Cleveland poised to start Johnny Manziel Era – But Brian Hoyer not convinced

Cleveland Browns v Washington RedskinsPrior to last week’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel had attempted just one pass this season. However, he finally got some meaningful time on the field in a game against the Buffalo Bills. Manziel completed 5-of-8 passes for 63 yards and added two rushes for 13 yards. Most importantly, he led the Browns to their only touchdown of the game, taking the ball in himself on a speedy 10-yard run.

Given that the Browns used a first-round pick on Manziel this past spring, it seems like they’re ready to cash in on the investment. But (possibly former) starting QB Brian Hoyer doesn’t think his time is over under center just yet.

“This is my team,” Hoyer said after the game. “I’ve always felt that way. Obviously you never want to see someone else doing your job. It was a coach’s decision.”

Whether or not this is truly Hoyer’s team remains to be seen. Head coach Mike Pettine did not notify him that he’d be benched over the final 12 minutes of the game, with Cleveland trailing 20-3. Pettine also said that he’d decide by Wednesday on who will start the Week 14 contest against Indianapolis.

johnny-manziel-vs-browns-1A few more nights of sleep may do little to influence Pettine’s decision. After all, Hoyer’s play over the past three games has been pretty bad. He’s thrown one touchdown and six interceptions during this period, leading Cleveland to a 1-2 record. The lone victory included a 26-24 win over Atlanta, where Hoyer threw zero TD’s and three interceptions.

Now this isn’t to say that the Cleveland native hasn’t done well for his local team. Hoyer has led the Browns to a respectable 7-5 record and made some excellent plays in crunch time. However, he’s also had some low points and lately hasn’t looked anything like a reliable franchise quarterback. Plus Hoyer had difficulty hooking up with Josh Gordon last game, who’s coming off a 12-game suspension and looking to reprise his explosive role of last year.

Given Cleveland’s record and the fact that they’re still alive in the playoff race, one might question changing quarterbacks at this point. However, it’s also worth noting that the Bengals have a game-and-a-half lead in the AFC North with just four contests remaining, while the Browns are tied with the Ravens and Steelers at 7-5. Seeing as how Cleveland holds none of the tiebreakers, it seems unlikely that they’ll emerge as division champions or even make the postseason.

So it make sense to give Manziel a shot right now, especially considering that Hoyer’s quarterback play isn’t exactly inspiring now. The remaining schedule won’t be entirely rookie-friendly, with home games against Indy and Cincinnati, followed by road contests at Carolina and Baltimore. Then again, it won’t be impossible for Manziel to experience success against this lineup either.

But first thing’s first, Johnny Football must be named the starter on Wednesday. It seems likely, and if that does happen, Hoyer promises that he’ll remained focused:

“I’m never going to just hang my head and feel sorry for myself. We have four games left and whatever coach decides to do, I’ll be here to support this team and obviously I feel like this is my team and this is my job so we’ll see what happens moving forward.”

Johnny Manziel closing in on Browns’ Starting QB Job

johnny-manziel-browns-starterBased on how eventful his offseason was, it was a wonder if Johnny Manziel would be prepared enough to complete a screen pass this year. But after his preseason debut against the Detroit Lions, Manziel has a legitimate chance to win the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback job.

The Texas A&M product completed 7-of-11 passes for 64 yards and added another 27 rushing yards. Along the way, he showed some of the same “Johnny Football” play-making ability that he often flashed with the Aggies.

Of course, Manziel’s competition, Brian Hoyer, is also pretty good. So it’s definitely a toss-up as to who’ll be starting in Cleveland’s September 7th season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It’s been fierce,” Brown’s safety Donte Whitner said. “Two guys fighting for their lives. It’s close. I’d say (the locker room) is split about 50-50. We know they both can play.”

Manziel could go a long ways towards winning the starting job with a strong performance against the Washington Redskins on August 18th. He and Hoyer will also have a chance to make their case on August 23rd, in the team’s third preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. According to head coach Mike Pettine, this is the point that could ultimately decide who becomes Cleveland’s top signal caller.

johnny-manziel-browns-starter-1“It’s not 1,000% etched in stone, but I would like it (decided) before then,” Pettine said. “The reviews of him (Manziel) in the pocket have been positive, that he has a good sense of the pocket; that he feels the rush without looking at it. A lot of quarterbacks have an issue with that. They’re more looking at the rush than feeling it. He’s definitely a work in progress with that. But he’s shown solid improvement.”

As the coach points out, Manziel still needs work on staying in the pocket and letting his offensive line do their job, rather than running at the first sign of trouble. Assuming the 21-year-old can learn this aspect, then he could potentially become the same type of duel threat that he was at Texas A&M. Furthermore, Manziel could not only start in Cleveland, but also become one of the league’s better QB’s.

One thing that’s for sure, though, is that nothing has been decided at this point. Pettine made it a point to mention this amid a report that Manziel has already passed Hoyer on the depth chart. “It’s untrue,” the coach said. “The people most involved in the decision is myself, (QB coach) Dowell Loggains and (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan. It’s something I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to because I don’t like being in the business of team sources.”

So what’s the deal? Will Johnny Manziel be bringing his electrifying style of play to FirstEnergy Stadium every Sunday? And from a betting perspective, could he even win the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year award? If you already have an answer to the last question, get to and make your ROY bet for or against Manziel.

2014 NFL Rookie of the Year Betting: Where does Johnny Manziel fit in?

johnny-manziel-brownsIf you’re looking for a favorite to win the 2014 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel is certainly an intriguing name. According to our sportsbook at, he currently carries the second-best odds at 8-to-1, tied with Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron and Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans. All three currently trail Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins, whom we’ve given 6-to-1 odds of winning the ROTY.

Anyways, focusing on Manziel, does he really have what it takes to be a dominant player in his rookie season. Well if we’re judging this based on offseason activities, Johnny Football may not be the best-prepared player when the 2014 NFL season kicks off. He set an unofficial record for partying with the most celebrities in his very first offseason, something that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has finally gotten tired of. “I think the really great athletes make their news on the field, not off the field,” Haslam said. “Has that message sunk in yet? We’ll see.”

Of course, few people are doubting Manziel’s on-field skills. The Texas A&M product became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy award after passing for over 3,000 yards and rushing for over 1,000 yards. In all, he tallied 7,820 passing yards, 63 passing TD’s, 22 INT’s, 2,169 rushing yards and 30 rushing TD’s in his two years with the Aggies. And that’s what Manziel would like everybody to remember going into the season as he stated:

johnny-manziel-browns-1Here’s the thing I want to say. The reason I’m popular, the reason people follow me and there’s been such a buzz around me, when I went out on Saturdays at Texas A&M, I played with an extreme amount of passion and I played with my heart on my sleeve. But more than anything I had fun. I had fun playing this game, I had fun going on out on this field playing football. That’s what I live for, that’s what I do. The same thing off the field. Whether I’m going out and playing golf, whether it’s going out and having the nightlife, whatever it is, I’m having fun. That’s what my life is. And luckily for me I’m living out my dream of playing in the NFL, having a ton of fun.

Manziel went on to say that he doesn’t want to use being 21 as an excuse, but he still has some maturing to do. These aren’t usually the comments that we hear from future rookie-of-the-year winners. So this definitely casts some skepticism on how the quarterback could perform in 2014. Another thing that Manziel has to worry about is Brian Hoyer, who showed some major promise last season.

Hoyer played high school ball at Cleveland St. Ignatius, went undrafted from Michigan State, then backed up Tom Brady in three seasons at New England. He’s an unheralded, gritty player who’s spent most of his career as an understudy – pretty much the opposite of Manziel. If the latter doesn’t look ready, Hoyer is more than capable of starting a portion or all of the year, as he proved by racking up 615 passing yards, 5 TD’s and 3 INT’s before getting injured.

So the first step for Manziel will be proving that he can play the position better than Hoyer, which is no small task. Assuming Johnny Football can win the starting job at some point, the next task will be rekindling some of that magic he showed at Texas A&M. Given his multi-threat skills, this isn’t an impossible feat. But Manziel is going to have to remain 100% focused moving forward.

Why did the Cleveland Browns fire Rob Chudzinski?

rod-chudzinskiMost new NFL head coaches are given 2-3 years before an organization makes a decision on their job status. This being said, it was extremely puzzling when the Cleveland Browns decided to fire Rob Chudzinkski after just one season.

Chudzinski had just completed the first year of a four-year contract when he received news of the firing. So why was the former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator dumped after his lone season in Cleveland? Well there’s the organization’s stated reason, and also the reasons why many insiders thought Chud was axed. Let’s look at the team’s media statement first:

We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year. Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there’s an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.

After hearing this statement and looking at the Browns’ record over the past 11 games, there are some glaringly obvious reasons why Chud was fired. They began the year with some promise after starting off 3-2. However, they won just one out of their last 11 contests, including a seven-game losing streak to close out the season.

rob-chudzinskiThere were two weeks in a row that were particularly telling of this season, where the Browns lost to Jacksonville at home, then blew a 12-point lead against New England with three minutes left. Couple this with losses to the Bears, Jets and Steelers to close out the year, and you can definitely see how this year ended on a sour note.

Beyond the losing, the front office felt that Chudzinski’s players showed a lack of accountability and effort as the season wore on. They especially felt that Brandon Weeden and Greg Little weren’t held accountable for their poor play. One prevalent thought was that as the coaching staff spent more time with the players, the worse they were getting.

Another point worth making here is how the Browns organization sees a couple of talented coaches that they like. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are rumored to be at the top of Cleveland’s list. Given Chud’s perceived shortcomings as the Browns coach, it seems like a perfect time for this team to chase another top-notch coaching prospect.

Of course, Chud didn’t leave this job without some public outcry – most notable from many of his players. D’Qwell Jackson was really critical of the move as he said, “After the Trent Richardson trade and our quarterback injuries, I thought for sure he’d get a pass. Not one year. Come on. One year? There’s no way. Chud was good for us, good for the team. He came in and did everything right, I thought.”

As Jackson referred to, the team lost Weeden to injury for an extended time period while Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury. Plus the team traded Richardson just two games into the season and never truly replaced him with a decent starting running back. But despite all of this, management apparently felt that their team was talented enough to win more than four games.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 5 (Oct. 2nd, 2013)

alex-smith-kansas-cityWho would have thought coming into this season that after four weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs would be among the league’s unbeatens? Thanks to a stingy defense, the Chiefs have looked marvelous over the first four games. They’re in a truly elite class now since New England, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle are the only other undefeated teams. Now it’s time to sort out how they all rank, along with the rest of the league.

1. Denver Broncos (4-0); beat Philadelphia 52-20, retains same ranking – Another game, another blowout. Denver will face some tough tests eventually, but these tests will be few and far between. The only thing the Broncos see ahead of them right now is a title.

2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0); beat Houston 23-20 (OT), retains same ranking – The Seahawks looked dominated in the first half after falling behind Houston 20-3. But they showed the heart of a champion after storming back, thanks to a second-half shutout pitched by the defense. Whenever Russell Wilson breaks out, this team can truly compete with Denver.

3. New Orleans (4-0); beat Miami 38-17, retains same ranking – The Saints defense once again turned in an impressive defensive performance against a tough team. Although they keep the same spot, New Orleans did gain some ground on Seattle in our rankings.

4. New England Patriots (4-0); beat Atlanta 30-23, retains same ranking – To go into Atlanta and grab a win against a desperate Falcons team really shows something. Tom Brady has turned spare parts into gold in the early season. Just think what he’ll do with a healthy Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0); beat New York Giants 31-7, moves up 3 spots – The Chiefs just keep winning and rising. Aside from a blown coverage on Victor Cruz, this team thoroughly dominated the Giants and will be extremely tough to beat at Arrowhead.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2-2); beat St. Louis 35-11, moves up 3 spotsfrank-gore-san-franciscoFollowing two rough weeks against Seattle and Indianapolis, the Niners looked strong in St. Louis. Frank Gore finally had his first good game after racking up 153 yards and a TD on just 20 carries.

7. Chicago Bears (3-1); lost to Detroit 40-32, drops 2 spots – The Bears could’ve fallen further, but multiple top 10 teams lost this week. Jay Cutler made a nice fourth-quarter comeback after giving up four turnovers. But you have to worry about the defense, which was gashed by Reggie Bush.

8. Detroit Lions (3-1); beat Chicago 40-32, moves up 7 spots – The difference between having and not having Reggie Bush is tremendous for this team. He racked up 139 yards and a TD on only 18 carries. Detroit vs. Chicago on a neutral field would be a real nail-biter.

9. Miami Dolphins (3-1); lost to New Orleans 38-17, drops 2 spots – This is another team that could have tumbled a lot further. And they were largely noncompetitive on both sides of the ball against New Orleans. However, losing on the road to one of the NFL’s elite isn’t such an embarrassment.

10. Indianapolis Colts (3-1); beat Jacksonville 37-3, moves up 3 spots – No complaints with how they handled the Jaguars. The defense has looked rock solid for two straight weeks. And the offense is complete with Andrew Luck behind center and Trent Richardson running the ball.

11. Green Bay Packers (1-2); bye week, moves up 4 spots – It’s funny how good you can look just by not playing. The NFC North race should be hotly contested with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago all gunning for the title.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2); lost to Cleveland 17-6, drops 6 spots –  Nobody saw this one coming, especially when the Browns traded away Richardson two weeks ago. It’s an ugly loss for the Bengals, but they are still tied for first in the AFC North.

13. Houston Texans; lost to Seattle 23-20, drops 2 spots – The Texans couldn’t finish off the NFC’s top team while they had them on the ropes. Houston has the pieces to be good, they just need to put everything together.

14. Baltimore Ravens (2-2); lost to Buffalo 23-20, drops 4 spots – A bad joe-flaccoweekend for the AFC North as the defending Super Bowl champs lost to the Bills. This defense can’t continue to cover for the mistakes of Flacco, who threw a career-worst five interceptions.

15. Atlanta Falcons (1-3); lost to New England 30-23, drops 3 spots – After a very strong year in 2012, the Falcons just don’t look the same. The defense is mainly to blame, especially since they surrendered 30 points at home to a team that’s missing several key starters.

16. San Diego Chargers (2-2); beat Dallas 30-21, moves up 4 spots – Philip Rivers has truly re-emerged this year. His performance against the Cowboys, which included 401 yards and 3 touchdowns, is perfect evidence of this.

17. Tennessee Titans (3-1); beat New York Jets 38-13, retains same ranking – In any other situation, the Titans would be 4-5 spots higher and in playoff contention. But now that they’ve lost QB Jake Locker for “multiple weeks,” this team will be hard-pressed to continue doing well. A brutal three-game stretch against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco awaits.

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2); lost to San Diego 30-21, drops 2 spots – How bad is the NFC East if Dallas is the best team with a .500 record? Even if Dallas continues on the same trajectory, they’re going to win the division and grab a postseason bid.

19. Carolina Panthers (1-2); bye week, moves up 2 spots – Once off to a dismal 0-2 start, Carolina is coming off a bye week and into a friendly four-game stretch against Arizona, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. They could win all four of these contests before things get tough again.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2); beat Baltimore 23-20, moves up 5 spots – The Bills got a nice home win against the Ravens, but it took five interceptions to pull this one out. Will a banged-up Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller take its toll?

21. Cleveland Browns (2-2); beat Cincinnati 17-6, moves up 6 spotsbrian-hoyer-clevelandIt’s hard to know if the Browns are for real at this point. But Brian Hoyer, Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon have breathed new life into this team, which has them thinking about the playoffs.

22. Arizona Cardinals (2-2); beat Tampa Bay 13-10, moves up 1 spot – CB Patrick Peterson came alive in the second half, picking off two crucial passes to lead Arizona to a come-from-behind victory.

23. New York Jets (2-2); lost to Tennessee 38-13, drops 5 spots – The fact that New York is .500 at this point is already surprising. If only rookie Geno Smith could quit making careless mistakes, this team could really exceed expectations.

24. Washington Redskins (1-3); beat Oakland 24-14, moves up 2 spots – Things looked bleak for the Redskins when they were down 14-0 in the first quarter. However, they battled back and finally notched a win. Amazingly, they’re just one game out of the NFC East lead.

25. Minnesota Vikings (1-3); beat Pittsburgh 34-27, moves up 3 spots – Christian Ponder remains the starting quarterback, despite the fact that backup Matt Cassel led Minnesota to their only win. But how long will Ponder start if he continues losing?

26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3); lost to Denver 52-20, drops 7 spots – Nobody expected the Eagles to walk into Mile High and shut down the Broncos. But isn’t offense supposed to be Chip Kelly’s specialty?

27. St. Louis Rams (1-3); lost to San Francisco 35-11, drops 5 spots – The Rams started the season respectably, but have regressed in the last two blowout losses. However, they have an excellent shot at winning in Jacksonville this weekend.

28. New York Giants (0-4); lost to Kansas City 31-7, drops 4 spots – Few would’ve predicted that New York would be this bad in the early going. They’ll try to get their first win against a slumping Philly team.

29. Oakland Raiders (1-3); lost to Washington 24-14, moves up 1 spot – They lost, but move up because Terrelle Pryor returns this week. Oh, and if there was any inkling of Matt Flynn regaining his starting job, it ended Sunday.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops 1 spot – The falling cry of the Steelers this year has always been “At least their defense is good.” Well it turns out that this isn’t even true. There is some promise in rookie RB Le’Veon Bell though.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4); lost to Arizona 13-10, retains same ranking – Are the Buccaneers drafting a quarterback next year, or is rookie third-rounder Mike Glennon the future? If it’s the latter, he’s got to stop making stupid decisions like throwing towards Peterson late in a game.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4); lost to Indianapolis 37-3, retains same ranking – Is there any reason to believe this team can avoid going 0-16? We can’t think of one.

Brian Hoyer to start Third Straight Game for Cleveland Browns

brian-hoyer-clevelandTheir opening day quarterback Brandon Weeden goes down with an injury. They trade away franchise running back Trent Richardson after a dismal 0-2 start. And yet, the Cleveland Browns are now tied for the AFC North division lead with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

And a large part of Cleveland’s success is due to the emergence of backup QB Brian Hoyer. In all actuality though, Hoyer may have earned himself the permanent starting role. He’s been named the starter for a third straight week, while the status of Weeden and his injured thumb are unknown.

Regardless of whether or not Weeden is healthy enough to play, it doesn’t appear that Cleveland is overly concerned about him. Instead, they’re embracing Hoyer and looking to forward to seeing if he can lead them to the playoffs.

brian-hoyer-cleveland-1Now this may all sound quite unrealistic, given that many people thought the Browns were mailing it in following the Richardson trade. But as previously stated, Cleveland is tied atop a mediocre division and faces Buffalo this week. The Bills are also 2-2, but the Browns will be at home and should be favored in this contest.

Basically, Hoyer has provided new life to a team that was previously looking to fight with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the league’s top pick next season. Through two games, he’s racked up 590 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 3 INT’s and a 59.8% completion rate.

Of course, it’s important not to look too far ahead because all of this hype has been created in two games. And the NFL season is a long grind with 12 games left to go. But if Cleveland can beat Buffalo on Thursday and remain on top of the AFC North, it will bring Brian Hoyer hysteria to an all-time high.