The Cleveland Browns are comfortable with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback in Week 1 if that is the way the chips fall. However, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel is not going quietly. Even though Browns head coach Mike Pettine does not want to fully admit it, Manziel is making a serious case to be the opening day starter. At the very least, he is ahead in his progress of where Cleveland expected him to be at this point.
“He’s been impressive,” Pettine said on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning. “He’s probably slightly ahead of the learning curve where we figured he would’ve been. I think a big part of it for him is it’s essentially him getting the playbook and it has been for a while. And I think he’s finally starting to settle down with it.”
What the average fan may not realize is that there is a lot for a rookie quarterback to digest in his first preseason, especially a player who is legitimately competing for a starting job. There is the complicated playbook language that must be memorized well enough to the point where Manziel can call plays in his sleep. Not to mention, he also must know exactly where everyone else is on the field in case of someone not doing what he is supposed to. That means Manziel not only must memorize is own actions in a given play, but also everyone else’s actions.
Manziel completed seven of his 11 pass attempts for 63 yards and a 79.0 quarterback rating against the Detroit Lions in his first preseason game. He also rushed for a team-high 27 yards.
However, just because Manziel outplayed the other two Browns quarterbacks who saw action in the game does not mean Pettine is ready to name him the starter. There is still a very long process in which Cleveland must work overtime to figure out who is the right man for the job.
“I have two guys that know quarterback play really well in Kyle Shanahan and Dowell Loggains. And we’ll sit down, the three of us, probably include Ray Farmer as well so he can hear us debate it back and forth,” Pettine said. “It’s all going to come down to who can give us the best chance to win a football game. And we’re not going to feel pressure — I know there’s the external pressure of a lot of people want to see the rookie out there. We understand that. But we’re in the football business here and we have to make the decision we feel is best for the Cleveland Browns.”
As of right now, Hoyer and Manziel will get equal playing time with the starters until one of them begins to emerge from the other.