It’s time for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns need Johnny Football if they’re going to have any shot at making the playoffs. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White explains why making the switch is the best thing the Browns can do with the season on the line.
I am not a Johnny Manziel fan-boy by any means. I happen to believe that his off-field antics are a drag on his professional development and a bad look for a guy expected to be the face of a franchise. I also happen to believe that quarterbacks were, in years past, judged by the same measurements on and off the field (well, except, you know …) and nobody had a problem with it, but now all of a sudden people want to overlook it when it comes to projecting the kind of pro Manziel will be. On the field. I don’t trust Manziel’s patience in the pocket nor his decision making throwing the ball downfield, both of which will be probably be inconsistent when he finally gets his first taste of playing time. Still, having said all that, it’s time for the Browns to turn to Johnny Football to try to win the next three games and get as close as they possibly can to making the playoffs.
I haven’t come to this change of opinion lightly. I doubt the Browns would make the decision to go with Manziel at this point without due consideration either. I started down this path last week. I read comments where Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was reportedly “shocked” that he had been replaced by Manziel at the end of the game and that he still thought it was “his” team, before I watched the replay. On the one hand, having not seen much of the game, I was leaning toward believing the Browns were screwing Hoyer and that he hadn’t played that bad.
When I watched the replay, I saw Hoyer’s accuracy get progressively worse during the game. At the end, he threw what I like to call some “what the fuck?!” balls. Why in the hell are you throwing late to Tyler Gabriel with three Bills defenders on him?! And keep in mind that going into the fourth quarter the Bills were only up 14-3, not a great situation, but not an insurmountable lead.
The only thing I was shocked about was that the Browns stayed with him as long as they did in a game they had a chance to win. That made me wonder what Hoyer’s mindset is at this point. Does he think he deserves to start just because he has so far this season no matter how he plays? He kinda started inching over and away from that blue collar, lunchpail underdog and over to an entitled kinda guy in my head.
Watching the replay of the Browns 25-24 loss to the Colts last Sunday, the fact that he played so poorly even after having his job threatened just the week prior says to me that Hoyer has given it his best shot, but he just isn’t the guy for the job. Hell, he actually was worse this past Sunday, just on his numbers alone.
They can try to make receiver Josh Gordon the scapegoat after the game, with some unnamed “members of the organization” disappointed in his conditioning, but I’m going to call bullshit on that. Anybody that has ever played in the NFL knows there is no way a guy can get in game shape unless he is practicing and playing in pads. There simply isn’t any kind of training known to man that simulates what we do on the field.
Hoyer missed a bunch of throws on Sunday that weren’t intended for Gordon. The way he ran the offense was suspect. What about when he takes the sack early on but has Gordon one-on-one out wide on a go route plus Gabriel open deep? What about the interception he throws into triple coverage in the red zone to, of all people, backup tight end Jim Dray? What about the third-and-9 in the second quarter where tight end Jordan Cameron and Gabriel clear out so super fast receiver Travis Benjamin can run a quick slant and Hoyer throws the ball behind him? Benjamin might have scored on that play if the pass hit him in stride. Benjamin was about to leave the safety, the only guy with a shot to bring him down, in the dust.
Another reason why the Browns need to make the change is that Hoyer can’t hit a fat bear in the ass with a two-by-four when it comes to deep balls lately. Gordon might be out of shape, but Hoyer overshot him when he had the closest defender beat by 5 yards off a double move in the third quarter. In the first half, Gabriel had his man by 5 yards and Hoyer over shot him too. It’s hard to game plan guys open deep by that much in the NFL. Defenses are usually too good to let it happen. When it does happen, a quarterback has to hit those throws. He has to!
If he can’t, see if the other guy can. Period.
Hoyer completed less than 50 percent of his passes, for goodness sake, but we’re supposed to believe that it was all because Gordon was a little out of shape? Come on, bruh!
Hoyer was terrible plain and simple. And just in case you didn’t watch the game and the close score fooled you, understand that the Browns defense scored two touchdowns all by their damn selves. If they had any help they would have blown the Colts out of the water. Instead not only was Hoyer not a net positive for his team, he actually was a drag on them by missing open receivers and throwing interceptions in the redzone.
Sidenote, what the fuck is up with the Browns’ kicker?
Anyway, the point remains that if the Browns had gotten anything out of their quarterback position on Sunday they would still be in the hunt for the AFC North crown. But my opinion didn’t change just because Hoyer has been turrible the last few games. I also recognize the unique talents that Manziel possesses and understand how they can help the Browns possibly catch fire on offense and run the table to end the season.
The Browns have the Bengals at home and then road games against the Panthers and Ravens. It’s a safe bet that the Browns will have to score more than 21 points in each of those games to win any of those games. As I said when I talked about why Mike Vick should replace Geno Smith a few weeks back, Manziel is a weapon unto himself, and that’s why I believe the Browns can score 21 and much more with him behind the center.
With Manziel, pass protection doesn’t have to be perfect, receivers don’t have to be wide open (or in marathon shape), the running game doesn’t even have to be clicking. He can get positive yards up and down the field by himself all game long when everything else breaks down. If the Browns can some how manage him well enough so that he isn’t turning the ball over, Manziel can be the kind of weapon that opposing defenses won’t be able to catch up with their first time seeing him. It’s the perfect time to spring him on unsuspecting defenses that are used to chasing statues in the pocket.
Imagine the possibilities with Manziel threatening the perimeter on a scramble and Gordon going deep while Cameron works the middle. The opposing secondary is going to be wrong one way or another, and with Manziel’s fresh legs it’s no guarantee that staying deep on Gordon and looking up Cameron is going to make much of a difference in the outcome of the play. Watching Manziel scramble for that touchdown against the Bills, you can see that when he makes those kinds of plays he lifts the spirits of every guy in a Browns jersey. That includes the couch potatoes in the stands pounding Natty Light. The Browns is talented enough that if they can just feel some hope from their offense, there’s no telling how dominant they could be. Manziel can provide that kind of spark; Hoyer, sadly, cannot.
I still think Johnny Manziel is a bit of a turd whose attitude will ultimately have to change before he can maximize his talent, I’m also sure that he is going to be just what the doctor ordered for the Browns when he gets his shot. The whole locker room is going to get excited about playing again, and that’s enough of a reason to hand him the reins.
Yes, Manziel will make some mistakes. He will probably pout some too, but that’s all okay. By the end of each game, I can almost guarantee you that, he will have been a net positive for his offense and his team regardless of the final score. The same can’t be said for Hoyer any longer, and that’s why his jig is up.
Now, if you’re done reading this, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!