Manziel now the man
Now that he has switched gears on his quarterback, Mike Pettine must not attach a leash to rookie Johnny Manziel in his starting debut this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s only fair because the Browns’ coach did not attach one to Brian Hoyer when he had every reason to in the Indianapolis loss last Sunday.
Manziel must be allowed to quarterback the Browns unfettered the rest of the way this season. Good, bad or otherwise, he should be given every opportunity to prove himself as a National Football League quarterback.
In elevating Manziel to the top spot, Pettine said, “This decision is really not about Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel. It is about the Cleveland Browns. We are trying to make decisions we feel are in the best interests of the team.”
If that is, indeed, the case and it’s all about the Browns, why didn’t Pettine make the obvious move in the Colts game when the ineptitude of the offense throughout the game all but begged for a change?
The coach made such a move in the loss to Buffalo the week before. He said his team needed a spark at the time and Manziel provided it. Then he sat that spark back down in favor of a quarterback who hasn’t played well since week six.
Reaching for a reason to justify his switch to Manziel, Pettine said, “Johnny has worked very hard to earn this opportunity and it will be very important for every member of the offense to elevate their play for us to obtain the desired result.”
Question: What makes Manziel any better this week than he was last week? Why is he so much better that he is now ready to take on the NFL with the full confidence of the coaching staff?
Answer: He’s not any better today than he was yesterday. Or the day before. Or the day before that. And the coaching staff is crossing its fingers he doesn’t do anything stupid.
But you know he will. He’ll make rookie mistakes. It’s bound to happen. Rookies make mistakes. That’s a fact. They just don’t step in and perform as though they’ve played the game for several seasons. Pettine will have to live with that.
Count on Manziel to dazzle on one play and puzzle on the next. He’ll make plays that will have you shaking your head and wondering, “How did he do that?” And then he’ll make plays that will make you say, “What in the world was he thinking?” Get used to it.
He’ll be dynamic, exasperating, unpredictable and highly competitive. And you will be riveted to everything he does.
The only reason Manziel has been tapped to start the rest of the season is because Hoyer has become a bad quarterback and is hurting his team. The 7-6 Browns could very easily be challenging for the AFC North lead with at least a 9-4 record with any decent play from the most important position on the team.
Pettine tried to soften the blow for Hoyer, suggesting the deposed starter would have played better with help from his teammates. “The quarterback is only as good as his supporting cast, so when the guys around him play well, Brian plays well,” he said. “It’s rare that a quarterback can transcend his supporting cast.”
That’s right. Blame his teammates. That will sit well in the locker room (sarcasm intended). Members of the offense will love that little quote. Many of them have been around long enough to know bad quarterbacking when they see it.
Most notable are the receivers who are open and either overthrown or have to reach back for passes. And the offensive linemen who have given him solid protection for the most part only to see him miss wide-open receivers.
How about the defense that turns the ball over in plus territory for Hoyer only to watch him squander those opportunities game in and game out. Twenty turnovers in the last eight games have produced 39 points.
Is that what Pettine means when he says Hoyer plays well when those around him do, too?
Most of the team sees what most of us see: A quarterback whose accuracy has plummeted to the point where he is totally ineffective. Opposing defenses try to shut down the Browns' running game, daring Hoyer to throw the ball. Now they've got the mercurial Manziel to deal with.
Up to now, Pettine managed to justify keeping Hoyer under center, citing his record as a starter. After the Colts’ loss, though, he has run out of reasons. He really had no choice.
And now that the coach finally has made that choice, the circus that always seems to accompany Manziel will open its turnstiles for at least the next three games as the national sports spotlight shines on Cleveland.
For better or worse, Manziel has now become the face of this franchise. And he didn’t have to do anything special to achieve that status.
Bottom line: Manziel did not earn the starting job. Hoyer lost it.