Mike Pettine, please do yourself a favor and stop making your job — as head coach of the Cleveland Browns — more difficult than it has to be.
Don’t wait another second before you name Johnny Manziel your starting quarterback. He’s your guy. End of story.
You know it. I know it. We all know it.
I mean this as no disrespect to Brian Hoyer, who played two full games last season for the Browns and won both — first at the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 and then a week later at FirstEnergy Stadium against a talented Cincinnati Bengals team.
But this is Brian Hoyer we’re talking about. He’s limited. He has a decent arm and decent athleticism — I’ll give him that. But, at least to me, there’s nothing special about his game.
In the 15 NFL games that Hoyer appeared in prior to 2013, he was a combined 57-of-96 for 616 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
With the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, Hoyer served as a backup for 15 weeks to begin the season until getting his shot in Week 16 against the Chicago Bears. He replaced Ryan Lindley early in the third quarter and finished the game with 105 yards passing, one interception, and a QBR (scale 1-to-100) of 15.6.
At San Francisco one week later, in his sole start of the season, Hoyer threw for one touchdown and interception each and had a QBR of 41.2.
Huh? Surely I’m missing something because, from where I’m sitting, those two performances weren’t indicative of a starting NFL quarterback.
Remember, in his senior season at Michigan State in 2008, Hoyer struggled badly. He completed just 51 percent of his throws, threw as many interceptions (nine) as he did touchdowns, and threw for only 2,404 yards in 13 games.
Also keep in mind that Hoyer’s troubles came mostly against Big Ten competition. Manziel was consistently dominant for two seasons in the SEC, the home of college football’s best teams and best defenses.
As a freshman in 2012, Manziel broke Cam Newton’s SEC single season total yardage record and did it in two fewer games, no less.
Manziel wowed again and again, first against Arkansas (547 total yards and four total touchdowns) and then against Louisiana Tech (576 total yards and six total touchdowns) and later in Tuscaloosa against Nick Saban’s vaunted Alabama defense (344 total yards and an adjusted QBR of 95.1).
Then, versus Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, Manziel threw for 287 yards and ran for 229 more, accounting for four touchdowns in the process.
In December, Manziel was awarded the most prestigious trophy in sports: the Heisman, becoming the first freshman to win it.
Manziel wasn’t quite as flashy in his sophomore season, but he did look more NFL-ready. He ran the ball efficiently but more often chose to do his damage from the pocket. He completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns, 11 more than he threw as a freshman.
Months later, Manziel was taken 22nd overall in the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.
I’ll say it, even if nobody else will: Manziel, if given the opportunity, could be even more successful in Cleveland than he was in College Station.
Again, I hardly have any qualms with Hoyer. He just isn’t Johnny.
Johnny Football is a rock star. He’s as exciting off of the field as he is on it and has been seen partying or spending time with LeBron James, Drake, Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber.
You just don’t draft Manziel — and all that comes with him — in the first round and NOT make him your starting quarterback, especially not when the other option is Hoyer.
Of course, it’s not only the off-the-field noise that makes Johnny special.
Manziel has a lethal combination of competitiveness, quickness, speed, accuracy, and intelligence. He can make plays with his arm and also with his legs, but is smart enough — hence the high football intelligence — to know how to protect himself.
To sum it up: He’s the greatest playmaker I’ve ever seen.
Still, from the day Manziel was drafted, Browns coaches and executives have seemed adamant that Hoyer will ultimately start Week 1 at Pittsburgh. General manager Ray Farmer said on a Cleveland radio station in mid-May that Hoyer was better than Manziel by a “substantial margin.”
But now, weeks into Browns camp in Berea, it’s being reported that Manziel is “closing the gap” between himself and Hoyer, who was listed as the starter on the team’s first depth chart.
Bad news for Hoyer, because Manziel isn’t nearly the practice player that he is the in-game player.
Perhaps Manziel will outperform Hoyer by so much in the preseason games that the gap currently separating the two will become a gap in which Manziel has the edge.
Perhaps, if named the starter for Week 1, Manziel will waste little time before he begins to “wreck this league,” as he said he wanted to do in a draft day text to Browns quarterback coach Dowell Logans.
But perhaps we’ll only know just how good Manziel can be if he has the full support of his head coach.
Perhaps it’s time for Pettine to ditch his plan to let the quarterback competition play out through the first two weeks of preseason. Perhaps Pettine should give Manziel the starting quarterback reins, right now.