Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel

Merril Hoge blasted Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel on Wednesday.

In every possible way.

Manziel
Hoge, a former Pittsburgh Steelers running back appearing on Pittsburgh radio station WDVE, said Manziel looked lost in the preseason and "has no business being on the field" in the Browns' season opener in Pittsburgh.

Hoge, who is also an NFL analyst for ESPN, added Manziel has no quality that translates to being a first-round draft pick.

He even referred to Manziel as a "juvenile punk," as evidenced by his text to Browns quarterback coach Dowell Loggains on draft night that he wanted to join the Browns and "wreck this league," though the actual language was more profane.

"That didn't just burn players; it infuriates coaches," Hoge said. "It told you, too, that he's a juvenile punk. He was like that, and he's still like that."

Browns coach Mike Pettine was very clear in saying Brian Hoyer will have the team's support as the starter, and won't have a quick hook. Hoge thinks that helps the Browns, because he does not believe Manziel is ready.

Manziel shrugged when asked about Hoge and pointed out many people support him and some do not.

"Stuff pops up on my phone and I happened to see something," Manziel said of Hoge's latest over-the-top rant. "He's been in the opposite corner of me for a while now so all I can really do is go out and try to prove him wrong. He's entitled to every bit of his opinion."

Pettine said he did not want to get in the habit of responding to every criticism.

"I just know," Pettine said, "that in the age that we're in of sensationalism a lot of times people that want to be heard have to make bold statements in order to bring attention to themselves. I think that's something that's a regular occurrence in this league."

Hoge pretty much lit up the Browns' rookie, saying he shows no understanding of concepts of play structure or the structure of an offense. He said he watched all of Manziel's preseason runs, and on every one "he could have thrown the football had he understood where he was supposed to go in the structure of the play."

He also criticized Manziel's arm, saying it's not strong and that against the Bears he could not throw a deep corner.

Hoge even implied criticism of owner Jimmy Haslam, saying the Rooney family would never interfere with anything in Pittsburgh, but that with some teams an owner expresses his positive opinion because he watched a player on "SportsCenter."

"You trump coaching," Hoge said. "You trump the evaluations of guys who have been doing it for years. Then you force them (the coaches) in a position that is just brutal. That coaching staff, I feel bad for them. They've got to deal with this."

The Browns obviously saw something different. They have entrusted the backup job to Manziel, which means he is one play away from being on the field.

"If you're the Steelers, you want him on the field," Hoge said. "You really do. Hoyer, listen, he didn't shine and he's nothing special, but he's a lot more dangerous than Johnny Manziel."

Quipped Pettine of Hoge: "Where'd he play?"

Manziel praises 'Kenny Football'

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A relaxed Johnny Manziel was well aware that one of his records at Texas A&M had been broken the same night as his final NFL preseason game.

“Kenny Football, baby!” Manziel bellowed when it was mentioned to him that he might be old news at A&M. “Let’s go.”

Manziel referred to Kenny Hill, who threw for 511 yards and broke Manziel’s single-game record in the Aggies' 52-28 victory over No. 9 South Carolina.

Is Manziel ready to give up his nickname that easily?(

“Hey,” he said as he walked out of the interview room. “You throw for 511 yards ... “

Manziel also discussed his just-released Snickers commercial, which has a “Johnny Jam Boogie” theme.

In the commercial, Manziel opens by teaching an aerobics class of women.

“Come on gang,” he yells. “Work those thighs. Who’s got a pelvis? Now do some arm circle things.”

“(I was) a little out of my comfort zone at the beginning,” Manziel said. “It was no Joe Pesci.”

He said when the ideas were first presented to him he said “at first I wanted to get back on the plane and come back home.”

“I went through with it,” he said. “It worked really well.”

Browns get some needed positives

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns needed it.

The quarterbacks needed it.

The offense needed it.

Doesn’t matter who it was against, where it was and how it happened. This Browns offense and these quarterbacks finally got some positive things done in the preseason finale, a 33-13 win over the Chicago Bears' third- and fourth-team players.

Brian Hoyer had one drive and scored one touchdown. He was quick in his decisions and accurate on his throws. That was enough for coach Mike Pettine, who put Johnny Manziel in for the rest of the first half and the first drive of the second. Manziel had five drives, scored 13 points and made some nice plays.

It seemed as if both were able to exhale, understand their role and just play, and it seemed to matter. Hoyer got the reps with the starters, prepared with the starters and, unlike last week against the St. Louis Rams, was ready to play with the starters, albeit against backups.

Hoyer went 6-for-8 for 69 yards, and, though he lamented missing a touchdown throw to Jordan Cameron, he did guide the first-team offense on a touchdown drive on the game's first possession.

Pettigrew
Pettine
"Brian was sharp," Pettine said. "He made good decisions, and he threw the ball well."

Manziel finished 6-for-17 and said he didn't throw particularly well. But he did look more comfortable in the pocket, made more decisive reads and did make plays with his feet, running for 55 yards while throwing for 83.

The best play came when he escaped the pocket, jitterbugged to avoid four or five defenders and ran right and found Nate Burleson for a short completion that Burleson turned into a 27-yard gain.

"That’s who he is," Pettine said. "Somebody said on the sideline, 'There's Johnny being Johnny.' There was one play where it was no, no, no. Yes, yes, yes. It was typical of his playmaking ability that he had a guy open early and didn’t get it to him and he ended up making a play with his feet."

The Browns didn't like the word "relief," but there seemed to be a deep exhale after this game.

"We need that," running back Ben Tate said. "We've been making so many mistakes the last couple games. … That's what it's supposed to look like."

It matters.

It matters because, had it not gone well, the Browns would have been badgered about negativity and "what’s wrong?" questions all week.

It matters that they didn't face any starters, but it matters more that the night went well.

And it matters because, heading into the season opener in Pittsburgh, they can take another deep breath and focus on preparing.

"Whether it was against their backups or whatever it is, momentum is important, and I think our guys will head into next week with a very different mindset," Pettine said. "Just looking back, if it hadn't gone our way tonight, I think it would have been a bit of a shadow cast over us."
BEREA, Ohio -- Quick hitters following practice:
  • Burleson
    Burleson
    Nate Burleson has been around long enough to hear the adage "you can't make the club from the tub." Which of course refers to it being tough to make a team when injured -- the tub being the old whirlpool teams used to use. Burleson has yet to play in a preseason game due to a lingering hamstring issue, but it's possible he could play Thursday against Chicago. "We’re optimistic," coach Mike Pettine said. "We’ll see just how he responded after today, as well. He got some team reps, so that was a good sign.”
  • Tight end Jordan Cameron was back after his one-day excused absence. Cameron shrugged off the absence, saying it was nothing. Pettine did the same.
  • There were several questions to Pettine about using a two-quarterback system, with a package of plays that Johnny Manziel could run as a change of pace. Pettine said it's tough for a defensive coordinator to prepare for two, then said this when asked if other teams might be expecting it from the Browns: "You'd have to ask them." Touche.
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel reads interviews.

Because the Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback clearly knew what general manager Ray Farmer told ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter last week, as Manziel prefaced his growth in the preseason by saying: “You look at what Ray had to say ...”

Farmer said this: “I think he is right where he’s supposed to be. I laugh because it’s four weeks into his first training camp, and everyone is waiting to see Steve Young run out the tunnel. I don’t know where the reality in that lies.”

Manziel
Manziel appreciated it. He said he thought he took a step forward against St. Louis and he hopes to take another step forward against Chicago.

But he also said he never expected to walk in and be ready for everything immediately, that the only people who can do that have to know where they will be taken two months before the draft.

“I think they’re happy with my progression through the time I’ve been here so far,” Manziel said of the team. “I think they knew what they were getting when they took me, that it would be a process. It’s not a spread-the-field out and run, pick-a-side concepts like we did at A&M.”

The Browns are committed to the Kyle Shanahan system, so rather than change the system for Manziel’s talents, they are force-feeding him the system. He accepts it.

“It’s just different what we do here and what the NFL game is all about,” Manziel said. “I think they knew that, they were smart enough to watch the tape and (to have) known and heard enough about our system to know how it was.
“I think they knew it would take some time for me to get adjusted to everything.”
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It’s not fair to make too much out of Johnny Manziel’s gesture to the Washington Redskins' bench.

Manziel
It’s a gesture many have used.

But it is fair to say it matters, and it should matter. The Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback did what he did in a nationally televised game with many watching to see how he played. Coach Mike Pettine explained why it matters to him.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Pettine said. “We talk about ‘Play like a Brown.’ We want our guys to act like a Brown. We want to be a first-class organization. We have hundreds, thousands of kids who have come to our training camp practices. That type of behavior is unacceptable.”

Spot on.

Pettine then added something that is obvious about the camera-ready Manziel: “He should know more than anyone that all eyes are on him.”

Manziel will be fined and life will go on. His teammates will rally around him.

But it matters.

And here’s why.

Manziel plays in a city that raised Jesse Owens, who went on to win gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin in front of Adolf Hitler.

He plays in a city that was home to Larry Doby, the first African-American in the American League who dealt with constant and bitter racism.

He plays in a city that was home to Jim Brown, who overcame racism and spoke out against it throughout his career.

All of them dealt with far more than Manziel does on the field, and they handled it with dignity and pride, not with a junior high gesture.

Manziel is friends with LeBron James, who competes as hard as anyone and has never done anything like that on the basketball court.

Finally, Manziel is teammates with Joe Thomas, who has played every down of every game since he was drafted and made the Pro Bowl every year. He has lived through all the 10-loss seasons, yet he has shown up every season committed and dedicated to the team. He never complains, never makes a show of himself -- despite living through annual shenanigans year after year after year.

Manziel's gesture matters because he couldn’t get through his second preseason game without a classless act. He’s competitive. He has done and said a lot right since he started camp. But that gesture will be among the more remembered things of his first training camp. He can absolutely put it behind him with how he acts in the future, and he deserves that chance.

But it’s not exactly the best way to start a career.

Nor is it the best way to follow those who paved the way for him.

No coach should face a crisis midway through the preseason, but Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine has one with the team's quarterback position. He must take decisive action, starting with these 10 suggestions:

  1. End this competition nonsense immediately. The incessant attention to every throw, the nonsensical sharing of snaps, the inability of Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel to take the job ... it's all hurting the team. Continuing the silliness might lead to one guy playing well in one quarter of the preseason, but more likely it would lead to more struggles and a schism on the team. What's happening now isn't helping Hoyer or Manziel. End it.
  2. Make Hoyer the starter. Tell him it's his job. Tell him to stop thinking it might not be his job. It's his, and he's the guy. Not because he earned it; he didn't. But he at least has a two-game track record from last season to lean on, has some experience in an NFL offense and understands what it takes to play and act professionally. Let the team start to coalesce behind him and step toward unity. And let the team take a breath and find itself with one quarterback in charge.
  3. Show that Manziel isn't ready. He's especially not ready for Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore, the first three teams the Browns face. The Browns' system is too cumbersome for a guy to learn quickly. Manziel has moved from a spread college system based on speed and running plays quickly to one with play calls longer than the Gettysburg Address. If the Browns wanted Manziel to start immediately, they needed to tailor the offense to him, not fit the proverbial square Manziel peg into the hexagonal Kyle Shanahan/Dowell Loggains hole. Manziel gives every indication that this offense is that complex to him.
  4. [+] EnlargeHoyer
    AP Photo/Evan VucciNaming Brian Hoyer as the Browns' starter could help the team get behind one quarterback in preparation for the season opener.
    Sit Manziel down and talk to him about what it means to be a professional. This isn't a game anymore. Teammates have their livelihoods depending on how he plays and acts. Wagging a middle finger at the Redskins' bench might seem funny to him, but it's not. He might seem like the feisty competitor, but he's not. It's a sign of concern, and Pettine should be credited for not sugarcoating that reality. At this point, Manziel's signature moment with the Browns is an obscene gesture on national TV. Isn't that wonderful?
  5. Explain to Manziel that he's not in College Station anymore. The NFL is full of loud, nasty, belligerent guys who are eager to get under someone's skin and throw him off his game. Manziel's celebrity appearances on the party circuit make him a target of every barb known to the sports world. If he thought Monday night was bad or if he thought other experiences were bad before Monday, what's ahead will be worse. Washington proved it could get into his head.
  6. Stand up and say that the way things have progressed is Pettine's fault. Much as it's the quarterback's job to accept blame and spread credit, it's the same for the head coach. Hindsight says it might have been wiser to name Hoyer the starter heading into camp. There's the assumption that it would have helped him just play and not play like he's wearing a straitjacket. It might help the entire team if the coach simply said he made a mistake, he let the scrutiny get into people's heads and it's his fault.
  7. Then, channel his inner Blunt Force Trauma (his nickname) in a sit-down with Hoyer. Tell Hoyer he wants him to be the guy. Tell Hoyer he's rooting for him. Tell Hoyer he learned behind Tom Brady, for crying out loud. But add that Hoyer must back up his coach and go play. Stop worrying. Just play the way he did last season. If Pettine wants to be touchy-feely, he can remind Hoyer of the note he wrote him after his injury in 2013. Then he can call Hoyer's high school coach, Chuck Kyle of St. Ignatius, and ask Kyle to have the sympathetic father talk with Hoyer.
  8. Don't let a decision be made on anything other than football. Manziel is not a read-option quarterback to be experimented with; he can make plays with his feet and throw on the move. Move the pocket. Roll out. Forget the pistol and forget the other nonsense until Manziel proves he understands the game. If the Browns want to make it simple for Manziel as he learns, have at it. What's being thrown at him right now is too much, and it shows.
  9. Don't say the decision is not for the long haul -- something Pettine said last week. Pettine has been wonderful to deal with, but that slip was a head-scratcher. Former Browns general manager Phil Savage used to say that every person in the building had to be on board with the quarterback decision. When the coach says he doesn't want the starter to believe it's his team because he's starting the first game, the quarterback himself can't believe.
  10. Meet with the offense and channel his father, the original Blunt Force Trauma. The message: Take your heads out of the sand and start to play football because we're all in this together. Josh Gordon, you barely look interested on the field. Are you? The other receivers, who were brought here to help. Are you ready? Hoyer is the quarterback. The decision is made. Put your heads into the fresh air, breathe deep and play football.
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel knew how it sounded the second he said it.

So he quickly advised not to take it out of context.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Mark DuncanJohnny Manziel is aiming to show more progress during the Browns' preseason game on Monday night.
But Manziel had a candid admission after the Cleveland Browns' final training camp practice: “I’m not ready for Pittsburgh right now.”

In the Manziel world, which he admitted Saturday includes “chaos,” “overanalysis” and “hype,” this statement could officially be called a doozy.

Except in the real world of what someone means and intends, a little perspective comes in handy. Manziel wasn’t saying he could not be ready to start the Browns' season opener Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh, just that if he had to play the Steelers now, he would not be. He said he has two more weeks of practices and two more games to prepare, and he said he gets more comfortable each week. Too, coach Mike Pettine altered his stance to say that the starting quarterback probably would get playing time in the fourth preseason game, which if it’s Manziel, gives him more playing time to prepare.

As training camp ends and the regular season gets closer, Manziel is doing his best to downplay expectations. In one media gaggle Saturday, he said, “I need to stay in my lane,” and, “I don’t look at it that I was drafted to come in Day 1 and save the franchise,” and learning the offense “is a process,” and “I’ve only played one game,” and “my expectations are not through the roof.”

This is the humble Manziel, the one who is barely noticed behind the scenes at the team’s office. The confident Manziel is in there, but he’s smartly and wisely leaving that guy to show up on the field. The contrast is stark between the guy who appears on every NFL fan’s social media timeline and the guy trying to win a starting job in his first NFL training camp.

If Manziel was upset about not starting the Browns' second preseason game -- at Washington on Monday night -- he didn't show it. Asked about the fact that Brian Hoyer is getting the start, Manziel said, "I'm taking it with the same approach I've had the past three weeks of camp."

This is a guy who handles questions very adeptly. It’s obvious he’s been through the wringer before, and it’s obvious he understands there is a hierarchy in the NFL, one that states young players should not be heard too loudly until they've produced.

Manziel even shrugs off the louder elements of his life -- the constant attention off the field.

“It’s been a constant in my life,” he said. “It’s been the one thing that’s been the most constant in my life for the past two years. So I don't even pay attention to it anymore, I don't ever really see it; it never really even fazes me.”

It will be interesting to see how Manziel reacts if he is not the starter two years after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.

He had one blip in camp when he misread the schedule and was late for a morning meeting, but otherwise, the only complaint about him is the same one fans of Hoyer might have: He hasn't seized the job. Manziel has worked hard, done his best and tried to go from a simple one-side-of-the-field offense to long play calls and much more complex reads.

At this point for both the quarterbacks, what happens Monday night matters the most.
A day-by-day and honest look at Johnny Manziel's first training camp with the Cleveland Browns:

Manziel
THE WORK: Manziel had a tough day, with dropped balls, near interceptions and missed throws. He got a field goal in the two-minute drill (17-17 tie, two timeouts, 58 seconds left, ball at Browns 40), but also backed out of center too soon on a play in the red zone, leading to a botched snap and penalty. In a 7-on-7 drill, Manziel went 2-for-6 (unofficially) and had two throws nearly intercepted. The best sign that Manziel is still in the hunt to start in Pittsburgh was that coach Mike Pettine had him with the starters the day after Pettine said Brian Hoyer would start in Washington. The Browns continue to give Manziel a chance to prove himself; he has to take better advantage of the opportunity.

GOOD THROW: There were not a lot to choose from, but the best may have been a high throw over the middle that Travis Benjamin went up to get. The ball was there, but high, and Benjamin's ability to go up and get the ball led to the completion.

BAD THROW: A long throw to Benjamin was woefully underthrown, hung up and nearly intercepted by Justin Gilbert. If any Browns rookie is standing out because he's consistently and aggressively making plays, it's Gilbert.

THE WORD: "That's internal business. Moving forward I'm not going to discuss matters that are team business. It's unfortunate that that report came out. But I'm not going to confirm or deny it." -- Pettine on the report that several rookies, including Manziel, were a few minutes late for a meeting Monday and were fined.

START CHART: On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being Manziel certainly starts the opener, we'll take a look at his chances as he goes through camp.

 
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns ended the last open practice of training camp with a line of folks taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to fight ALS, and with some stone-cold realities facing them as they head toward the rest of preseason.

One is that coach Mike Pettine brought up the dreaded two-quarterback reference, saying he believes the team has two quarterbacks who can win. An adage in the NFL is that when a team has two quarterbacks, it has none. Pettine said he will decide on a starter Tuesday, one day after Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel face the Washington Redskins in the Browns' second preseason game.

[+] EnlargeMike Pettine
AP Photo/Mark DuncanCoach Mike Pettine said the Browns would like to settle on a starting quarterback by Tuesday.
The other reality is the crippling effect that the looming suspension of Josh Gordon will have (the NFL has yet to determine its length). The team's receivers have done little to distinguish themselves when Gordon is not in the lineup, and at the rate things are going Travis Benjamin might be the other starting wideout alongside Miles Austin. With Nate Burleson out with a hamstring, the team’s young receivers have struggled.

The Browns may be bringing in receivers with a front-end loader after the upcoming rounds of roster cuts -- especially if, as expected, Gordon is suspended for the season.

As for the quarterbacks, Friday clearly belonged to Hoyer. Perhaps knowing he'll start Monday vs. the Skins helped him relax, but he had one of his best days in some time. Manziel made some good and some not-so-good throws.

The competition that has droned on all camp will continue through Monday and come to a conclusion Tuesday, according to Pettine. As the coach said, at that point it would be nice if one of the two quarterbacks has stepped forward and seized the job.

If not, “a decision still has to be made,” Pettine said.

He said he’ll do it with input from quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and GM Ray Farmer. But Pettine said there’s a balance between naming the starter and expecting the starter to produce.

“I don’t want whoever the starter is to feel like, ‘If I make one mistake, I’m out,'" Pettine said. "But I also don't want him to feel like, 'I've achieved something, this is my team for the rest of the year.'"

Earlier this week, Loggains spent a lot of time gushing about Manziel and not talking much about Hoyer. Pettine still went with Hoyer as the starter in preseason Game 2, which indicates the head coach may take a more active role in the decision than he said he would.

At least he won't be flipping a coin.
Brian Hoyer won’t be able to say he wasn’t given a fair chance to win the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback job.

Hoyer
Coach Mike Pettine will give Hoyer the start for the second preseason game in a row when the Browns travel to Washington on Monday night.

The most disappointed folks will be those who wanted to see Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel take the field immediately. They will get their wish soon enough, though, as Pettine has promised Hoyer and Manziel will share reps and both will be with the starters.

This decision by the Browns seems to be a clear signal that Hoyer still has to seize the job to win it. To date, that hasn’t happened. Hoyer has not lost the job by any means -- Pettine has pointed that out as well -- but neither he nor Manziel has taken it.

As long as that happens, there will be debate, second-guessing and questioning because the Browns won’t be able to point at one player and say he won the job. With that comes controversy, additional scrutiny and increased pressure -- elements to a quarterback debate that no one with the team wants.

It’s a cycle Browns fans have seen before with no clear-cut starting quarterback victor.

But it’s the way things have gone in the preseason. At this point, it’s almost a matter of default who starts, though who the job defaults to also is a matter of debate.

Is it the rookie because he’s the future investment? Or is it the veteran because of his experience?

A week ago, it seemed like Manziel had momentum going into the preseason opener against Detroit. He was practicing well, completing more than 60 percent of his passes the final three days before the game.

But he has leveled off since, completing 50 percent in this week’s practices (all unofficial numbers, of course).

The Browns are left in a quandary of sorts, having to pick one guy even though one guy has not emerged.

Hoyer getting the second start almost makes it seem as if the team hopes he seizes the job. Pettine has said over and over that in his ideal world a rookie does not start right away.

Hoyer can win the job -- but he has to earn it.

If he doesn’t, he may see it taken from him.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns players have the day off Thursday, but the coaching staff will decide which quarterback, Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, will start in the second preseason game Monday night at Washington.

Hoyer
Manziel
Either way, coach Mike Pettine said that Hoyer and Manziel would get an equal amount of snaps with the first-team offense. However, one question that remains is how different will the offense look when Hoyer is on the field versus when Manziel is?

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan runs a West Coast system with play calls that can be as long as 17 words. It is a different system than Manziel ran in college. At Texas A&M, Manziel had three- to four-word play calls where he didn't have to call protections, which he will have to do now. And Manziel, who makes as many plays with his feet as with his right arm, is a different type of quarterback than the 6-foot-2 Hoyer, who is more of a dropback passer.

Shanahan worked with another mobile quarterback, Robert Griffin III, while he was the offensive coordinator in Washington, so he does have experience tailoring his

On Wednesday, I asked Browns general manager Ray Farmer this question about the quarterback competition: Are you, meaning the Browns, trying to fit the player to the system, or are you trying to fit the system to a specific player?

"I think it's a blend," Farmer said. "It's always a blend. I think that coaches come in and have their schemes they want to run. Inevitably what happens is you know what you want to run, and you also know what talent you have and what they're capable of orchestrating. You kind of mishmash how that comes together.

"So I think it's a blend. I think that's what Kyle's history has shown, that regardless of who he's had he's found a way to make the offense work with the talent he has."

That is true, but it is also true that the offense will look at least a little different depending on who the quarterback is.

"When Johnny's in there, obviously you're going to call a few different plays that are going to be able to take advantage of the way he runs, because he's such an elusive quarterback," Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. "Maybe you won't see necessarily as many plays where Brian's going to be running a read-option or sprint-option, things like that that you might see more of when Johnny's in there. But other than that, I think they both do a great job and they're actually really similar."

On Monday against Washington, we will get a chance to see how similar -- and different -- Hoyer and Manziel really are.
For the first time in several days, there were very few questions about the Cleveland Browns' quarterback situation at Mike Pettine’s media get-together.

Pettine will decide who starts the second preseason game in Washington on the team’s off-day on Thursday, though he was clear that Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer would get the same amount of time with the starters. As the competition continues, with each quarterback getting time with the starters on alternating days in practice, other questions linger. Let’s take a stab at some of them:

What does the signing of Rex Grossman mean?

[+] EnlargeDowell Loggains
AP Photo/Mark DuncanCleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains will be part of the group that decides between Brian Hoyer (6) and Johnny Manziel (2).
Grossman stepped into the offense, directed players on where to go, made signals to motion receivers and dropped passes into receivers’ arms. He clearly has the advertised knowledge of the system. But Grossman’s signing had the bees buzzing locally and national that it’s not good for Brian Hoyer, that Grossman isn’t needed if Hoyer starts but he is needed if Manziel starts. Hoyer might not be the best mentor if he doesn’t start, and Grossman would be, so the thinking goes. This led to wild speculation that the Browns might trade Hoyer to Houston, where Bill O’Brien is a Belichick guy leading the ship. Radio chatter was prevalent, and some stories even appeared. “Stories is a good word for them,” coach Mike Pettine said, before adding: “I addressed that yesterday.” That is when he said “absolutely not,” when asked about Hoyer being expendable with Grossman on the team. One other factor: Grossman was the third quarterback in Washington the last two seasons; he’s at the point where he’s happy to be on a roster. Maybe Grossman is simply an upgrade over Tyler Thigpen.

What if nobody wins the job?

The two quarterbacks presently are in the muck. That means they are mucking around together, with neither seizing the job. Kyle Shanahan said early in camp that he fully expected someone to make the decision easy, but that hasn’t happened. They’ve both had good moments and bad moments. If this continues through Monday’s game, the Browns have to decide: Does neither winning the job mean that Hoyer gets it by default, or does it favor Manziel because he’s the hot-shot, first-round draft pick?

What if it’s a tie?

In baseball, a tie goes to the runner. In basketball a tie (up) is a jump ball. In football, a tie goes to overtime. But there is no overtime possible in this competition if Pettine sticks to his plan to name the starter before the third preseason game. If both Hoyer and Manziel play well Monday and they’re both relatively equal the way they were the first game – Hoyer had 92 total yards, Manziel 90 – then does the tie go to the veteran because he’s better able to read defenses like Pittsburgh’s, or does it go to the rookie because he’s the hot-shot, first-round pick.

Does the early schedule matter?

The Browns open at Pittsburgh and at home against New Orleans and Baltimore. It would be tough to find a tougher opening series of games, and Pettine admitted it had to be kept in mind. Would the Browns be reluctant to throw a rookie into that buzzsaw of games?

What about Josh Gordon’s situation?

Take the biggest playmaker out of a lineup and the entire offense suffers. When the biggest playmaker is a receiver, the quarterback suffers. When the remaining receivers play the way the Browns remaining receivers have played the past week or two, the ripple effect is very bad. Defenses can stack the box to stop the run and pressure the quarterback because they don’t fear a playmaker on the outside. Some would say this favors Hoyer because a veteran would be needed to stabilize what’s left of the offense. Other would say Gordon’s absence favors Manziel because the Browns will need someone to create plays, which is his skill.

What matters most? Pettine has said it over and over again: Who gives the Browns the best chance to win?The definition of “best chance to win” will be made by quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Pettine.

Browns sign Grossman, cut Thigpen

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
10:35
AM ET
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns added a veteran backup Tuesday who knows Kyle Shanahan’s offense when they signed Rex Grossman.

 Tyler Thigpen, who never found his stride as he attempted to come back after a year out of the NFL, was released.

Grossman had been rumored as a Browns target for some time. But for whatever reason, the Browns gave tryouts to Vince Young and Thigpen in the offseason and then signed Thigpen. He didn’t last into the second game, and now they have Grossman, who was with Washington the past four seasons along with Shanahan.

Grossman, in his 12th season, quarterbacked the Bears to the Super Bowl in his career season, but has been mainly a backup since. He has played for Shanahan and his offense in five different seasons.

Grossman has 47 NFL starts and 25 wins. Brian Hoyer has four NFL starts, Johnny Manziel is a rookie.

Until Mike Pettine addresses the media after practice, the reason for Grossman’s presence won’t be known. More than likely he’ll serve as a veteran mentor to Hoyer and Manziel -- a role he filled in Washington for Robert Griffin III in his rookie season. He knows the offense and can teach it.

This move simply might be a reflection on Thigpen, who struggled from the get-go.

Or it could be a signal that the Browns are not thrilled with the way Hoyer and Manziel are working and learning the offense, and they want a veteran to help.

Manziel struggled in Monday’s practice, and Hoyer was a little better. While Hoyer is more decisive, Manziel admits he needs to improve on his reads and receiver progressions.

Clearly this will be a topic when Pettine meets the media.


DETROIT -- Ford Field was not the place to find much clarity in the Cleveland Browns' quarterback competition Saturday night.

Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel said they were pleased to get some game action in Detroit's 13-12 win -- but neither was head and shoulders better than the other.
After the game, both brought some welcome perspective to the frenzy of instant analysis that follows this job.

Hoyer started and threw for 92 yards, but had a lovely throw dropped by Miles Austin at the 5-yard line and overthrew two open receivers on third-down plays that would have put the Browns inside the Lions' 20.
He said his footwork got messed up on the first, and the second he simply overthrew.

But the pass to Austin was right on the money -- as the Browns receivers not named Josh Gordon did little to calm concerns about what the team will do if he is suspended.

In the would-have, could-have game it could be argued Hoyer’s numbers would have looked much better -- over 100 yards -- had Austin hung on to a ball right in his hands.

But Hoyer said just getting on the field and competing for the first time since his ACL surgery was a step. He pointed out the tempo was good, he was comfortable with the line calls and plays were run quickly. The Browns scored on two of his three drives -- though both were field goals. In a full scrimmage and a game the offense has yet to score a touchdown.

"There's definitely a few throws that I would want to have back and put in a better spot," Hoyer said, "but to have ACL surgery and be back out there playing is definitely a step forward."

Manziel started slowly, got just three plays in the first half, and played better as he grew more comfortable. He finished with 63 yards passing and 27 rushing.
He, too, talked about how it was important for him to get that game speed experience, but he added: "Luckily for me there’s three more games to get out there and learn."

Manziel admitted he had early jitters, but as he settled in he threw better. He said he thought the ball came out well and he had some good throws. He also ran for 27 yards, but said as he grows more comfortable in the offense the number of runs should decrease.

"I feel like the ball came out well tonight," he said. "I’m still working on getting the balls out on time better."

He also said of running: "I want to move the ball down the field."
The game pretty much reinforced what the Browns know about each quarterback. Hoyer will stand in the pocket and make a throw, but he also can roll out when asked to. He’s not a scrambler, but he can buy time and he can step in and make a throw.

Manziel can be far more exciting. He ran 16 yards for a first down and ran to convert a fourth down. He seemed to be gaining a little rhythm as his time on the field ended, and he is very quick when he decides to get going.

Neither was glittering, though, and neither did enough that anyone would step back and say that so-and-so really grabbed hold of the job.

Coach Mike Pettine was noncommittal, but objective analysis would indicate that the Browns will start the practice week on Monday at pretty much the same point they started the preseason opener -- with two guys competing to start but neither really seizing the job.

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