Cleveland football fans are a fickle lot to be sure.
One week ago, people were talking about how well Brian Hoyer has played this season, this week, they are calling for Johnny Manziel to start.
We have said before that the difference in Mike Pettine and his staff vs. the past few coaching regimes is the emphasis on winning. These Browns are playing to win and right now, they are very much in a race for a playoff spot.
Just looked at how they’ve handled first round draft choice Justin Gilbert. He wasn’t playing well, so the staff went with K’Waun Williams, an undrafted free agent. They aren’t giving out playing time based on draft position.
That’s the biggest reason why the coaching staff will be very hesitant to play Manziel with the team still in play for a spot in the post-season, which would be the Browns first since 2002.
Take a look around the NFL. Right now, there are three teams starting rookie quarterbacks: Oakland (Derek Carr), Jacksonville (Blake Bortles), and Minnesota (Teddy Bridgewater). Those teams combined records? Try 3-17
The Raiders currently rank 31st in the NFL in scoring and 32nd in the league in total offense. Carr has played fairly well, completing 60.5% of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
Jacksonville is just the opposite and by that we mean they are 32nd in the NFL in scoring and 31st in yardage. Bortles has completed 65.5% of his throws, but turnovers have been a big problem in the five games he has played (four starts), as he has tossed 10 interceptions, including three in the win over the Browns.
The Vikings also have one of the league’s worst offense, ranking 30th in scoring and 29th in yardage. Bridgewater has made three starts and appeared in four games in total, completing 61.1% of his passes, with only one touchdown and five picks.
By contrast, the Browns, with a veteran quarterback in Hoyer at the controls, rank 14th in points scored and 10th in yardage through the first six games of the season.
Look, Brian Hoyer isn’t an All Pro quarterback, and he certainly isn’t one of the top ten players at his position in the sport. He’s better than a lot of back ups, but probably not good enough to be a starter long term in this league. That’s why the Browns drafted Manziel, he likely will be the guy who the front office expects will be the long-term starter.
We get that, and we believe Johnny Manziel will be that guy in the future. However, that future isn’t now.
What you will get right now if Manziel plays is something like the other rookie starters are giving their teams, and that is not many points, and a lot of turnovers. That flies directly against Pettine’s vision for the team. He wants to run the football, play defense, and avoid mistakes.
It is doubtful a rookie quarterback, unless he is Andrew Luck, can provide that.
That’s what Manziel’s true competition is, the experience factor.
If and when the Browns are out of playoff contention, and/or the offense’s production with Hoyer at the controls starts to be among the worst in the NFL, then we will see Johnny Manziel, because the Browns need to find out what they have in him.
However, right now, to give his team their best chance to win, it makes sense for Pettine to stay with Hoyer, who has been more good than bad so far in 2014.