It’s nice that the Browns are trying to create a situation for Johnny Manziel where he feels like he has to earn the starting job. After all, the last thing a young star like Manziel needs is for one of the only 32 starting quarterback jobs in the NFL to be handed to him. At the same time, the Browns aren’t fooling anyone. They didn’t trade up to draft Manziel 22nd overall only to have him be a specialty player off the bench or a back-up quarterback for years to come. So shouldn’t Manziel just start right away then?
The biggest (and perhaps the only) benefit of keeping Johnny Manziel on the sidelines to start the season is that, in Brian Hoyer, the Browns have a quarterback who can keep the offense on schedule. Despite his limited experience, it’s clear on tape that Hoyer generally knows how to play the position. Manziel, on the other hand, might be a good athlete, but his performance in college showed an inability to succeed consistently from the pocket. He might make some spectacular plays here and there, but if he can’t play the position at the base level of NFL quarterbacking competence (which means from the pocket), a few sensational runs and passes won’t help the Browns much.
However, despite the fact that Brian Hoyer played well in 2013, simply put, he is not the future of the franchise. He may have played the position like a professional in his 2-plus starts, but he also made his fair share of mistakes. Two of his three interceptions came on terrible reads that reflected his inability to see the entire field. He pre-determined some throws. His arm strength proved to be above average but not much more. His accuracy and ability to anticipate were just adequate.
Furthermore, we all know the job will be Manziel’s at some point this season. So why delay the inevitable? Why take away from the experience Manziel can gain from playing right away and learning from his failures? It’s almost irrelevant that Hoyer is a better quarterback right now. The Browns might be better off in the short term if Hoyer entered the season as the starter, but how much better would they be and for how long? Would he play the first 3 games? The first 5? The first 7? What would the Browns record be if he started instead of Manziel? 2-3 instead of 1-4? Or maybe 3-2 instead of 2-3? Possibly 4-3 instead of 2-5? Big deal. This isn’t a Super Bowl caliber squad. Is it really worth it to keep Manziel from gaining valuable experience just to be a little bit better in the short term? Keep in mind, there’s also the chance that they might not even be better in the short term with Hoyer starting over Manziel out of the gate.
The Browns should play Johnny Football right away unless he has absolutely no grasp of the playbook come Week 1. If the Browns are unable to run a legitimate offense with Manziel under center, then by all means, start Hoyer until Manziel can grasp a little more of the offense. Otherwise, give him the opportunity to gain experience and develop chemistry with his teammates, something that won’t happen from the sidelines.
Let Manziel start to learn the differences between the NFL game and the college game by playing right away. Let Manziel learn what it takes to get through an entire NFL season, so he can build off of it heading into 2015 and beyond. Let the Browns front office find out what they have in Manziel so they can make a decision about the future of the franchise sooner rather than later. Get the Manziel era underway as soon as possible and find out if it can work.