Is Anyone Really “Winning” the Cleveland Browns QB Battle?

By Casey Drottar
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t envy Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine.

Tasked with picking a starting quarterback between veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel, Pettine said he wanted to name a winner after last night’s preseason game against the Washington Redskins. With the team’s third preseason game coming up this Saturday, it was understandable for the new coach to want his starter named in time for the annual dress rehearsal game.

Well, if last night’s contest is what Pettine is going to base his decision on, good lord does he have a long day ahead of him.

Cleveland’s second preseason bout was a mess on multiple fronts, none worse than at quarterback. Both Hoyer and Manziel had glaring issues, and neither player even looked like they could be dubbed as a “safe pick.” Before the Washington game, some said picking between Hoyer and Manziel was a good problem for Pettine to have. Now, it’s just a problem.

Hoyer started out the game, and almost immediately looked to be having trouble. His throws were off, his timing was off, and he didn’t have an actual completion until his third reps with the first-team offense. He finished the night 2-of-6 for 16 yards. Those stats really don’t scream “franchise QB.”

At the other end of the competition, Manziel completed more passes (7-of-16 for 65 yards), but looked shoddy. The biggest takeaway from the rookie’s night was how unprepared he looked. Manziel often appeared a little overwhelmed, as any sort of pressure had him getting skittish in the pocket. Bottom line: he just plain doesn’t look ready for the regular season.

Top all of this off with Manziel showing Washington the one-finger salute, and you’ve got yourself an ugly night for Cleveland quarterbacks.

How does Pettine chose his starter based on last night? Hoyer may have more experience, but he didn’t look like a vet in Washington. It wouldn’t be surprising if the fear of reinjuring his knee is still in the back of his mind, as he just couldn’t keep himself composed in the pocket.

Meanwhile, Manziel looks like he’s still struggling to get used life in the NFL. Obviously, with last night being his second career preseason game, the aforementioned observation shouldn’t be too shocking. At the same time, when you combine it with how shaky Hoyer has looked, it doesn’t really ease the mind.

Typically, quarterback battles such as these result in one player outperforming the other, with time eventually revealing a clear winner. Here, it’s the exact opposite. Both Hoyer and Manziel looked stuck in neutral last night. There’s no chance either inspired any confidence last night. Not with Pettine, not with the front office and, based on radio call-ins today, certainly not with the fans.

The Browns are less than three weeks away from opening the regular season, and neither of their quarterbacks looks ready to go. Barring a sudden turnaround, Pettine may be forced to take the Romeo Crennel route and flip a coin to make his decision at QB.

The problem, though, is neither heads nor tails looks like a winner right now.

Casey Drottar is a Cleveland sportswriter for Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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