Monday, August 18, 2014

No one deserves the QB job

Who should the Browns start at quarterback in the season opener in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7?

Based on Monday night’s exhibition game against the Washington Redskins, Connor Shaw.

That’s because the rookie free agent, whose best shot at making the team would be the practice squad, was the only Cleveland quarterback who actually looked like a National Football league quarterback in the 24-23 loss.

Not that Shaw looked that great, but he was outstanding compared to who preceded him in the first three quarters.

Many observers looked on this game as the one that would determine who starts Saturday night’s third exhibition against the St. Louis Rams in Cleveland, the so-called dress rehearsal for the regular season.

On the audition stage for the nationally televised game were Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel – the incumbent against the upstart rookie.

Much has been made about the battle between these two for the starting job. That battle has been reported on and dissected daily by the national media ad nauseam.

Both flunked the audition, at the same time placing Mike Pettine in an awkward and somewhat delicate position. The head coach said he would name the starter Tuesday for the meaningless Rams game based on what he saw against the Redskins.

Considering what he saw, he should name neither man, further complicating a situation he had complicated by foolishly alternating his quarterbacks against the Redskins.

There was absolutely no continuity or flow to the Cleveland offense. Both men were rusty, tentative, making bad throw after bad throw.

At the half, ESPN’s Chris Berman suggested that “maybe the Washington defense had something to do with (the pungent Cleveland offense).” Berman was either trying to be charitable or was totally ignorant of what was unfolding on the field.

When Cleveland receivers were open, which wasn’t that often, Hoyer and Manziel missed them badly. Hoyer had wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wide open in the end zone in the second quarter and threw the ball high and behind him. If the 5-7 Hawkins were 6-2, it would have been a TD.

The way Manziel played, he proved himself absolutely correct when he said the other day that “I’m not ready for Pittsburgh” on Sept. 7. He’s not even close.

He entered the game on the third Cleveland series after Joe Haden picked off a Robert Griffin III pass with 5:26 left in the opening quarter. His first throw was behind open tight end Jordan Cameron.

And then it got worse when Mitchell Schwartz missed a block, allowing Ryan Kerrigan to sack Manziel.

Hoyer produced no points and no first downs in four series. A premature snap by Alex Mack on the first play of the game resulted in a sack and a subsequent false start against Joe Thomas got the Browns off to a rollicking start.

It was a sign, a portent of what was to eventuate. It has to make Pettine wonder if he might have made a mistake by making his quarterback intentions known too soon. After what he saw Monday night, he might have to reevaluate his situation and delay his nominee for the season opener.

Although neither quarterback can hold his head high after this one, there really is only one decision Pettine can make if he insists on sticking with his schedule and that is to name Hoyer as his starter.

Based on what Manziel has shown thus far, he in no way deserves to be even considered for the Pittsburgh opener. He looked uncomfortable all evening, especially when he lined up under center. He is clearly out of his element.

Right now, it seems as though the speed and quickness of the game has overwhelmed him. And if he thinks the game is fast now, wait until the regular season when the speed and quickness of the game is ramped up even further.

The frustration of the evening for the rookie showed when he flipped the Washington bench the bird following a third-quarter incompletion. Got to have thicker skin than that.

“ I felt like I did a good job of holding my composure throughout the night and you have a lapse of judgment and slip up,” he told reporters after the game. Was it wrong? “I don’t think it was a positive,” he said, citing a lack of composure at that moment.

The defense tried to help the two Cleveland quarterbacks with three turnovers in the first half. The best they could do with it was a 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. Opportunities like that do not come along often and must be taken advantage of.

The defense also came up with a strong goal-line stand early in the second quarter, but the offense did not take the cue.

The offense under Manziel produced 11 first downs, six by penalty on an evening when the officials called more than 20 penalties. At several points, it seemed as though referee Terry McAulay’s crew grabbed for the yellow laundry on every other play.

Only one of the Browns’ touchdowns came via a legitimate drive (16 plays, 68 yards) with Dion Lewis punching it in from the 8 on a middle screen pass from Manziel early in what turned out to be a 20-point fourth quarter for the Browns.

Veteran safety Jim Leonhard’s pick 6 agave the Browns a 17-14 lead and tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi caught a Hail Mary pass from Shaw in the end zone on the game’s final play after a deflection by Willie Snead to pull within a point at 24-23.

The Browns went for two points, but Shaw’s pass intended for Charles Johnson was overthrown.

The Redskins scored most of their points against the Cleveland reserves with cornerback Royce Adams burned twice on scoring throws, one by Kirk Cousins and the other by ex-Brown Colt McCoy.

If nothing else, this game proved the defense will not be a problem this season as long as the offense pulls its weight. Right now, though, it looks as though that offense isn’t even close to locating its personality.

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