The good news for the Browns is that quarterback Johnny Manziel has shown improvement with live game reps. The bad news is that he won’t get any more until starter Brian Hoyer gets injured or benched — or unless he’s used in a specialty role.
Perhaps the worst news is that, if the Browns had simply made Manziel the starter from the moment they drafted him, he’d be a lot closer to being ready to be the guy they expect him to be.
After Saturday night’s preseason game against the Rams, coach Mike Pettine acknowledged that Manziel has gotten better with game experience.
“He did, and I just think that just comes with playing,” Pettine told reporters. “He needs to play, and as I’ve said a bunch of times, there’s no substitute for live game reps at NFL speed. I think that was good work for him. That’s why at the end still took the timeout, just wanted to get as many reps as we could get him in the two-minute [offense]. Then, after he got sacked we just went ahead and let [the clock] run out.”
Manziel agreed that he played better on Saturday night.
“I just felt more comfortable,” Manziel said. “I am just going out and playing ball. I’m just going out, getting better and having fun.”
Since he won’t be playing as the starter (until he is the starter), Manziel seems to welcome the possibility of a two-quarterback system.
“I feel like any way I can help contribute to this team, whether it’s looking at a certain coverage, looking at something during the game, or getting in the game and having a certain package during the game, just anything that I can do to help this offense to win games that’s the position I’m in and that’s all I really want to do,” Manziel said.
A two-quarterback system will help both quarterbacks, in theory, because opposing defenses will have to spend time preparing for each of them. And perhaps the Browns will be inclined not just to use a sprinkling of Manziel, but to deploy a true two-quarterback system that the NFL hasn’t seen since 2007, when former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt alternated Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner in the same game, until Leinart broke a collarbone.
Seven years ago, Leinart started and Warner entered when the offense needed a spark. This time around, it could be the younger player periodically giving the offense a kick in the caboose. And if Manziel does that well enough and keeps improving with live game reps, it’ll simply be a matter of time before he’s in the game form the opening kickoff.