Monday, December 7, 2015

Murphy’s Law strikes again

(Johnny Manziel's return to the starting job was reported Monday by ESPN and labeled "premature" by Browns coach Mike Pettine. There has been no official announcement by the club, but it is expected Tuesday. The following is written based on that notion.)

Well that was quick.

Sorry, Austin Davis, but back to the bench you go after your one-game audition as starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

Unfortunately, it was the Cincinnati Bengals you had to beat Sunday, or at least put forth a reasonable facsimile of a solid performance.

Because you did not do that, although you had plenty of help in the failure department, your reward is another Sunday of holding a clipboard. And now, Browns fans, say hello again to . . .

Johnny Manziel, who the thinking heads at Dysfunction Central believe gives them the best chance to beat the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday at home, is back after serving two games in coach Mike Pettine’s doghouse.

Can’t help wondering if the decision to pardon Manziel for his off-the-field behavior was made on a higher level than coach. A much higher level. Like owner? We’ll never know, of course, but when you stop and think about it, that makes sense.

After all, it is widely believed Jimmy Haslam III is the man most responsible for Manziel’s place on the roster, his denials notwithstanding. And one can only imagine how furious the owner was after Sunday’s whacking by the Bengals.

It wouldn't surprise if the meeting between Haslam and Pettine following that embarrassment Sunday night might have gone something like this:

Haslam: Who is your quarterback for next Sunday?

Pettine: It’s too early to answer that question.

Haslam: It’s never too early to get your quarterback situation straight. Now who’s your quarterback for next Sunday?

Pettine: Well, we have only two quarterbacks on the roster unless you count Terrelle Pryor.

Haslam: Quit stalling. Have you given any thought about putting Manziel back in charge of the huddle?

Pettine: Well, he’s still in the mix.

Haslam: Does he give our team a better chance of beating the 49ers than Austin Davis?

Pettine: It depends on where his mind is.

Haslam: OK, Mr. Indecisive, your quarterback next Sunday will be Johnny Manziel regardless of where his mind is. Make the announcement Tuesday.

So once again, Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong – has struck 76 Lou Groza Blvd. in Berea as the National Football League’s stepchild once again makes the wrong move.

If Haslam or Pettine or meddling team President Alec Scheiner believes Manziel could have done any better than Davis against the Bengals, they are not paying attention.

The only difference is that Manziel would have conducted every play like a fire drill against the Bengals’ defense, which mounted pressure on Davis from the first snap and ratcheted it up incrementally as the game wore on.

He suffered greatly because of a receivers corps that was semi-crippled to begin with at the start of the game and suffered two more losses early on. If Haslam and Scheiner thought Manziel would have done any better, they are delusional.

No telling how bad Davis’ statistics would have been if not for his quick release on nearly half his passes. The tipping point for the Ivory Tower decision might have been Davis’ two intentional grounding penalties and a backward pass that was ruled a fumble.

So now Manziel has four games to prove himself worthy of being the team’s starting quarterback heading into training camp next summer. Unless, of course, he strays off course again and is returned to Pettine’s doghouse.

He’s got to impress the brass against the 49ers, the Seahawks in Seattle, the Chiefs in Kansas City and the season finale at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A major story line in the 49ers game involves their defensive coordinator. Ex-Browns coach Eric Mangini runs a defense that has permitted just 21½ points a game in the last seven games after belching 28 a game in the first five games. And don’t for a minute think revenge won’t be uppermost on Mangini’s mind.

Then Manziel must go on the road to face two teams that have recovered nicely after poor starts.

First to Seattle to play Seahawks, who began the season 2-4 and looked nothing like the team that played in the last two Super Bowls. The Seahawks, always tough at home, have won six of the last seven games and look primed for another Super Bowl run.

Then come the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won their last six games after losing five of the first six, including a pair at home. By the time the Browns arrive, the Chiefs will be battling for a playoff spot.

So will the Steelers, who have worked their way back into the playoff picture since Ben Roethlisberger regained his health. There are few teams more dangerous than the Steelers when playoffs enter the conversation.

So what are the odds Manziel makes it through all four games unscathed? Maybe we haven’t seen the last of Austin Davis.


  1. The real question is who will be the fifth-string fill-in journeyman QB they sign to back Davis up when Manziel inevitably gets hurt in the next game or two.


  2. Are you available?

  3. HA! I was playing QB in tenth grade and broke my arm scrambling (what we called it way back then), haven't played in the 35 years since. Hey, come to think of it, maybe that DOES qualify me! :)


  4. You're hired. Ready to take your physical? Coach Pettine looks forward to meeting you.

    BTW, it's still called scrambling.

  5. Not a prayer. Manziel doesn't have a chance of winning a game. He has no receivers, offensive line or defense. The only reason to watch these last 4 games is to see how much more embarrassment can be heaped on Haslam, who evidently has gone into hiding.

  6. And that is why I don't think he will last all four games. As or Haslam, there's no telling when he'll come out of hiding. I'm guessing he now knows what Randy Lerner went through and is embarrassed.

    What will be interesting is to try and guess what spin he puts on the situation when he does surface. The only way to mollify the fans is to be straight with them and not dazzle them with double talk. If he can do that, the fans might cut him a bit of a break.

    1. If he is "straight" with the fans, he'll be the only one in the organization that has been!

  7. The guess here is he won't be. He needs to realize he is slowly losing a sector of the older fan base that has been loyal beyond all reason. The younger audience is not necessarily growing up sports fans, let alone Browns fans. To get them, the team needs to start winning now.