Friday, August 15, 2014

A premature defense

If it isn’t one controversy at Browns camp with regard to their top two quarterbacks, it’s another. The hits just keep on coming.

First, it’s the daily story of how much progress Johnny Manziel has made in his quest to unseat Brian Hoyer as the club’s starting quarterback.

Then it’s the team and coach Mike Pettine denying the report that Manziel has moved ahead of Hoyer after less than three weeks of training camp and one exhibition game.

Then Pettine announces Hoyer gets the start in the second exhibition, forcing him to tell the media Friday that neither man has a permanent lock on the starting position.

Welcome to Camp Confusion.

“Quarterback is different from other positions in that you do want to make a commitment,” Pettine said. “(But) I don’t know if you can necessarily make a permanent commitment. So much can change over the course of an NFL season, the circumstances.

“ . . . I think that’s the one position where you probably have to have a little bit more patience maybe than some others as far as if a guy’s not performing to the level you think he can and you’re not getting results, then you’d go ahead and make a move.

“Its somewhere in between. I don’t want whoever the starter is to feel like ‘if I make one mistake, I’m out.’ But I also don’t want him to feel like ‘hey, I’ve achieved something. This is my team for the year.’ ”

That’s a lot of words that, when parsed, mean exactly what? Beats me. Pettine seems to be taking something simple and complicating the hell out of it.

In the National Football League, it’s as simple as naming your quarterback, sitting back, letting him succeed or fail and then making a move depending on his body of work. Perhaps that’s an oversimplification, but it sure beats what Pettine is trying to explain.

Is the Browns’ coach prematurely justifying switching quarterbacks if that needs to be done? Sure sounds like it. I think.

If Hoyer is named the starter for the season opener in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, for example, he should keep that job until he proves he no longer can handle it.

Don’t do what Chris Palmer did in the inaugural season in 1999 when he yanked Ty Detmer after the disastrous first game and replaced him with Tim Couch. Or what Romeo Crennel did in 2007 when he replaced Charlie Frye with Derek Anderson after the first game. 

But why say that now? Pettine is  the head coach and can do whatever he wants for whatever reason and whenever he wants. The title head coach before his name entitles him to do that.

And to say he can’t use the word “permanent” for whomever he anoints to start the season opener is assumed. Why rationalize a future move now?

What Pettine is doing, in essence, is admitting he has a problem at quarterback and reserves the right to make a change. He doesn’t have to defend it at this point of the season. That defense comes later when he actually has to make that move.

To do so now is so premature, it’s almost laughable. 

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