After an underwhelming quarterback battle where 3rd stringer Connor Shaw may have been the most impressive competitor, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine has decided to go into the season with Brian Hoyer as his starting QB. The fact that highly touted first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel could not beat out a pedestrian quarterback in an open competition is a major failure in my opinion. With fellow first-round rookie quarterbacks Blake Bortles lighting it up during the preseason and Teddy Bridgewater enjoying success in Week 2 of the preseason, I would have to say that Manziel is currently in 3rd place among his own peer group.
Putting aside his middle-finger incident on Monday Night Football, Manziel has looked erratic throughout the preseason. His accuracy in the pocket comes and goes, his decision making has been hot and cold, but most alarming to me has been Manziel’s lack of explosiveness as a scrambler. He simply cannot break tackles or run away from defenders as easily as he did at Texas A&M. Manziel no longer looks like a game breaking superstar, instead, he just reminds me of a raw Jeff Garcia. Sure, Garcia had his moments with the San Francisco 49’ers and was a pretty good open field play-maker, but if Manziel was to go on to have a similar career to that of Garcia, he would certainly be labeled as a bust.
Nonetheless, I still don’t think we’ve heard the end of this quarterback controversy in Cleveland. Most people project Cleveland to finish dead last in the AFC North, and last placed teams often switch quarterbacks to give the team a spark. I could easily envision a sluggish sub .500 start for the Browns this year and coach Pettine making the change to Manziel by mid-season. If this quarterback merry-go-round gets started all over again, it could signal the beginning of yet another train-wreck season for the faithful fans of Cleveland.
Perhaps this type of initial struggle from Manziel was to be expected, especially when you consider that Manziel was only a two-year starter in college, and the offense that he ran at Texas A&M was completely different from any offense at the NFL level. Also consider that the expectations early on for Johnny Football may have been a bit unrealistic. After all, it takes more than one player to turn a team around, and the Browns have been historically bad long before Manziel even got there.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, I actually believe that Manziel may be at a crossroads in his career. Due to Hoyer’s inconsistency at quarterback, I see Manziel getting at least one more opportunity to prove himself worthy of being a starter at some point this year. However, in order to take advantage of the next opportunity, Manziel will have to look much more prepared and show that he has progressed since his preseason skittishness. I predict that regardless of whether Manziel sinks or swims during his next opportunity, his overall body of work will ultimately reveal what type of work ethic he really has.