No reason to doubt Josh McCown will start, not Johnny Manziel

BEREA, Ohio — Browns coach Mike Pettine was noncommital about Josh McCown starting on Sunday against Arizona, but everything the Browns have said and done all week has indicated he will start.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that McCown will play and start, but the Browns are holding off on any commitment.

Coaches sometimes believe waiting to announce a starter might provide a competitive advantage. Pettine also might really want to make sure McCown is healthy before committing to him publicly.

Odds are that the team sees keeping the identity of the starter a secret as a competitive advantage.

In this case, there’s enough evidence from the past week to understand the Browns want McCown to play, and will play him if he is at all capable.

The progression has been logical. From rest on Monday and Tuesday to held out on Wednesday to limited on Thursday to (in McCown’s words) throwing the ball around on Friday. The next logical step: Starting on Sunday. Consider the events of the week:

  • On Monday, Pettine had an incredulous tone when he said: “If our starting quarterback is able to play, will we play him? Yes.”

  • On Wednesday, Pettine broke every coaching rule in the book by saying McCown didn’t need to miss practice to start. “The good thing about it is we are carrying over a lot of concept stuff that he has practiced and stuff that he’s thrown in games,” Pettine said. “As far as getting those actual reps in practice, at this point, it is important, but I wouldn’t put a ton of stock into it.”

  • On Thursday, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo concurred. “If it were a second- or third-year quarterback without the reps, I would be a little bit more concerned,” DeFilippo said. “But Josh has had almost all the [first-team] reps since training camp, so that doesn’t concern me too much.”

It’s not surprising that Pettine would hedge a bit on Friday, given the modern coach’s desire for any competitive advantage he can find.

But if McCown isn’t the starting quarterback Sunday, it would be a shock.