On May 8th, the Cleveland Browns decided to select former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd-overall pick. Since that selection, he has been competing against incumbent Brian Hoyer to be the team is starting quarterback for week one. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk (NBC Sports) reported on Friday that the Browns will decide on Tuesday which quarterback will start in their week one matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
ESPN and other media outlets have discussed the topic of Manziel numerous times since the Browns drafted him on May 8. He has deemed by many Browns' fans as a potential 'savior' to end the 40-year championship drought. Since the Browns drafted him, more Browns fans have shown interest in the team. This includes Will Brinson of CBSSports.com reporting that the Browns sold out 1,500 season tickets within 12 hours of the Browns selecting Manziel in the NFL Draft. It could be only a matter of weeks until Manziel makes his first NFL start.
Hoyer began training camp as the team's number one quarterback on the depth chart. Throughout training camp, Hoyer has been competing with Manziel to be the team's starting quarterback. Despite the competition, Hoyer started the team's first preseason game on Aug. 9 against the Detroit Lions with the first-team unit while Manziel succeeded him with the team's second-stringers. Both quarterbacks were able to lead the team's offense down the field for eventual field goals, but neither of them were able to produce a touchdown-scoring drive. Hoyer finished the game 6-for-14 for 92 yards while Manziel went 7-for-11 for 63 yards. Manziel also had 27 rushing yards to finish with a grand total of 90 yards in his first NFL game. Despite both quarterbacks underachieving in the game, Browns head coach Mike Pettine told Pat McManamon of ESPN.com on Sunday that Hoyer was still ahead of Manziel in the quarterback competition.
"We put Brian out there with the ones, and that was for a reason," Pettine said of the preseason opener in Detroit on Saturday. "Because he was ahead, because of his edge in experience and the lead he had with the playbook. And he's done nothing to have that taken away from him.
"But Johnny has made some improvement, a lot of improvement. He has come in, and the things where he was behind in the spring, I think he has a pretty firm grasp on. As we said before, it was him versus the playbook, and he's handling it well..."
It appeared that Manziel had done enough throughout training camp and the first preseason game at that point to possibly win the quarterback competition in the next few weeks. He will have at least one more opportunity to earn the team's starting quarterback for their week one regular season matchup. On Friday, the Browns named Hoyer the team's starting quarterback for their next preseason game. Pettine told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that Manziel can still win the quarterback competition despite that Hoyer will be starting Monday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins.
"I think a lot of people read into what happened (Hoyer being named the starting quarterback for the next preseason game), but every option for us is still on the table,'' said Pettine.
Cabot: So Manziel can still win the job despite that he hasn't started a preseason game and is still No. 2 on the depth chart?
"Sure he can,'' said Pettine. "He just needs to go out and play. That's the bottom line. They both do. I've met with both of them and discussed the situation and they're both comfortable with it, and they both know that it's going to be up to them when they're out there, to just go out and do their job..."
In the first preseason game, only Hoyer was able to play with the first-team stringers. That will not be the case in Monday's game as both quarterbacks will reportedly be able to play with the first-team unit. This will allow Pettine and the rest of his 'committee' to evaluate both quarterbacks performances on an even playing field. The number of snaps Hoyer and Manziel will get against the Redskins first-team defense will depend on how long Redskins head coach Jay Gruden decides to leave his first-team stringers in the game. Tom Reed of Cleveland.com reported on Friday that it is unlikely that Gruden will leave his starters in the game for the entire first half. This especially appears to be true based on Redskins cornerback Deangelo Hall telling Reed that "with (Manziel) not starting, I'm not sure I'll see him at all because we're not going to play that much . . . ," Hall said. "Maybe a quarter, we'll see, no more."
If Pettine wants to give both quarterbacks a fair opportunity at excelling against the Redskins first-team defense, then he needs to make sure that he does not leave Hoyer in the game for too long. Every play and drive is critical in a quarterback competition and that is definitely true in this scenario. Hoyer and Manziel need to make sure that they are performing well on Monday night because the Browns reportedly want to decide on the team's starting quarterback for their first regular season game the following day.
As mentioned earlier, Florio reported that the Browns committee want to decide who the starting quarterback will be when they face the Steelers on Sept 7. Pettine told Florio that the committee will consist of at least three people; including himself.
“It’ll be a group of us,” Pettine said. “It’ll be [quarterbacks coach] Dowell [Loggains], [offensive coordinator] Kyle [Shanahan]. We might involve [General Manager] Ray [Farmer] just to kind of listen and observe. There might be another guy or two in there.”
Browns owner Jim Haslem will most likely have some kind of role in the committee's eventual decision. This decision is crucial for the Browns because of the indecision in the locker room. Eric Alderson of Yahoo Sports reported that defensive back Donte Whitner said "that that the locker room is 'split about 50-50.'" With all of the media attention surrounding Browns practices and games, the last thing they need is tension in the locker room. For a team like the Browns, they need everyone in the locker room to be on the same page in order to improve from their awful four-win season. The Browns will reportedly give the winner of the competition some kind of leash. The length of that expected leash is unknown, but it will most likely be at least three games.
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