Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

It only took Johnny Football one game to break Cleveland

johnny breaks cleveland 1One game.

One historically poor game is all it took for rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel to break a large part of Cleveland.

It started with Kevin Kiley, co-host of the embarrassing Kiley & Booms radio show, going on NFL AM and portraying head coach Mike Pettine as nothing more than a puppet of owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer. Kiley claimed, with no supporting evidence and against everything that we’ve seen from the team this year, that Pettine only turned to Manziel because he was ordered to by the front office.

It continued with Greg Couch, who wrote at RollingStone.com that it was actually Pettine’s decision to start Manziel, but he only did it to prove to Haslam and Farmer that Manziel is not an NFL quarterback. Still somewhat implausible, but at least Couch had the self-awareness and decency to state that he had no proof for his conspiracy theory. (h/t to Cleveland Frowns for pointing out that article.)

ESPN’s Merril Hoge continued his odd fascination/vendetta against Manziel by stating that whoever made the call to draft Manziel should be fired. (We probably shouldn’t expect anything better from a former Pittsburgh Steeler who was only 5-9 against the Browns during his career.)

“I get people are going to have their opinions and say what they say, but a lot more of that happens when you’ve lost three in a row. I didn’t hear a lot of that when we had just gotten our seventh win.” – Head coach Mike Pettine

And we simply don’t have the strength to get into Pam Oliver’s “report” on the player introductions from Sunday’s game.

The biggest breakdown of the week came courtesy of former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, who used an open mic on WTAM to grind his axe against a team that won’t hire him for a front office position that he is unqualified for.

“When you have a front office that’s really uneducated, and I’m not talking about just the coach, there’s way above him that deserves this, they don’t know how to lead and organize and set a culture to play winning football, to win in the NFL consistently,” Kosar said in multiple published reports. “They’ve been talking so positively like ‘this is the savior’ and that’s what bad organizations do. They set these quarterback controversies up and it kind of takes the heat off of them and it gives everybody a little glimmer of hope. The organization and the players and coaches actually thought (Manziel) was going to do good. I know they believed he was going to do good.

“The issue is systemically from a culture in Berea, they’ve got to get it together because I know of anyone who can be consistently successful within this culture, within this organization right now. You can’t play football like this.”

johnny breaks cleveland 2First off, we loved Kosar as a player and he will always have a place in the hearts of Browns fans of a certain age. But after hearing Kosar’s comments we had to go watch the 1986 playoff game against the New York Jets to feel good about him again.

And we feel as if we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that in 1985, Kosar’s rookie year, he appeared in 12 games for the Browns and completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts in six of those games. Not exactly rolling into the NFL and wrecking the league.

While most of Kosar’s comments about the Browns were accurate, that doesn’t mean they were correct.

There is simply no way you can hold Haslam, Farmer or Pettine accountable for what has transpired with the franchise since 1999. Every time the Browns have made a regime change – and they’ve certainly made a lot – we’ve written the same thing: as fans we can hold the new guys responsible for fixing the mess, but we can’t make the accountable for creating the mess.

If you’re going to blame the current front office for Derek Anderson vs. Brady Quinn, for drafting Charlie Frye, or messing up free agent signings like Trent Dilfer and Jeff Garcia, why stop there? Let’s blame them for benching Vinny Testaverde for Eric Zeier in 1995, for trading Paul Warfield so they could draft Mike Phipps in 1970, or for drafting Harry Agganis in the first round in 1952.

“Johnny is a real dude.” – Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan

Where does it end?

As he has done all season, Pettine took a reasonable approach to the whole situation. After pointing out that Kosar’s comments were “dramatic,” Pettine tried to explain the reality of the situation.

johnny breaks cleveland 3“Obstacles are being removed for us to be successful, and I’m very encouraged about the future here, very encouraged,” Pettine said at one of his daily press conferences. “I’d be the last one to tell you that the odds are stacked against us to be successful because of management. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re in the society of instant gratification. Everybody wants it to happen now, and as much as we want that to happen, it is a process.

“When you build a house you’ve got to build it from the foundation. You’ve got to build the right way and make sure it’s rock solid. We’re in the middle of that. I get people are going to have their opinions and say what they say, but a lot more of that happens when you’ve lost three in a row. I didn’t hear a lot of that when we had just gotten our seventh win. We want that stuff to go away. It still comes back to bottom-line business. You’ve got to win games.”

We may be wrong*, but Pettine does not come off as a coach with ulterior motives, but rather one that is focused solely on doing what he can to help the Browns win their next game.

“We’re going to see (Johnny) play, and then see how it goes from there.” – Mike Pettine

Pettine also brought some perspective to the whole question of what’s next for Manziel.

“When you look at how we played around him I think it’s very unfair to judge somebody … what their career is going to be like off of their first start,” Pettine said. “I’m sure you could go back and find a lot of other regrettable performances in a first start.

“We’ll have a sense (of Manziel’s abilities by the end of the year), but it’s something that … I don’t think it’s going to confirm one way or the other the opinion. He could hit it out of the park the next two and there will still be doubts. He could not play very well the next two and there would be a ton of doubts. We’re going to see him play, and then see how it goes from there. We can’t look back and say we wish we had played him more games now that we’re, for all intents and purposes, close to being eliminated, so we’ll see.”

The whole experience surrounding Manziel’s first start reminds us of a Buddhist saying: “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” (h/t to Mike Krupka for that one.)

That is now the task for the coaching staff and Manziel – find the blessing in all this. And they don’t necessarily have to find it over the next two games.

Manziel has to show improvement against Carolina and Baltimore, certainly, but he also has to show improvement as he works through the full off-season program with the team for the first time. If Manziel is serious about being the answer at quarterback, he will have opportunities to prove that between now and the NFL Draft next spring (and presumably beyond).

It would have been great for Manziel to walk into the huddle and tear up the league from day one, but that was never a realistic possibility, despite what Manziel’s fans want to believe. Much like how the Browns did not draft Manziel for this season’s opening game against Pittsburgh, they didn’t draft him to necessarily look great in a handful of late-season games. The Browns are in this (or should be in this) for the long haul with Manziel and he needs to show that he’s all in as well.

It’s understandable that fans are going to be upset about the way the season has turned against the Browns over the past few weeks. But that disappointed shouldn’t take away from the positives we’ve all seen from the team this season.

We’re only one game into the Johnny Manziel era.

It’s probably a good idea for everyone to take a deep breath because this could be a long ride.

(Photos courtesy of The Akron Beacon Journal)

*We’re not wrong.

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