Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Johnny on the spot

johnny manziel starterThe Cleveland Browns made it official earlier today – it’s time for Johnny Football to take over.

In announcing the switch, head coach Mike Pettine challenged the entire offense to step up its game over the final three weeks of the season.

“The move was made because of the lack of performance at the (quarterback) position over the last four games … but (the offensive players) have to understand it was as a unit,” Pettine said. “If we don’t pick up our play around the quarterback, we’d be extremely foolish to expect different results.

“I challenged the team today. We all share in the joy of a win; we all share in the agony of a loss. Everybody has to pick up their play as we head down the stretch.”

We have to preface everything we are about to write by pointing out that this is 100 percent the correct call. Brian Hoyer, at least as far as this season is concerned, has hit his ceiling as the starting quarterback for the Browns and a change needed to be made.

“I got to live out my childhood dream and it’s not over. I’m proud of what we accomplished when I played quarterback for this team. You never know what’s going to happen.” – quarterback Brian Hoyer

Having said that, it’s also important to point out that Manziel is getting the starting nod not because of anything he has done, but solely because of what Hoyer has not done – namely win the past two weeks and get the Browns into the end zone (one touchdown drive in his last 29 offensive series).

“We made the decision because it’s what’s best for the Cleveland Browns this week, but at the same time, a positive result of it is we do get a chance to see (Manziel play),” Pettine said. “You can’t hide from the facts. He was a first-round draft pick. We all know the circumstances with Brian. It gives us a chance, one, to win a football game this week – that’s our focus – but at the same time, to get a peek at potentially whether (Manziel is) a long-term solution.”

It’s also important to point out that, outside of one drive against Buffalo with the Browns trailing by 17 points and out of the game, Manziel has no track record in the NFL. It is unrealistic to think that he will come in and rip Cincinnati, Carolina and Baltimore (the final three opponents of the season) apart after barely playing this year and not having played an entire game since the Chick-fil-A Bowl almost a year ago against Duke.

They were talking about the move this morning on NFL AM, with LaVar Arrington and Eric Davis bringing up some important points while they were (sadly) talking with radio hosts Kiley and Booms on the phone. (We’ve never been more embarrassed to be from Cleveland than we were listening to those two represent the city.)

“There are things that Manziel has not seen on the field,” David said. “(As a quarterback) understanding what is going on is one thing, but X’s and O’s don’t move on paper. Once you get on the field you have to be able to make plays and go through the entire game plan and do what is expected of you.

“I would expect Cincinnati to play a lot of zone coverage this weekend because they will want to make Manziel read the coverage. Playing man-to-man would make it easier for Manziel and open up running lanes and the Bengals are not going to want to give him those type of opportunies.

“The expectations from his teammates will be high because Manziel is coming in for a guy who was benched and he is being presented as being better than the guy he’s replacing.”

When Booms tried to show his vast knowledge of the game by claiming the Browns will now run Pistol formations (apparently Booms wasn’t paying attention during Isaiah’s Crowell’s touchdown run on Sunday) and read-option plays with Manziel, a notion that Arrington shut down quick.

“You do know that state of offensive play (the read-option) is done, right?” Arrington asked. “You can’t name me a quarterback who is successfully running the read-option this year.”

The bottom line in all this is the fact that Manziel is still an unknown. He’s still a quarterback who was described in his draft profile as one who is an “exceptional game-day competitor (who) rises to the occasion. (He) has a passion for the game, played on the biggest of stages and revels in having his back against the wall.”

“I’ve prepared every week to be ready to help the team however possible and my focus has been on improving every day. I’m very excited to get out on the field with my teammates on Sunday and to have the opportunity to make the Dawg Pound proud.” – quarterback Johnny Manziel

But he might also still be one who “feels pocket ghosts and often takes off running at the first flash of coverage. (A QB who is) undisciplined – plays his own offense and presses to make plays. (He) tends to overshoot the deep ball and throw off his back foot, leading to some underthrows (too many dirtballs on the move) and diminished accuracy.”

So while this is the right move, the early results may not back up the decision. It’s almost guaranteed that Manziel will struggle; how much he struggles is up to him.

One way or another we’re going to find out starting this Sunday.

While we’re not sure what will happen, there is one thing we are certain of: it won’t be boring.

(Photo courtesy of clevelandbrowns.com)

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