The ongoing soap opera that is Johnny Manziel continued in the Cleveland Browns second preseason game against the Washington Redskins. He came in as the backup to Brian Hoyer and did not do much to impress on the field, going 7/16 for 65 yards and a touchdown. He has been unimpressive in his first two games, but Hoyer has been as well, and Coach Mike Pettine has stated he will decide the starter before the third preseason game. So the question now for the Browns organization and pretty much the entire sports media is: Should Manziel start week 1 against the Steelers?
Against Washington, neither Manziel not Hoyer played very well, but the former was still able to make headlines, as he is one to do. During the third quarter cameras caught the Heisman winner flipping the bird to the Washington sideline. A very harmless act in itself. but the fact that he does not realize it would turn into headline news because of who he is has to worry the organization who traded up to take him 22nd overall in this year’s draft. His showmanship, and sometimes immaturity, are not helping him win a job it seems he may not be ready for.
Pettine has consistently stated that he will choose the starter based on who gives the team the best chance to win, but right now in such a tight race, it may come down to he feels more comfortable with, which at this point has to be Hoyer. While Hoyer may not have more talent than Manziel, he has also not done anything on or off the field to diminish his standing with the coaching staff or ownership.
To Manziel’s credit, he has not done anything out of character up to this point, because many people were well aware of the player and person he was coming out of college. If, as an organization, the Browns were not okay with their quarterback being high-profile and enjoying the spotlight, then he was the wrong quarterback to take. In some of the ways the team has handled him since drafting him, it almost seems as if they regretted the pick. Telling the former Texas A&M QB to tone down his partying ways is just not going to work for someone who has been in the public eye partying since he was a red shirt freshman. At this point, he is who he is, and they need to figure out how to get the best from him on the field and let the off-field issues handle themselves.
On the field in his first two preseason games, Manziel has not been great, but he has also not been horrible. He did throw a touchdown pass against Washington, but it was a screen pass where running back Dion Lewis did the heavy lifting. He still seems to be a little quick to get out of the pocket, which is a skill that translated great in college, but in the pros might not work for him as well, since most of the defenders are just as, if not more, athletic than him. Obviously the speed of the NFL game is much greater and that is the main thing he needs to adapt to if he wants to start Week 1 against the Steelers.
There are two sides to the argument of whether or not he should start Week 1. One line of thinking would say that it would be good for him to get the experience of playing a good veteran defense like Pittsburgh’s under his belt so he could know where to improve moving forward. On the hand, sending him out against the Steelers could be a fool’s errand which could be a dramatic blow to his confidence or even an injury. Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick Labeau has said that he expects to face Manziel Week 1 and he is preparing as such. That could spell trouble for the rookie.
Right now, all indications out of Cleveland point to Hoyer being the Week 1 starter. With neither quarterback impressing in the preseason, it may just come down to the fact that Hoyer has NFL experience and the rookie does not. Coach Mike Pettine may want a player who he knows what to expect from, because Manziel’s play can very often be erratic as he plays a run-and-gun style with a lot of improvisation.
The quarterback competition in Cleveland between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel is still undecided. The Browns do not have much time until their Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they need to make a decision so they can move forward and game plan for whomever they choose. Right now it seems the Browns are leaning towards Hoyer, but Manziel does have an inherent ability to create big plays. If he wants to start this season, he needs to start showing that in the remainder of the preseason.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius