Is Johnny Football Over Before it Even Began?
Johnny Manziel was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner out of Texas A&M, was expected to come into training camp and compete for the starting quarterback job with Brian Hoyer. First year head coach Mike Pettine had the job up for grabs for most of the preseason but it was evident after their preseason game against the Washington Redskins (yes, the game where Manziel gave the obscene gesture) that Hoyer was the right guy for the job.
Even then, many anticipated that Johnny Football would be starting after Cleveland’s week four bye. Entering the bye, the Browns were 1-2 but were actually playing pretty well behind Brian Hoyer. They beat the New Orleans Saints by two points at home (26-24) and lost to divison rival Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens by a combined five points. Since then, the Browns are 3-1 but suffered a bad loss to the now 1-7 Jacksonville Jaguars (24-6) two weeks ago. Coach Mike Pettine admitted that he considered putting Manziel in during the ugly loss. "It was discussed briefly, but it was a situation where we still wanted to...at least try to end the game with Brian on a positive note,” said Pettine. The Cleveland Browns are 4-3 heading into their Week 9 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Moving forward, it is going to be very difficult for the Browns not to give Manziel a go. His upside right now is much higher than Brian Hoyer’s will ever be. His ability to extend plays with his legs is something that the Browns could really use. Drafting a quarterback in the first round is putting faith in him the that someday he will be the future of your franchise. I think that Manziel is one more ugly performance away from getting a shot at the starting job.
Looking at next year, Hoyer will be an unrestricted free agent. There have been multiple reports that he may not sign with Cleveland if Johnny Manziel is still on the roster. Keeping Manziel on the bench for a little bit longer may not actually be a bad decision either. Starting tight end Jordan Cameron just went down with yet another concussion and could miss a couple weeks. Also, 2013 breakout wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended for a failed drug test and won’t be eligible to return until Week 12. With running back Ben Tate and wide receiver Andre Hawkins playing well this year, the Cleveland Browns are starting to develop some weapons on offense. When Cameron gets healthy and Gordon returns, the Browns could continue to make a splash in the competitive AFC North where each team is over .500.
With that being said, Johnny Football is by no means over. In fact, it could just be getting started.