GM Ray Farmer of the Cleveland Browns must really think we’re all just a bunch of dopes. Manziel-mania started in Cleveland the moment the Browns drafted him, and it only seems to be growing. It’s a clamor that has seen more money spent on Johnny Manziel-related merchandise than the GDP of some small countries. We’ve already had a Manziel theme song come out. Shoes, jerseys, even a Manziel beer – and oh yeah, they’ve also seen a dramatic spike in season ticket sales. Despite all of that, Farmer and the Browns continue to insist that Manziel will remain behind both Brian Hoyer and Tyler Thigpen on the depth chart.
Clearly, having Manziel wait to take his reps behind Hoyer and Thigpen during OTAs was a calculated move. The Browns got to show the press that they haven’t given the keys to the franchise to Manziel – despite the fact that they traded up in the draft to take him when he shot them a text telling them to take him – and also reminding him that he is in fact, still a rookie and that he needs to manage his expectations because he’s got a lot to learn still.
Farmer tried to further underscore the point with some recent comments to the media:
“I want the best quarterback to start. Who is the best quarterback? Brian Hoyer. I would tell you that Hoyer is better than Manziel by a substantial margin.”
Needless to say, it’s been quite the dog and pony show out there in Cleveland.
Though, to be fair, at this stage of the game – with Manziel taking his very first snaps as a pro – Hoyer, who’s been around for a few years, probably does look a bit better than the rookie. It’s probably to be expected at this point. But the fact of the matter is that Hoyer has a career QB rating of 77.4 to go along with exactly seven touchdowns against six interceptions. As a starting quarterback, Hoyer is incredibly mediocre. At best. He does do a great job of holding a clipboard, though, so he has that going for him.
Yet Farmer, and even head coach Mike Pettine want us to believe that Hoyer is the team’s first choice to run their offense, that he gives the Browns the best opportunity to win. And if you really believe that, I have some lovely timeshares on Mars I’d like to sell you.
The Browns have gone out of their way to lower the expectations of both Manziel, and of their fanbase. But the truth of the matter is that Brian Hoyer – he of a whopping four career starts – cannot carry the franchise. He cannot lead the Browns to the playoffs, and he absolutely cannot lead Cleveland to Super Bowl glory. And the organization knows it.
Whatever you may personally think of him, Manziel has stirred passion and excitement in a city long bereft of both. If the Browns are going to lose – and they will – the fans would most definitely rather see them do it with Johnny Football under center than with Brian Hoyer.
Cleveland drafted Manziel to be their quarterback and the face of their franchise. This rookie treatment in his first days in that role are likely little more than an attempt to put his Texas-sized ego in check. But he does give the Browns a better shot to win some games than Hoyer or Thigpen. He knows it. The team knows it. And despite the smokescreens Farmer and Pettine are throwing up, they know it – and of course, anybody who knows football knows it too.
About the only real quarterback competition going on in Cleveland right now is over who gets the better stall in the locker room. But everybody from the front office to Manziel himself are simply going through the motions, continuing to do and say all the right things. But the odds that Cleveland will win the Super Bowl this year are better than the odds that Manziel won’t be under center when the season opens.