Johnny Manziel is entitled, arrogant and petulant, and above all else, has a long way to go in his on-field development before he can be a functional NFL quarterback, let alone a successful one.
He should also be the Browns starter.
For better or worse, Manziel is Cleveland’s future, their franchise quarterback. Maybe that’s not the case with all quarterbacks drafted at No. 22 overall, but it is with one this polarizing and, yes, with this much potential.
The only reasons you don’t start a franchise quarterback on Day 1: your offensive line can’t protect him, his confidence is too fragile to survive the learning curve, your team has, at least, playoff aspirations.
None of those apply to Manziel and the Browns.
Their offensive line is terrific, and includes left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. Manziel today lacks a few things; confidence is not among them. And while Cleveland’s defense is top 10 caliber, neither Manziel nor Hoyer appear to be passable enough today to be a part of a run into January, anyway.
As for everything else, Manziel’s shoddy footwork, field vision, decision making and, most important, ability/willingness to protect himself — if they’re going to improve significantly, and that’s no guarantee, they’re going to do so best and most quickly in game situations, not on the practice field. Not with Manziel working with Cleveland’s second teamers. Not with Manziel working with so much less practice time, per the new NFL collective bargaining agreement.
Same goes for Manziel’s knowledge of the playbook, which there should be little doubt of his ability to grasp eventually. Maybe. Hopefully.
Same goes for the idea that Hoyer should start Weeks 1 thru 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, before making the switch during the Week 4 bye and before the Tennessee Titans in Week 5. If you think you have a shot this year, let Manziel endure his lumps against the best teams on your schedule, teams you’re likely lose to anyway. They’ll only help you win games later, and with the quarterback that in this scenario you’ll inevitably be playing, anyway.
There are arguments against starting Manziel now, namely about his ego, judgment and impulsiveness. What the Browns risk by giving the job to a guy who hasn’t earned it. What that would to do not only Manziel, but also his teammates. Those are also the exact arguments against drafting Manziel, given the fact that doing so essentially guarantees him a job eventually, whether he earns it or not. The Browns did draft him. This is the bed they chose to make. Hop in.
Maybe the best argument for starting him now: NFL rules have never been more offense, and quarterback, friendly, and with the league’s emphasis on more strictly enforcing pass interference, defensive holding and illegal contact, it’s only becoming more so.
Maybe a better question: should it have gotten to this point? Why bother with a sham quarterback competition? If Manziel (or anyone) is too immature, irresponsible, indignant to handle being “the guy” today, he’s probably going to be tomorrow, too. If that’s your concern, don’t make him said guy.
Maybe even more alarming: have the Browns been doing everything they can to support Manziel? No, Manziel choosing to (literally) swan diving into Las Vegas swimming pools has done himself no favors. But the seeming consensus is that the coaching staff, the very people responsible for helping him be ready to start on Day 1, never wanted him to start on Day 1. If true, that’s weird employer-employee dynamic, no?
All moot now. This is what head coach Mike Pettine apparently wants, and kudos to owner Jimmy Haslam for having the restraint to allow him that. Even if it’s against what Haslam himself most likely wants. Even if it’s against what’s probably best.
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