Johnny Manziel’s final stat line from last night’s game against the Bengals—15-of-33 for 168 yards and one touchdown—was built mostly off of Manziel’s solid first half, and isn’t the kind of line that would normally guarantee a starting role in the next game. But on a 2-7 team whose only other option at quarterback is Josh McCown, a good first half is all a young, talented quarterback should need to get himself another shot.

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And yet, here’s what Browns head coach Mike Pettine had to say after the game about committing to Manziel longterm (via Cleveland.com):

“No, I can’t (say he’ll play the next game),’’ Pettine said after Thursday’s 31-10 loss to the Bengals. “When we get in and get back from this time off, we’ll assess what pool of players are available and go ahead and make those decisions from there. This will be a good time to step away and reassess where we are moving forward.’’

This is now the second time this year Pettine has refused to hand the team over to Manziel despite having no good reason not to. The Browns aren’t going to the playoffs this year, and having McCown lead them on a death march through the second half while Manziel spends yet another season rotting on the bench is a waste of everyone’s time. Manziel showed real flashes of competence last night, particularly while throwing on the run, and now is the ideal time for Pettine to set him loose.

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As for Manziel’s teammates, some of whom may or may not already be furious at Pettine for keeping the young quarterback nailed to the bench, it sure seems like they’re ready for Manziel to step in and takeover. Here’s what offensive linemen Joe Thomas and John Greco had to say about Manziel’s game last night:

“I definitely think he took a step forward,’’ said left tackle Joe Thomas. “He was better than the last time he played (against) Tennessee. You see him making some great plays in the pocket, which is where he’s been working the most, throwing the ball on time, not making any mistakes, no fumbles, no interceptions.

“We know who he is. He’s going to make those plays scrambling. That’s a unique aspect and talent that he has that not many people have. It’s just a matter of taking those steps on being a guy who’s throwing on time in the pocket and I think he made those steps tonight.’’

Said guard John Greco: “Impressive. We have all the confidence in the world in him. He came in and did what we expected him to do...”

You can almost imagine those two glaring in Pettine’s direction while they delivered those quotes.

Thomas is absolutely right about Manziel’s unique ability, too. He made multiple throws last night that most quarterbacks in the league just aren’t capable of making. In a league where a good quarterback is the rarest commodity, it makes no sense to keep a guy with raw talent to build on away from the field any longer. The Browns suck and Josh McCown isn’t transforming into Aaron Rodgers anytime soon; it’s time to let Johnny Football cook.

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Photo via Getty

[Cleveland.com]