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

BEREA, Ohio (AP) – They’re arguing in offices, bars and living rooms across Cleveland over Browns coach Mike Pettine’s decision to start Josh McCown and not Johnny Manziel at quarterback.

The disagreements pit friend vs. friend, neighbor vs. neighbor – maybe even teammate vs. teammate.

Pettine understands the impassioned disputes. He doesn’t think they’re dividing his locker room.

Amid lively debate among Browns fans – some of whom broke into “John-ny, John-ny” chants for Manziel during Sunday’s loss to Oakland – Pettine said Wednesday that he’s confident his team has not been fractured by the quarterback quarrel.

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.

A 12-year veteran, McCown has experienced just about everything possible as an NFL quarterback. He knows he may have some teammates who believe Manziel gives them a better chance to win. But can’t worry about anything other than getting ready to face the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

“This is a diverse group of guys in here and so there are definitely people that will have different opinions on anything,” he said.

“Position things and stuff like that are probably no different, and that’s OK. But at the end of the day, it’s do I question whether or not we’re going to be on the same page when we step out there Sunday? Absolutely not.

“Whether you’re for one guy or the other, it doesn’t matter, because when we get out there Sunday everybody’s giving their best. It’s just about us being on the same page when we get out there Sunday.”

While the Manziel-or-McCown discussion rages, 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 for the Browns but they’ve liked him for some time and see potential in the 26-year-old.

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.”

Manziel’s supporters, and they’ve grown in number since he beat the Titans, wonder why Pettine would go back to McCown after the former Heisman Trophy winner threw two long touchdown passes against the Titans. Manziel has shown progress since a rough rookie season, which was followed by a rehab stay.

But the Browns don’t have the same trust in him as they do in the 36-year-old McCown, who passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders.

In his first start since sustaining a concussion in the opener, McCown was erratic in the first half and threw an interception in the final minute to seal the Raiders’ win.

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.”

NOTES: Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden (ribs/finger) and DE Desmond Bryant (shoulder) practiced Wednesday. However, Pro Bowl S Tashaun Gipson (groin), LB Craig Robertson (ankle) and nickel back K’Waun Williams (concussion) were out.

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