In an effort to not create a monster, the Browns may have made a mess.
Two years ago, Washington immediately installed quarterback Robert Griffin III as the team’s starter. And Griffin, who instantly rose to superstardom in D.C., ended up being not quite as coachable as former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan may have wanted.
With Shanahan now in Cleveland and the Browns taking the biggest celebrity quarterback in this year’s draft, the Browns may have consciously opted to do the opposite, humbling Johnny Manziel in the hopes that, as he earns the job, he’ll learn to listen to an offensive coordinator with a reputation for wanting the offense to be run the way he wants it. Indeed, Coach Mike Pettine hinted at a desire to avoid Manziel Mania when defending in June the team’s decision not to install Manziel immediately as the starter.
“When people criticize how we handled it, what’s the alternative?” Pettine told USA Today at the time. “Would it have been more prudent for us the night we drafted him to name him the starter? And have him come in here and let the media have access to him every day and have a huge press conference for him? Handle him that way?”
Time has shown that it doesn’t matter whether Manziel is the starter or merely competing for the job. Media interest attaches naturally to his name, especially with the quarterback decision nudging toward a regular-season decision that hardly will be final.
And if the Browns opted to use a quarterback competition to humble Manziel, the splitting of first-team reps during practice and regular-season games has made it harder for Manziel or Brian Hoyer to be as prepared as the starter would be if the starter had been named right out of the gates.
Surely, it would have been Manziel. Otherwise, the Browns wouldn’t have traded up from No. 26 to No. 22 to add a quarterback. They would have opted to ride with Hoyer and use the pick on someone who could help the team at another position.
By trading up for Manziel, the Browns made their choice. By not following through with it, the Browns have made it harder for Manziel to be ready for the job that they’d hoped to hand him as of Week One. Now, they may have to go with an equally unprepared Brian Hoyer and hope he doesn’t play so well that it becomes impossible to use Manziel at any point in 2014, or to start 2015.
Browns fans know that dynamic all too well from seven years ago, when Derek Anderson made it impossible to use Brady Quinn in 2007, setting the stage for a controversy in 2008 from which the team still hasn’t fully recovered.