The Browns didn’t do much to help Johnny Manziel
Johnny Football’s first NFL start didn’t go very well. Beyond his rookie mistakes, the Browns failed him on several levels too. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White explains.
Wellllllllll after I went through the trouble of endorsing his candidacy to start last week, “Johnny Football” absolutely shit the bed on Sunday, huh? Man, um, well this is awkward …
I went back and took a look at what happened and went wrong on third down for the Browns offense considering the absurd number of times that they went three-and-out against the Bengals. What I discovered was a game plan that didn’t do a damn thing to help a rookie quarterback making his first start, especially one with the unique talents that Johnny Manziel possesses.
Look, I’ve told you before I’m not a big fan of the kid, and I damn sure am not making this assessment just to look “right” about him starting. If he sucked all on his own, it actually would have validated some of the concerns I have previously voiced about him, so defending him isn’t exactly helping my reputation as a prognosticator.
It’s hard for me to understand how out of 12 third- or fourth-down opportunities, I didn’t see Manziel run a bootleg or a roll-out on na’an one. That’s “athletic quarterback” 101, holmes. Especially when the Bengals were throwing everything and the frigging kitchen sink at this kid with blitzes from all over the field. Just using play action fakes was not and could not have been sufficient protection for a quarterback in Manziel’s situation with the weight of a whole city’s playoff hopes on his shoulders.
Just look at the first third down situation the Browns faced on offense. It’s third-and-2, that’s a perfect opportunity to use Manziel on a read option look, especially considering the talent the Browns have at running back with rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Nah, instead the Browns decided to go with, get this, the oopty oop formation.
I. Shit. You. Not.
OOPTY FUCKING OOP, GIVEMEABREAK!!! *Coach Kilmer voice*
Oh, and it wasn’t just the coaches who didn’t exactly help Manziel in his first start, either. Some of his teammates, especially those at the skill positions, may have subtly been making a statement about their preferences for Brian Hoyer. Or, maybe none of them are all that damn good anyway, aside from Josh Gordon, and as the leaks tell us, he’s not in shape yet. Or, really, who gives a shit?
Regardless of all that, Andrew Hawkins and Jim Dray should not be dropping passes in a game like that one. Gordon and Hawkins shouldn’t be running into each other on the same side of the field trying to run crossing routes, or really ever for that matter. And the offensive line needed to hold up much better than they did, no matter how many blitzes the Bengals threw at them. The stakes were too high for those guys to perform at such a low level in that game.
Now, after all that, was Manziel somehow blameless? Of course not.
Manziel made some mistakes, and I told you last week that he was definitely going to make some mistakes. That’s what comes with starting a rookie quarterback. It’s also how the ones who go on to be pretty good learn to be better. I’m sure Manziel thought he put plenty enough mustard on the pass he threw to Hawkins on a crossing route, but Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick showed him that the devil is a liar! I imagine the next time Johnny throws that pass he’s going to spin the hell out of it so that doesn’t happen again.
Same way with the throwaway interception he just kind of threw over his shoulder deep down the middle of the field as he was running away from the Bengals’ rush. That kinda shit you might’ve gotten away with in college with Mike Evans‘ tall ass out there to save you, but it certainly won’t fly in the NFL on most days. I think he’ll get that now.
Even though Manziel made his own share of mistakes on Sunday, at the end of the day he would’ve had to have played like Superman to have been able to elevate his team to a win with such incompetence from the coaches and mediocre play on the field around him. They all three had better step their game up the next two weeks or the results won’t change a bit.