Well, wasn’t that something special today?
We could talk about how a team that was once 7-4 now needs to win at least one of its final two games to avoid its seventh consecutive losing season.
Or perhaps we can examine how a defense that looked some dominant the past two weeks gave up 244 rushing yards and allowed Jeremy Hill to rush for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Speaking of the running game, how about Isaiah Crowell rushing for all of 17 yards on seven carries? In his past three games, the Crow has rushed 38 times for a 2.6 yard-per-carry average. But he has a cool Twitter handle, so apparently all is good.
Maybe you’d be interested in looking at how, on the game’s opening drive, the Bengals were the beneficiaries of three questionable penalty calls – a non-call on a blatant hold against Paul Kruger, and two dubious penalties against the Browns on third downs that kept Cincinnati’s touchdown drive.
But let’s be realistic; there is only one story that needs to be discussed following what is unquestionably the Browns worse loss of the year, and that is the first start by rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Manziel’s day was disappointing if you want to be kind, disastrous if you want to be realistic. And there is only one comparable that needs to be highlighted, one that should make every Browns fan feel more than a bit queasy.
In Brandon Weeden’s first start as a rookie, he was 12-of-35 passing for 118 yards, threw four interceptions and was sacked twice.
Weeden led the Browns to 210 yards of offense, 12 first downs, was two-of-13 on third down and finished the game with a quarterback rating of 5.1.
Sunday against the Bengals, Manziel was much, much worse.
Manziel finished the game just 10-of-18 for 80 yards (32 of which came on one pass and run to Josh Gordon), with two interceptions and three sacks.
The Browns were just one-of-10 on third down, only had five first downs all game – two of them came on penalties – and amassed 107 yards of total offense.
“It’s not how you start it’s how you finish. When you get to those meaningful games you have to make them count.” – Head coach Mike Pettine
Most importantly, the Browns did not score as they suffered their first shutout since Nov. 16, 2009 against Baltimore. Manziel has now gone 10 consecutive drives without putting any points on the board. At that pace, by the end of the year he will make Brian Hoyer’s one touchdown in 29 offensive series look pretty good.
And Brian Hoyer never once saw the field.
The whole experience on Sunday reminded us of last season, when Browns fans talked themselves into thinking that Jason Campbell is a good quarterback simply because he was not Brandon Weeden.
This isn’t to suggest that Manziel is as bad as Campbell, or that he will be a bust, or that head coach Mike Pettine made the wrong call in starting Manziel. But it does underscore an important point.
“It is never as bad as you think it is.” – Quarterback Johnny Manziel
As poorly as Hoyer played over his final five games, there was a reason why the coaching staff was hesitant to turn to Manziel – he clearly is not ready for 60 minutes of NFL action and nothing that happened on Sunday should allow anyone to come to any other conclusion.
This isn’t to knock Manziel’s preparation or anything else, but rather to point out there is more to playing quarterback in the NFL than just being the high-profile backup to a struggling quarterback.
There are going to be growing pains and it’s probably best to jumpstart that process during the final games of the season. But Sunday’s performance should dissuade anyone who still clings to the notion that Manziel would have somehow made a difference against Buffalo and Indianapolis.
“I need to be better – it was a fail on my part. It is going to take time as it is a progress.” – Quarterback Johnny Manziel
As Al Swearengen put it so eloquently on Deadwood: “Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair or … beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man—and give some back.”
We expect Manziel to bounce back from this – he’ll stand it like a man and give some back.
We just have to hope the beatings don’t get much worse before that day arrives.
(Photos courtesy of The Plain Dealer and bengals.com)