After watching both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel take first team reps against the Washington Redskins on Monday night, I thought there was a good possibility that my planned Friday wrap-up article for the Browns QB duel would have to wait for another week. Neither Hoyer or Manziel impressed during their time on the field, and it was Manziel who grabbed the most attention, once again not for his play, but for flipping the bird to the Redskins sideline.
Throughout the game, it felt like neither quarterback was on the same page as the rest of the offense, and this resulted in dropped passes, missed routes, and inaccurate throws from both Hoyer and Manziel. The Browns coaching staff has been criticized for the way they have handled the competition, mostly due to the fact both Hoyer and Manziel have split time, preventing either quarterback from building cohesion with the rest of the offense.
It was initially rumored that Browns head coach Mike Pettine would announce the starter for the season opener on Tuesday. When no announcement was made, many thought this was an indicator that the Browns were not yet ready to name a starting quarterback. Alas, on Wednesday, Pettine made it official and announced that Hoyer would start the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I am sure there will be plenty of over reaction to the Browns decision to go with Hoyer over Manziel, along with some displeasure from the media outlets that stood to profit from Manziel winning the competition. However, this is the best decision the Browns could make after two preseason games. It is clear that Manziel is not ready to start an NFL regular season game (he is struggling enough as it is in preseason) and Hoyer has the starting experience. Hoyer has struggled as well, and perhaps that could be due to the added pressure of a quarterback competition. Some may say that is an indication that he is unable to handle pressure, but when you have every major sports network rooting for the other guy (who just so happened to be hand picked by the owner of the franchise), I think some nerves from Hoyer could be excused.
Pettine made it clear that there is no “leash” on Hoyer, the job is his to run with. However, the Browns have a difficult schedule to start the 2014 season; the opener against Pittsburgh is followed by games against New Orleans and Baltimore. An 0-3 start is not out of the question, which coincidentally would lead right into their Week 4 bye. If the Browns are any worse than 2-1, the calls for Manziel will begin and the entire quarterback competition will be called into question.
What Mike Pettine and the Browns just bought themselves was more time. Hoyer will get more experience as the starter during preseason and can start preparing mentally for an important season opener against the Steelers. Manziel can now focus on his development and start building the skills necessary to be the starting quarterback for the Browns. Perhaps the middle finger incident was in fact the final nail in the coffin for Manziel, and if so hopefully it serves as a valuable lesson that the “Johnny Football Circus” needs to end.
This isn’t a new situation for Johnny Manziel, he was so far behind in preparation for his first season at Texas A&M that he was immediately red shirted.
I knew it would be a big step, a big learning process. If people would have seen me my first year at A&M they would’ve said no way this kid could get to where I’m at today. People don’t understand that my first year-and-a-half at A&M I was terrible.
-Courtesy of Cincinnati.com
As has been the case throughout the Browns quarterback competition, we must do our best to avoid the media circus and understand that Mike Pettine and the Browns coaching staff are going with the guy who gives them the best chance to win now, and that guy happens to be Brian Hoyer. It was always his job to lose. The decision to make Manziel number two is not indictment of his future with the Browns and by no means makes him a draft bust. While there have been several success stories in regards to rookie quarterbacks starting in their first season, there are just as many who had to bide their time as the backup. The Browns cannot miss with Manziel. Therefore, it is better to let him grow as a player on and off the field, while also seeing what you have in Brian Hoyer.