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.