Johnny Manziel ahead in QB race? I want to see more, but I’m patient

johnny manziel podium

Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Lions wasn’t really anything to write home about. The excitement over Browns football carried me through and I really only want to see the good things. I want to ignore the Browns giving up chunks of yardage to Matthew Stafford and the great field position they gave up on special teams. It’s a pre-season flaw most of us have. Because “it doesn’t mean anything,” we only derive what we’re pre-disposed to want to derive.

All that said, the real takeaway for me from the game is that I’m excited to see more of Johnny Manziel, but just like I was going into the game, I’m willing to wait a bit.

Of course, in terms of pre-season, I might not have to wait. Reports are that Johnny Manziel is streaking up the depth chart after the game and that the rookie is going to start the Monday Night Football game next week against the Washington Redskins. The reasons I want to see more are really obvious: Manziel’s numbers weren’t flashy in the game against the Lions, but my eyes saw some pretty intriguing stuff.

Johnny Manziel would be well advised to be more careful with himself running. He did a nice job of sliding on one scramble, but only after flirting with a hit on the sideline and seemingly welcoming a hit as he dove head first on a 3rd-and-1. And it wasn’t just any head-first dive, Manziel was surrounded by three defenders who would have loved nothing more than to have a Manziel hit on their résumé.

Complaints aside, I was just swept away by the exciting things Manziel did. The way he gets himself up to go onto the field is more than just a lazy writer trick to make something more than it is. While Johnny Manziel isn’t totally in his comfort zone with a whole new team in a whole new league, you could tell that the only way he knows how to play football is by attempting to rally teammates. His athleticism in the pocket was apparent. The zip on his passes was obvious. Even without tangible evidence in a box score that I can point to to make my case, I’m really excited to see more.

I’m more than happy to wait, though. Johnny Manziel showed me a lot of the things that I wanted to see, but my experience watching young quarterbacks also makes me happy that the Browns didn’t just hand him the job. Brian Hoyer played his style of football that also made me feel fine if he gets the starting nod out of training camp. For all the things that Manziel does well, there are probably two more things that he can’t possibly do well without more experience and learning.

For my money though, Manziel is trending in the right direction. I was 90% for Brian Hoyer at the draft when the Browns drafted Manziel. I’ve been 75% for Hoyer throughout training camp as I’ve seen Manziel play. I’m not sure where I am right this second, and I think I still prefer Brian Hoyer start the season for the Cleveland Browns, but I’d be less surprised today if Manziel won the job.

This seems to be a legit competition and it’s exactly how the Browns should play it. It’s upside and overall talent against experience. I think both guys bring leadership in their own way. Regardless of how it turns out, and regardless of pre-season misgivings, I can’t wait to see more of both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever been able to say that about two Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.

  • ugh. ‘team sources.’ it would be sooo nice if we could just enjoy that they both played well without having to handicap a ‘race.’ it looks like we may just have two competent QBs and that’s good.

    i thought hoyer started with a couple rusty throws and then showed the same smart QB play he did last year. he was looking off d-backs (on the 20 yd swing to gray), had quick reads, quick releases, and accurate throws. the back of the end zone throw to gordon was exactly the type of throw he was connecting on with cameron for four tds in two games. justin higdon graded hoyer B+ and i think that’s on mark.

    all that said, manziel impressed in the ways you described but also with ‘field command.’ no denying that when he walks on the field he owns it. runs a good, crisp huddle and (although it wasnt apparent with the lineup he had last night) raises the play of his teammates.

    i still have hoyer ahead but was impressed by manziel. all goodness.

  • Warburton MacKinnon

    I must admit I was surprised Maniel played so well,considering the crappy protection he got. Kinda wonder how much of his “happy feet” was due to piss poor protection he was given. Also wonder how much of Hoyer we saw last year in limeted action was the best he has,and possibly the best he will ever do. That said overall the TEAM,not individuals, played poorly I am sure Pettine is pissed at the performance overall,if not he should be. WTF on the 3 or 4 holding calls on the DB’s at the end of the game? The one that is truly ridiculous was the fight for the ball Mcfadden won..can defenders do anything antmore(granted thats hyperbally). Yet the refs consistantly gave the Lions advantages they did not earn…and we can’t forget the reply that not only shows a fumble but a Brown recovering it(sorry don’t remember who), but on the field it wasn’t called a fumble and after a review that contadicted even the call after the review,the Lions still had the ball and the Browns were charged a timeout cause the didn’t get the whole challenge correct,WTF…it was still a fumble which is what was challenged.

  • humboldt

    Well said. We are fortunate to have 2 quarterbacks who both process and play fast and who lead…in other words, the total inverse of Brandon Weeden.

  • Sam Gold
  • Harv 21

    I did note that JFF had seeming control of the play calling, without the hesitation that we had read about in practice last week. And clearly in actual games he’s a fish in water; being a QB is more than what he does, it’s what he is.

    Fine. But didn’t see him look downfield once. But why should he do that yet, or look off a safety with a raggedy line and future training camp cuts running routes. Looks to me (as if I know already) like he’ll get it one day, just not within the next 3 weeks. There’s just no reason to feed him to the Steelers in the opener unless Hoyer is hurt.

  • V. C. Evans Sr.

    Bring the BUZZ back ….
    Vince Young.. You should have never cut him… It would be a WIN-WIN situation for everybody involved…
    This would be the best insurance policy a team could ever have…
    (NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 Pro Bowls, Playoff experience and Mobility). Vince has a career winning record of 31-19…
    It would definitely upgrade the team’s quarterback pool

  • Sam

    Is this a joke?

  • Cliff Kessler

    I think the fix is in .Johnny will be the QB the national media wants him…most importantly tthe owner wants him…good for ticket sales and the new younger audience…or fan base…. a lot of local reporters are crazy about Johnny makes their job more interesting ….so of them are almost star struck…can’t wait until someone like James Harrison comes at him…the politics are the same as when Brandon Weeden was the draft choice …….they did not even give Brian Hoyer a chance then until he showed himself in the preseason game last year..then they did not change to him until the season was in shambles no running game or anything else…..I hope they do feed Johnny-me to the Steelers week 1 …Dick LeBeau will eat him….Ryan with the Saints will too and the Ravens as well….we’ll see how he does……it’s about hype and star power…how boring is Brian Hoyer …Family Guy BBQ guy in just a local Cleveland guy …I feel for Brian but he needs to just wait it out and sign a contract with someone else next year who wants him….notice I didn’t mention talent anywhere….everyone will hype Johnny’s performance and downplay Brian’s performance just like a political campaign….

  • Warburton MacKinnon

    Never said I can spell….

  • BenRM

    Are you vince young?

  • BenRM

    And the government was behind 9/11!!!!

  • Grif_E

    You have two QBs who appear to be comparable in results, but one has shown those results with less experience. The decision is really do you want the guy with more experience to be a temporary meat shield or not. Less to do with all that other stuff.

  • Pat Leonard

    I thought both Manziel and Hoyer played pretty well, although I thought Johnny’s passes had more zip on them and he showed off his scrambling ability. The designed runs for him were pretty sad and I’d like Shanahan to strike them from the playbook. Let him scramble when the play breaks down, but save his body from the wear and tear of the read-option. I’d like to see him throw the ball down the field a little more to see his accuracy. I don’t think he threw anything beyond intermediate range and he only threw one or two of those. Both QBs suffered from WR drops, which was a shame.

  • porckchop

    Meat Shield would be a great name for a prophylactic aimed at the UCF/”Combat sports” crowd. You could cross promote it with the major UFC clothing brand:
    “The Meat Shield… because Affliction should be on your chest not in your pants!”

  • porckchop

    Very well put jim. I think its great that for the first time the “veteran QB” is already on the roster. Its not a Ty or a Trent, or Jake, brought in as a hired gun and mentoring a Timmy or Brady or Colt (anyone notice our former QB list sounds like the roll call at an upscale daycare center?) . Ultimately I think the success of either of these guys is going to rest far more on the shoulders of Tate and West. If those guys run the ball well and we stay in 3rd and shorts on the oppositions side of the field either QB will look good.

  • Jason Hurley

    No! Bad!

  • whosevelt

    I agree that Manziel will start but I don’t think it’s a “fix” or that it’s necessarily wrong. Having watched him in his first 20 minutes of NFL action, it’s clear that he has a je ne sais quoi that the Browns have not had since Kosar.
    Fans are skeptical of the current trend toward rushing young quarterbacks into action, and then back out of action if they are not elite from the beginning. But what if NFL coaches are actually rational? What if six bad games to start a career are either the cause of or a sign of a QB who will never make it? Seeing Manziel’s presence and command of the field translate from college to the NFL makes me wonder…

  • nj0

    Brandon Weeden currently has a 99.9 QB rating.

  • Pat Leonard

    That’s nothing compared to last season. It was 127.7 after playing the Rams in the first preseason game in 2013.

  • Natedawg86

    Gabriel didn’t look too bad.

  • Cliff Kessler

    I guess I should have not used the word “fix” rather intensive marketing campaign driven by sports writers and talk show hosts local and national that see Johnny-me as a much better rating opportunity-story- there intensity is astounding. I am a BBC -CBC kind of guy -I have heard Gerard Cherry on live radio – which I bet he wishes he did not say now and others speak on the politics of sports and how things other than talent drive the league and how chances are given to preform…. I wonder who ESPN would like to start against Washington? I wonder who the Browns marketing department would want? We can all say that is only about talent but I really don’t think its a conspiracy theory on my part to believe and again my opinion- that there are other factors that have equal weight. I hope Johnny-me does great against Pittsburg – New Orleans and Baltimore and I will come back on and post how wrong I was about the whole process.

  • Natedawg86

    I didn’t understand that challenge miscall either. Oh well its pre-football

  • Natedawg86

    or Obama

  • BigDigg

    I liked what I saw from Manziel far more than I thought I would (i’m squarely in the skeptical camp). Just one game, preseason at that and likely running against some of the Detroit 2nd/3rd stringers. That said he was crisp and seemed to know the offense, had more zip on throws, etc. Very positive showing.

    That said i don’t see a reason to over think this. Hoyer should start until he proves he can’t move the chains. Love the play jimkanicki referenced where he stared down the safeties to swing to the RB. We haven’t seen that kind of seasoned QB play in a long time.

  • humboldt

    lol. It’s also a potential UFC meat-based morning supplement shake:

    “Before you beat up your human opponent, drink a Meat Shield, which combines choice cuts from over 7 deadly predators, including wolverines, honey badgers, and ligers”

  • Cliff Kessler

    I agree and hope you are right

  • Sam Gold

    Just pokin’ at your funny bone.

  • Sam Gold

    Preseason = confirmation of what I already believed.

  • Dwayne Rudd

    It’s the Browns.

  • Porckchop

    That made me laugh. Im absolutely stealing it and passing it off as my own

  • bupalos

    I’m pretty sure there is a split in opinion between Pettine and Shany/Loggains. And it’s just their respective focus. Pettine wants an offense that won’t screw up his chances of winning with defense, Shanny wants a toy he can run his one-read RGIII package with. Whether that’s the best thing for QB development is an open question.

    There’s no coaches film on preseason games, but on a second look I thought Hoyer’s game was a little better and Manziel’s a little worse than I first thought. One I hadn’t noticed was Johnny botched a quick read on 3rd down (12:15 in the 3rd) where he needed to go to snead in the slot and he just didn’t pull the trigger and ended up playing it into a failed dump off. Maybe I’m making too much of that, but it seems to jibe with what we saw in college where sometimes he doesn’t take what’s given for whatever reason. There was no “big play” to be made, all the receivers were running short routes and when he didn’t take what was there, the play was just tapped out. It’s possible Snead ran that a little wrong too though.

    Hoyer should have signed something. That’s what’s going to decide this I think

  • I’m quite confident that if the #2 jersey said Garoppolo or Savage or Bortles or even Thigpen on the back, we wouldn’t be seeing/hearing all this talk of “energy”, “swagger”, “Je ne sais quoi” (well played, whosevelt), etc. regarding the performance of John Pigskin. It was simply a decent performance by a rookie QB in line with the decent performance of the lightly-experienced veteran. This idea that Manziel is suddenly shooting up the chart seems more a function of people wanting it to be him starting instead of the journeyman than it is actual performance. Get Denny Green in here to crown him if you want after such a performance, but I’m going to ask to see more before I’m willing to call either QB with the advantage. And I’m not going to make that call based on hopes and wishes. Let’s make one of these guys earn it on a level playing field. Tim Tebow had “it”, too.

  • Toddyus

    After Saturday’s game, as in the past, I am indifferent to who starts. The only difference now is that I think both players looked capable. In prior seasons it was because both QBs looked equally inept.


    I’m confused. I thought ligers were bred for their skills in magic, not for their predatory nature.

  • humboldt

    If you were a UFC fighter wouldn’t you want some skills in magic blended in with vicious predatory ingredients?


  • Pat Leonard

    Very possible with the way Snead played on Saturday night. That was not his best effort.

  • The Other Tim

    I was most excited when the sideline reporter who had been “watching Manziel the entire first half” informed us that Johnny was “engaged and really paying attention.” Then the booth guys praised Johnny’s head-up move of putting on his helmet to go into the game once the replay review showed a Lions fumble. They even showed a slow motion replay of it so they could laud this “veteran move.”

  • Sam Gold

    I thought I saw Johnny drinking water on the sideline with commitment. I was a little disappointed no further analysis followed.

  • bupalos

    yeah Bortles looked way better, Bridgewater looked the same or a half-notch worse and no one’s talking about tectonic plate shifts there. Somehow Johnny just has this thing where his competent, boring 8 yard outs are just worlds more energizing and exciting than everyone elses.

  • BenRM

    Also, what do you mean by “bring the buzz back?”