Why Johnny Manziel should start…On the bench

Welcome to Cleveland, Johnny Manziel
Adam Hunger/ USA Today

Johnny Football Fan Art

Now that the Browns have drafted Johnny Manziel and are heading into rookie mini camp this weekend, the proclamations have begun. I’ll try not to create any straw men here, but I’m pretty confident most of us have heard variations on the following phrase. People say, “You don’t draft a guy in the first round to sit him on the bench.” Or more specifically to Johnny Manziel, “You don’t draft Johnny Football and then sit him behind Brian Hoyer.” There are these ideas that regardless of whether it’s Andrew Luck, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Christian Ponder or Ryan Tannehill, you just have to live by a clichéd statement disguised as a pseudo-intellectual philosophy. I don’t buy that there are hard fast rules for this and my preference is for Manziel to sit at the beginning.

I admit that my instinct is almost rule-like, which is somewhat hypocritical. I was in favor of Brandon Weeden beginning his career on the bench in favor of Colt McCoy. Even as I seem to land on that side of the fence more times than not, for me, it’s hardly a rigid point of view. For example, if the Browns had traded up for RG3 a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have wanted him to sit. But this year, with this team, considering what they are trying to put together on offense, I think the Browns would best be serving their chances in the win column by starting Brian Hoyer.

Consider the number of new pieces on offense. The Browns have a new offensive lineman, Joel Bitonio, who will be working in front of a new running back, Ben Tate, with all new receivers, assuming Josh Gordon is going to be out. The Browns will be doing this with a new offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. None of these are specific reasons why it’s impossible for Johnny Manziel to start right away, but I think they’re reasons why the team might be more suited to being ready to start this NFL season if they’re also not working extra hard to bring along a rookie quarterback. Granted, these are just my instincts with limited knowledge of just how prepared Manziel may or may not be.

At least for now, it seems the Browns agree with me. All the talking the team has done regarding Manziel coming in as the backup with no free ride to the top of the depth chart isn’t just lip service. If the Browns thought they had RG3 or Andrew Luck, they wouldn’t waste words posturing about making Manziel earn his spot. They’d be talking about setting up their first-year offense in a way that plays to the prior knowledge and experience that Manziel brings to the table. Much like Shanahan did with RG3, he’d be designing the offense in such a way to specifically ease the transition for Johnny Manziel. It’s possible they could be doing that behind the scenes while saying something else publicly, but I doubt it.

I’m not even saying I can’t be on board with Johnny Manziel being the starter by the time the team is on their way to Pittsburgh for the first game of the year. I want to see how everyone looks in training camp and the pre-season. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me to picture Manziel beating out Hoyer and obviously giving the Browns their best chance to win. If that evidence reveals itself, I’ll surely change my stance. In many ways I hope that happens, because like the rest of you, I hope Johnny Manziel proves he is a player the Browns can bet on for the next decade. I just wouldn’t bet on it being the Browns best chance to win out of the gate this season.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    As long as Hoyer can play and doesn’t cost his team in the way of mistakes such as interceptions there probably won’t be an issue. If not, well, it probably won’t take much for a Manziel movement. After all the fans always love the backup QB!

  • 330steve

    I m with u, sit him unless he clearly wins the job. That graphic is awesome.

  • bupalos

    I agree with most of this, especially that if you are going to play Manziel early, you’d pretty much HAVE to tailor the offense ala what they did with RG3. But I think that was a big mistake with RG3. I think it contributed to his injury and contributed to a regression in year 2 when teams adjusted to the custom offense and you saw that he hadn’t really made any progress getting towards real NFL style reads from the pocket. It’s almost like they just delayed his rookie year.

    Lots of people have said it. You could trade on JM’s college-busting skills, but sooner or later teams will take that away and force him to his weakness. He needs to start working on that weakness now if he’s going to be an nfl qb.

  • TobaccoRoad

    One thing people are forgetting is that this is a new offensive system for Hoyer, too. To say Hoyer is best for the job because there are a lot of new pieces, doesn’t hold weight; those pieces are new to him as well.
    Honestly, I don’t care who wins the job, just win games. I do think, however, that Browns fan are over-relying on Hoyer’s 2.25 game sample size. I personally don’t believe Hoyer has played enough games to be entitled to the starting job. Because he beat a terrible Minnesota team and Cincinnati when our defense only gave up 6 points? I’m a Clevelander and love Hoyer as much as the next, but it’s amazing how much of a free pass he gets from everyone. He still has very, very much to prove and what I like about Hoyer is that I think he feels the same way.

  • MrCleaveland

    The exhibition season is going to be extra fun this year. Lots of JFF. Too bad BK won’t be there to call it.

  • mgbode

    well, I think all starting spots should be based on meritocracy, so whoever is better, start. let’s not make things more complicated than they truly are.

  • ThatAlex

    Hoyer is the better choice simply because he is more used to the NFL game.

  • Agreed. I think meritocracy would be a departure from what we saw with Weeden being crowned over McCoy and even Seneca Wallace, to be honest.

  • I agree that it’s a new system for Hoyer too, but he’s adapted to the NFL and multiple NFL systems in his career. He should be less wide-eyed. SHOULD. 🙂

  • Rudy

    He gets a free pass because his less than Pro Bowl caliber 85 QBR over 2.25 games is better than the QB ratings of every other QB to play for the expansion Browns. Yes, he’s average, but we’ve never seen average with this franchise.

  • wasnt it a new system last year for hoyer? a new system that he mastered well enough IN THREE DAYS PRACTICE AS A #1 to beat a terrible incumbent playoff team on the road?

    this is a theory fedor is peddling and i find it soft. one only needs to look at the game film and there’s no magic or luck in hoyer’s play. just quick reads, quick releases, accurate throws, and yac for miles.

  • Harv 21

    Ah, the first of what will probably be dozens of such posts so I’m just going to try to add some early context:

    – We’d be foolish to believe what the Browns are saying about Manziel’s place in line is what they’re thinking, as opposed to what they want him to think. The cage with Johnny Football, Wild Ass Man, has just now been wheeled in. They need him to really read a playbook, really work, really be a teammate. This is no longer an interview; they actually have him and he might be a handful. The best chance of getting him to really hit it is to say what they claim they are saying to him. In his first minicamp interview he was mouthing the appropriate humility in the appropriate tones. But only time will tell if this is what he’s thinking, and what the team is thinking.

    – The exhibition season will NOT tell us if he’s ready to start. If he has a chance at being a good QB he should do really well against all the second and third teamers and future camp cuts he’ll be facing in their artificial vanilla preseason defenses. If he does well it might be a false positive – we see this every summer. They’ll know if he’s ready when he faces NFL defenses at regular season speed in regular season blitz packages.

    I agree with Craig. I would much prefer he stand on the sideline for at least a few regular season games and sniff the speed and chaos he’ll be facing on this level.

  • Kildawg

    If Manziel is deemed ready enough to start and does well, I’ll be fine with that. However, he should be holding a clipboard to start out (sure, he’ll get preseason reps but I was referring to the regular season); the Browns don’t need to add another name to the scrap heap (or jersey) just yet.

  • The_Real_Shamrock


    Since WFNY takes the weekends off these days $hamrok thought he would help out by providing a link to the FIRST photos of Johnny Manziel in a Browns uniform.


  • Harv 21

    good points. Maybe the worst thing that can happen is an early season injury to Hoyer before the team internalizes Shanahan’s offense and before Johnny is ready. Then they’d have to go cro magnon offense and the losses would pile up yet again. All the planning might be academic – Hoyer has 4 total career starts in like 6 years and we have no idea how durable he is.

  • TobaccoRoad

    I didn’t say there was any magic, he performed well. Just don’t try to tell me the guy is Bernie Kosar. My only theory is that the starter should be whoever gives the team the best chance to win. If that’s Hoyer, so be it. If it’s Manziel, put Hoyer on the bench. Boom.

  • bupalos

    >>> Because he beat a terrible Minnesota team and Cincinnati when our defense only gave up 6 points?>>>

    Both those teams are a hell of a lot better than Arkansas.

  • bupalos

    OMG OMG OMG JOHNNY HOTCAKES!!! QBOTF!!!! Thank you SO SO MUCH, get me a paper bag, I’m hyperventilating!!

  • i think hoyer is better than kosar.

    (but i thought danielson, strock, vinny –and maybe mcdonald– were better than kosar. the only one who wasnt was philcox. so bad metaphor to use. with me anyway.)

    mainly, i say trust your eyes. hoyer actually was really good last year. that happened.

  • Joe

    Best guy plays, that’s it and how it should be. Nothing else matters.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    i think hoyer is better than kosar.

    I wouldn’t say that to loud but honestly you just lost some street cred with $hamrok!

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • saggy

    that’s not a good enough point for me. there are plenty of rookies who are good enough to play right away. Maybe Manziel is one of them.

  • 6thCity

    As a guy that gives the draft a B, and wasn’t super excited about The Football Man (TM), I do have this much to say: The kid can talk, is saying all the right things, and isn’t coming off at all like an entitled D bag. Pettine is the same way, so far. Sure I get that talk is cheap, but it is proving some of my preconceptions wrong, and I’m happy about that. I’m ready to chill out and wait till the season starts, see what happens with these drafted guys and UDFAs and FAs we brought in, and see what the heck happens. From where I sit, we should be more fun to watch than last year.

  • saggy

    that’s it. agree. Better player plays. Isn’t it always supposed to have been that way?

  • Dan_L79

    As much as I take your point about the preseason not being perfectly like a game situation, I don’t think we can say the preseason is completely useless as a predictor of who is ready for playing time. Russel Wilson and Colin Kaepernick were both impressive preseason guys in the season they broke out. Wilson was promoted based on the preseason, and Kaepernick perhaps should have been looking back on it. I guess my suggestion would be to only rush him in if he’s really passing every test with flying colors. Three good games and one bad one may be the evidence to slow things down.

  • vespo09

    Especially since Week 3 of the preseason the Rams are playing in Cleveland. I would’ve appreciated Bernie’s update on the St. Louis WR situation.

  • BenRM

    In fairness, McCoy and Wallace were also terrible. At least Weeden had like 5 good passes a game. 5 more than McCoy and Wallace would throw, combined.

  • Hopwin

    I agree that Manziel should sit for a while but when we roll into our week 4 bye at 0-3 it is going to be hard as fans not to throw at least some of that blame on Hoyer. I am guessing we see the Manziel debut at the Titans in week 5, which at this point, appears to be our first realistically winnable game.