Johnny Manziel accepts backup role
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel has the ability to run away from defenders, but not the truth. And the truth is, he's not ready to be the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback. Manziel admitted as much Wednesday after learning that Brian Hoyer will start the Sept. 7 season opener at Pittsburgh.
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"I need to earn everything for me to get in," said Manziel, the rookie first-round pick with a rock-star persona. "Nothing should be given to me, I completely understand that. I need to continue to come in here every day and get better and be around these guys and let them know who I am and how I am."
Coach Mike Pettine said after Wednesday's practice that there are no plans to develop a package of plays for Manziel, who starred at Texas A&M but has been slow to adjust to playing under center and learning a new playbook. Manziel said the coach gave him no reason for the decision.
"He said they were going with Brian and, obviously, to make the most of every rep that I'm getting ... and you'll get better," Manziel said. "I know that. He didn't need to come in and say that to me. I'm smart enough to know that I didn't play to the best of my abilities last week (in a loss at Washington) and need to get better."
Ironically, Manziel moved the offense with greater efficiency than Hoyer in the preseason, though at times it was against backups. Hoyer was just 8-of-20 passing (40 percent) for 108 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions, while Manziel was 14-of-27 (51.9 percent) for 128 yards, one touchdown and no picks.
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"I don't get wrapped up in the numbers," Pettine said. "I think he had some drops you could factor in, some routes that were run at the wrong depth, the wrong angles. It's easy to look at the numbers, but when you look at the tape I think it tells a very different (story)."
When asked about having a potential quick hook with Hoyer, Pettine said: "This is Brian's job. I never think of it as it's a leash or we want a guy to be a game manager. We want him to be confident and go out and play."
Asked if Manziel would see the field this year, the coach said: "Give me a crystal ball and I'll give you that answer. The season is so long. So much can happen, and we don't want ... Brian looking over his shoulder thinking, 'Hey, I make one bad throw and I'm out.' But over time, if you feel you need to make a change -- it's not just at quarterback, it'll be at other positions as well. You have guys that you have penciled in that you hope can be that guy for you for the year, but that rarely works out in the league. Time will only tell.
"You could see a scenario where he doesn't play this year, and then there are other scenarios that are absolutely possible as well. It's hard to tell."
"The most important thing is that he wants it," Burleson said. "There's a want and a need there. It's deeper than, 'I'm in this competition right now.' I've sat and talked to Brian quite a bit, and I can just see it in his eyes and how he plays and how passionate he is, and him being from Ohio and having an opportunity after playing well last year, then tearing an ACL -- there's a lot of non-football reasons why he's going to be successful."
Despite the disappointment of being relegated to backup, Manziel, who sat out his first season at A&M, believes it can be beneficial.
"I think it will be great," he said of having a chance to watch and learn. "When I first got to A&M, if people had seen me they'd say no way this guy goes on to do what I've done the past two years, three years. When I had to redshirt at A&M, it was hard, it was frustrating, but at the same time I got a lot better in that year and a half that I had to sit and watch. Whenever my number is called and it's my time (with the Browns), I'll be ready."