In response to my colleague Rick Giavonette’s article (which can be found here) detailing his reasoning for wanting Brian Hoyer to be the starter for Browns, I have written this article as a rebuttal and a reasoning for Johnny Manziel to be the starter. Enjoy.
Before addressing this quarterback debate, I must first say that I am a big supporter of Brian Hoyer. What he did for this Browns team last year was galvanizing. It is largely thanks to Brian Hoyer that there is a sense of excitement surrounding the Browns as we enter the early stages of the NFL preseason. Brian Hoyer can be an adequate quarterback in the NFL, but talents like Johnny Manziel are rare and it just so happens that the Browns have him on the roster.
I concede the argument that Johnny Manziel has yet to prove anything in the NFL. The NFL has seen numerous quarterbacks win the Heisman only to amount to nothing in the NFL: Troy Smith, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, just to name a few. Even quarterbacks who have been dubbed “NFL ready” by experts have often fizzled out after being drafted. Our own Browns saw this latter example play out in front of our own eyes as as Brady Quinn struggled adjusting to the intricacies of NFL defenses during his short time of relevance in the NFL (Side note: The Brady Quinn situation is one that is particularly sensitive to me, as I am a diehard Notre Dame fan and was among the first to purchase a Brady Quinn jersey that now collects dust somewhere at the back of my closet, buried even deeper than my old LeBron James jersey was until recently). The point: college success does not directly correlate to success in the NFL, plain and simple.
But Johnny Manziel is not your average quarterback.
Manziel demonstrated in college that he is an accurate passer with adequate arm strength. Statistics aside, however, Johnny brings something to Cleveland that has been missing for some time: Energy. I think it is a fair comparison to put the drafting of Johnny Football next to the drafting of LeBron James. Both had similar effects on the Cleveland sports scene in that they brought the electricity and buzz back to Cleveland. Let’s not forget that Browns were dismal after Brian Hoyer went down last year. In fact, the Browns were basically the laughing stock of the NFL and many Cleveland fans were ready to give up. It sure seemed as if Cleveland was not allowed to have nice things, but that all changed when the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel.
Many will argue that Manziel needs to prove himself in the NFL before being given the Browns’ quarterback position. I argue that Hoyer has just as much proving to do. Though the Browns won all 3 games Brian Hoyer started, it was more than just the play of the quarterback that won the Browns those games. A quick assessment of Brian Hoyer’s play is that he played games where he limited his mistakes. He was a so-called “game manager.” Game managers are great for being a competitive football team, but is ultimately not optimal for taking winning to the next level.
Brian Hoyer has a leg up on Manziel with the fact that he has spent time in NFL quarterback meeting rooms long enough to learn from the likes of Tom Brady. It is to be expected that Hoyer has a better grip on the mental aspect of the game. However, what Manziel lacks in current knowledge, he makes up for in his love for the game, a desire to improve every day, and his unrivaled ability to improvise and make something out of nothing. I personally cannot wait to see Manziel spin out of a potential sack, scramble to daylight, and launch a deep pass to a receiver who takes it to the house and leaps into the Dawg Pound.
The Browns face some high expectations this season and it is to be expected that they will struggle at points during the season. In my opinion, if the team is going to struggle at times, it may as well struggle with its rookie quarterback so the rookie mistakes become less and less frequent and the foundation is poured for a bright future in Cleveland.
With Johnny’s rockstar celebrity status, he is no stranger to the spotlight. Johnny certainly understands the expectations and is primed to live up to them. While the preseason will certainly shed more light on the quarterback situation from a purely football standpoint, I think that Johnny Manziel certainly has the characteristics and intangibles to lead a football team and galvanize a city that worships its football team. While a preseason “tie” may land Hoyer the starting job Week 1 against the Steelers, Johnny Football is the long-term answer at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
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(feature photo is courtesy of ESPN.com)