Congratulations, Johnny Football a/k/a Johnny Cleveland a/k/a Johnny Vegas a/k/a Johnny Padres. Not only have you leapfrogged future Hall of Famer (not really) Tyler Thigpen but you also have narrowed the gap with Brian Hoyer.
What a surprise.
Just a few weeks ago, Browns G.M. Ray Farmer declared that Hoyer had a “substantial margin” over Manziel. Now, coach Mike Pettine says Hoyer’s lead isn’t insurmountable.
Or course it isn’t. Because barring a horrendous performance from Manziel during training camp or the preseason, he’ll start Week One in Pittsburgh.
His competition, after all, is Brian Hoyer. A career backup who at one point during the 2013 offseason was unemployed and who started three games before tearing an ACL last year. With a new coach and a new G.M., neither of whom have any loyalty to or investment in Hoyer, it makes plenty of sense that he’ll no longer be the starter.
Then there’s the fact that the Browns traded up from No. 26 to No. 22 to get Manziel. If Hoyer’s the guy, why grab Manziel?
Since 2008, the presumption has become that a first-round quarterback will start right away. Helping shift that approach may have been the 2007 Browns, who opted to go with career backup Derek Anderson instead of first-round rookie Brady Quinn after Charlie Frye was dumped following a Week One debacle. With Anderson knowing that he’d inevitably be benched for Quinn, Anderson didn’t worry about losing the job he’d never keep.
Which allowed him to play well enough to keep the job for the rest of the year. And in turn to thrust the quarterback position deeper into the mess that it has been ever since.
Like other teams in recent seasons (and possibly like several teams this year), the Browns are trying to create the impression of an actual competition, which will create the impression that the rookie has actually achieved something and which may give him genuine confidence when the real games start.
Manziel, of course, doesn’t lack confidence. But he may be lacking a few teeth when the first defense he faces after Duke in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl belongs to the Steelers.
So when will the decision be made? Probably before the point at which Manziel would be thrust into preseason action behind the No. 2 offensive line, facing a No. 2 defense full of players hoping to make a positive impression on the coach by making a significant impression on Johnny Football.