Monday, August 11, 2014

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.


  1. Rich, look for the rerun on NFLN and check in again afterwards. Hoyer played better against the Detroit ones (two bad throws aside) than Manziel did against the Detroit twos. But then the whole ESPN/NFLN universe has morphed into TMZ/Teen Beat and is tooting Johnny's horn 24/7, apparently just because he's Johnny, certainly not in relation to his performance on the field. He wasn't bad, but he certainly wasn't as good as all the trumpeting announcing the second coming makes him out to be. Hoyer is totally getting screwed. I'd think Pettine & Shanahan know who SHOULD start, but as long as JF doesn't crap his pants on the field, they may have no more choice in who starts the season than Farmer did in selecting him. Not saying JF won't get there - let's hope he does! - but all this Lions game proved is that he was exciting because he runs a lot but still has a lot to learn before he deserves to start ahead of Hoyer.

    - DW

  2. Hi DW,

    What trumpeting are you talking about? The second coming of who? Or is it whom?

    Who said Manziel was good . . . or better than Hoyer? This was his first game as a pro, for crying out loud. What did you expect -- 300 yards and three touchdowns?

    Give the kid a chance to grow. He's taking baby steps right now, but from what I saw (and I just watched he entire game), I don't think he embarrassed himself.

    He has two more games to prove he's ready to lead this team. Let us wait and see how he performs in those games. We should have a much better idea then.

    If Pettine and Shanahan think Hoyer gives them a better chance to win, he opens up in Pittsburgh. And I don't for a minute believe Jimmy Haslam will make the call.

    Pettine's and Shanahan's jobs are on the line and I don't think they'll let the owner toy with their futures. The QB call will come from them and Haslam will go along with whatever choice they make.

    The more Manziel plays, the better he will get. He is smart enough to learn what it takes to play in the NFL. So let us not jump to any conclusions yet.