It's gonna be Manziel
While it is still a bit early to make any predictions, it sure looks as though Johnny Manziel has more than a leg up on being under center when the Browns open the season in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7.
After his performance against the Detroit Lions in Saturday night’s exhibition opener (full disclosure: I did not see the game – out of the country, but I did see highlights and the post-game reaction), it sure looks as though the job is Manziel’s to win.
Unless I miss my guess, this is not Brian Hoyer’s job to lose anymore. This is not going to be a fair fight. And the man in the middle of it, coach Mike Pettine, is going to have to do some fancy talking in rationalizing his choice because it will be Manziel.
From what I saw, Manziel did not look uncomfortable against the Lions. What’s that you say? It was just an exhibition game? You would be correct, but it sure looked as though he fit, he belonged.
From the little I saw, he makes decisions quickly, knows how to slide correctly, has a strong throwing arm and command of the huddle. He made some mistakes, but it appears he has a quick learning curve.
I’ll probably get a much better idea when I see the entire game in a day or two. But for right now, Pettine had better choose his words carefully, especially after he names Manziel his starter for the Washington Redskins exhibition a week from tonight on national television (ESPN).
Manziel, in an amazingly short period of time, has become the darling of the ESPN universe. As soon as the Lions exhibition was done, the network went live for at least a half hour straight with highlights and interviews. It essentially became JMTN (the Johnny Manziel Television Network).
It was wall-to-wall coverage. The way JMTN handled it, one would have thought the Browns-Lions exhibition was not just the big story of the evening, it was the only story.
There was Pettine live, bombarded with all questions related to Manziel’s performance. To his credit, he dodged most of them effectively.
Then came Manziel, whose poise and patience with the media is well beyond his 21 years. It was as though he had been doing this all his life. And it looked as though he enjoyed every minute.
Then it was Hoyer, the unfortunate victim of Manzielmania. What else could he do but answer questions as truthfully as possible? It had an awkward feel to it. If he felt the deck was stacked against him, he did not show it.
In order to make a final determination for the Steelers opener, Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan need to see Manziel work with the starters. He played with the backups against the Lions.
Pettine said he would name the opening-game starter by the third exhibition game against the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 23. Normally, whoever starts that game generally is considered the winner of the starting job.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believes it will be Manziel and says he is preparing for it. “What he did at Texas A&M was no accident,” LeBeau said.
Pettine, sitting on a seat getting hotter by the day, is rapidly finding that out, too.