectations regarding his insertion into the starting role.

“If we don’t pick up our play around the quarterback’ we’d be foolish to expect different results,” he said, suggesting that if the offensive efficiency and execution don’t improve, chances are good that Manziel could put up numbers as abysmal as Hoyer has in the past handful of games.

The future is now in Cleveland, after endless speculation, demands, delays and conjecture. Manziel finally will have his opportunity that he is a legitimate NFL starting quarterback and silence his detractors. It begins with a critical game against the Bengals on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. From there? That remains to be seen. Nothing is certain, and for Manziel, presumably nothing is guaranteed.

(photo credit:Tony Dejak/AP)