As for the Browns QB spot ... now what?

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
1:44
AM ET

LANDOVER, Md. -- What do the Cleveland Browns do after that dismal performance by the two guys competing to start at quarterback?

They can't punt every third down, can't install the single wing in the next two weeks.

But they have a problem. In Monday night's 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins, the two guys the team is counting on to win the job did next to nothing to help themselves or their team.

This "competition" produced a fiasco beyond almost any reasonable expectation -- on national TV no less -- and it left a head coach looking perplexed.

The veteran plays like he's suffocating under the pressure of Johnny Manziel, and the rookie looks like a rookie.

To add to the mess, the rookie topped his night with a middle-finger gesture to the Redskins bench on national TV.

The end of the world? Hardly. Classy? Absolutely not.

But could it be a sign that perhaps this is all getting to Manziel? Could Brian Hoyer's performance be a sign that this is getting to him, too? Absolutely.

Coach Mike Pettine came down hard on Manziel for his gesture. Appropriately so.

"It does not sit well," Pettine said. "I was informed right after the game and it's disappointing. We talk about being poised and being focused. You have to be able to maintain your poise. That's a big part of all football players, especially the quarterback. We have to keep our composure and that is something we will obviously address with him."

Manziel said he slipped up and he "should have been smarter."

No kidding.

He said he gets endless grief from opposing teams and fans, and Joe Haden said he heard all kinds of disrespectful things directed at Manziel.

Whatever.

Show some class and respect the game. It's not difficult.

This could be simple frustration, getting sick of the barbs -- though Manziel might best get used to them given his profile. It could be the sign of a rookie who's had it all go his way, reacting badly to an offseason that is not unfolding smoothly. It could be the sign of a rookie who for some unknown reason thinks he can get away with something like that.

He won't. The league will weigh in, as he faces a fine of up to $11,025, or 25 percent of his weekly salary if he appeals.

But the bigger challenge facing Pettine now is how Manziel's behavior weighs in on the starting quarterback spot for the season opener.

Hoyer's and Manziel's comments on their play illustrate the way things went.

"It's embarrassing," Hoyer said.

"I don't think I did a very good job today," Manziel said.

Credit both for not hiding behind the "have to review the tape" or the "there were positives to build off" lines.

There really weren't. Not even Manziel's fourth-quarter touchdown -- as big a relief as it was to the offense -- seemed to matter much. The drive was long, penalty-aided and lacked a single impressive throw. Manziel's week started with him being late for a meeting and ended with a middle-finger salute. In between he barely completed 50 percent in practice and played poorly in Washington.

Not good.

Hoyer played in the first half and finished 2-for-6 for 16 yards. He started a drive at the Washington 15 and could not get the ball into the end zone -- overthrowing an open Andrew Hawkins on third down.

"No excuse for it," Hoyer said.

Manziel was just as hard on himself, saying he started the game and "really tried to force everything and not let it fly."

Training camp competitions have ruined quarterbacks, especially in Cleveland. But they are doubly dicey when one of the players has the Q-factor of a Manziel. The holdover feels suffocating pressure, the rookie arrives with fanfare and hoopla. In this case, neither has responded to the pressure. As the competition has droned on and as the incessant attention on the job grew more intense heading into "Monday Night Football," the two wilted.

Now what?

At this point, two options seem the most realistic. One would be to give the job to Hoyer (as poorly as he played) and hope it relaxes him and unites the team behind one guy. Or the Browns can go into the third preseason game and leave it up for grabs and hope somebody actually ... well ... you know ... wins the job.

"Somebody has to be ready," Pettine said.

Well, somebody has to line up for the first snap.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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