It seems wise to prepare for No. 24 on Sunday as opposed to No. 2.
Though Mike Pettine gave no indication who would start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in light of the season-ending injury to Josh McCown, every needle and indicator points to Austin Davis getting the call against Cincinnati.
Which of course would make his name the 24th on that infamous jersey listing the team’s quarterback starters since 1999.
The Browns will make their decision Tuesday night and announce it Wednesday. Pettine said he wanted to discuss things completely with his staff before saying anything.
But ... it was just one week ago that the team announced that Johnny Manziel was being disciplined for lying to the coaching staff about his bye weekend shenanigans in Austin, Texas.
At the time, Pettine made an important statement when he said: Trust is lost in buckets, but regained in drops. To think Manziel (No. 2 on the roster) could fill those buckets after missing one game isn’t realistic. And if the Browns put him back on the field after one week after everything they have been through, it would mean the discipline taken was next to meaningless.
Davis also played well in the fourth quarter against Baltimore.
He completed 6-of-6 passes on a drive that ended with a 42-yard TD throw to Travis Benjamin (that included an excellent blitz pickup by running back Duke Johnson).
Davis then gave the Browns a chance to win with a 51-yard field goal try on the last play of the game. That play turned into another addition to Browns lore, of course, but that didn’t change the fact that Davis was one kick from being the featured postgame interview on ESPN.
If Davis starts, the clamor from the Manziel supporters will be loud.
It’s something Pettine has lived with since Manziel was drafted. No decision will please everyone.
At this point, the key fact is that Pettine is dealing with the hand Manziel dealt him. Manziel violated the promise he made to the team to not be a distraction during the bye week, and he lied about it after.
A coach has to respond to that, and given the severity of the initial response, going back on it after one week would contradict the principles involved.
Davis has been the quiet professional since he signed. The team thought enough of him to sign him to a contract extension shortly after signing him. He has a strong arm and a very quick release. He has worked diligently since he joined the Browns.
He played well in one quarter against Baltimore despite getting very little actual practice time before last week.
Pettine said everything will be considered when deciding the starter, and he said he will be the one making the decision.
Given everything that’s happened, the indicators are clear.
Davis figures to get the start.