Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Manziel ‘leap’ nets starting job

News: Browns name Johnny Manziel starting quarterback for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Views: Shocking. Stunning. Can’t believe it. Tell me it’s not true. Josh McCown must be devastated. All right, enough with the sarcasm.

But c’mon, what took them so long?

It took the better part of two seasons, but the war between Manziel lovers and Manziel haters is now underway with the latest announcement from Berea. Let the fun begin. Fans finally get to see what the college phenom can do on a consistent basis on a much higher plane.

Coach Mike Pettine made the switch to Manziel based on the quarterback’s performance in one game. At first, the kid’s strong showing against Pittsburgh Sunday wasn’t what convinced the coach. After the game, in fact, he was non-committal.

After all, he watched Manziel throw for 372 yards from one of the worst seats in the house. Then he watched the game tape and saw a different quarterback.

What Pettine saw apparently motivated him to finally make the move. “He showed significant progress,” he said of his new starter. “That was one of the better quarterback performances.”

Other than his poor start, when he fumbled the ball away while attempting to pass on the Browns’ first offensive play of the game, setting up a Pittsburgh field goal, Manziel did not embarrass himself.

“The fact he rallied from that (fumble),” Pettine said, “on the road in that environment – I’ve seen where things have gone bad early and guys go in the tank and they get that glazed look in their eyes.

“He was the exact opposite. He was loose. He was into it. . . . I just thought the improvement he made from the Cincinnati (loss) to this one was a leap. . . . I just wish we had a better result from a team standpoint because he played his ass off.”

You could also see the difference in Manziel’s eyes. They radiated the kind of confidence that seemed to be missing earlier. The deer-in-the-headlights look is gone.

The new poise has helped him confidently make pre-snap adjustments at the line of scrimmage after the initial play call. No longer is he tentative and uncertain. His command of the huddle was definitely obvious in the Pittsburgh game.

He made mistakes, but that is to be expected of someone so young with so little experience at this level. But you can see he is learning. He is trying to do what his coach wants and stay in the pocket as long as possible.

Some fans, hopefully not that many, would be incorrect to call this a bad move, the wrong move. At this juncture, it is best described as a necessary move considering the alternative.

Returning to McCown is like recycling old oatmeal. We know what the National Football League vagabond can do. We don’t need to see any more to know he will be slapping a new sticker on his luggage next season.

There is no question he has been a warrior and has the lumps and aching rib cage to prove it. But he is not the future of this team. Why it took this long to discover that is what disappoints.

You can bet Manziel will be watched closely, especially by his detractors. His every move will be dissected ad infinitum. After all, he’s Johnny Football trying to make his mark in an entirely different arena.

And then there’s all the attention off the field.

Remember what it was like at Manziel’s first training camp about 16 months ago? The scrutiny he received from the national media? All the distractions played havoc with any semblance of order for rookie coach Mike Pettine.

Members from both aisles of the media landscape – local and national – were daily visitors as they charted practically every move Manziel made as though his anointing as the starter was a foregone conclusion. When Brian Hoyer was named starter, as he should have been, the national people disappeared.

And now that Manziel has been elevated to starter status, the national media again will take notice. Count on them returning to Berea. Maybe not as much as before because a lot of the luster has rubbed off, but more than a few will be back with their microscopes.

Playing under a microscope will not be easy, but I get the impression Manziel doesn’t really care at this point. He’s smart enough to realize this might be his best – and maybe only – chance to prove his detractors wrong. The next six games conceivably will serve as a dress rehearsal for the rest of his career.

His first start as the permanent starter will be against the Baltimore Ravens 13 days from today at home in front of a national television audience with the ESPN Monday Night Football crew.

One of Manziel’s biggest boosters coming out of Texas A&M was Jon Gruden, ESPN’s MNF analyst. His comments about the new Cleveland Browns quarterback should make for some very interesting television.


  1. Hopefully, Gruden will point out that this coaching staff doesn't have a clue! For example, Duke Johnson has disappeared in the second half of every game, for no apparent reason.

  2. Gruden usually does not criticize, but he might not be able to contain himself once he sees how this coaching staff works.