Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. took issue with how the Browns handled their quarterback competition.
Interviewed on the Washington Redskins’ sideline Monday night, the NASCAR star said neither Brian Hoyer nor Johnny Manziel could establish any rhythm as they alternated after two-series segments, generally three-and-outs.
There was plenty to criticize leading up to coach Mike Pettine’s decision that Brian Hoyer will start the Browns’ Sept. 7 opener in Pittsburgh. But Pettine wisely realized Tuesday night that the circus could no longer go on.
The rookie coach’s biggest misstep came on Friday, when he said he didn’t want whomever he chose to feel like, “This is my team for the year.” With that to quash their confidence, it’s no wonder Hoyer and Manziel bombed against the Redskins.
Pettine stuck to that philosophy Wednesday after the announcement was made.
“I think you need all your guys on the roster running scared a little bit,” Pettine said. “This is a performance-based business. ‘If I don’t perform, I’m not going to be in there.’?”
I don’t believe the competition was stacked in Hoyer’s favor. Manziel essentially threw away the job with his offseason antics with inflatable swans and rolled up $20s and champagne bottles and girls in bikinis while Hoyer was holed up in Berea throwing to receivers and trying to learn the offense. On Tuesday afternoon, Pettine said he would take into account the quarterbacks’ “body of work,” “A to Z,” from the time they set foot in the building this spring. Manziel firing his middle finger at the Redskins’ bench wasn’t a good mental picture to leave his coach with.
Pettine backpedaled on the “body of work” issue less than 24 hours later, even though he could have sent his party boy quarterback a message if he’d continued to press it.
“I don’t question his dedication. I don’t,” Pettine said when asked about Manziel’s offseason. “He made tremendous strides from an X’s and O’s standpoint from the time he left here after the rookie symposium until the time he came back.”
I think Pettine should have started Manziel on Monday night to give him a fair shot at the job. If Pettine pondered that, apparently he felt Manziel’s limited knowledge of the playbook and/or tardiness to a meeting last week should not be rewarded. “He really needs to dial in on the mental part,” Pettine said of Manziel on Wednesday.
Obviously, Pettine didn’t share my opinion that a tie should go to Manziel, but given what sounds like Manziel’s limited grasp of the system, it probably wasn’t as equal as it appeared on the field.
Now that Pettine has decided on Hoyer, everyone should step back and take a breath. The competition turned out as everyone expected. Pettine has said since Manziel was drafted that he doesn’t believe in starting rookie quarterbacks.
What Pettine might have underestimated was how Hoyer would react to the pressure of fighting for the job with his hometown team, to being caught in the crossfire of Manziel Mania, to coming back less than a year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills.
“That’s a lot on a young guy’s plate,” Pettine said Wednesday.
Now the rookie coach has until Sept. 22, the day after Game 3 and the Monday of the Browns’ bye week, before things get dicey again. If the Browns go 0-3 against the Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, Pettine might have to go with Manziel whether he likes it or not. By then, Pettine’s buried memory of one-and-done Rob Chudzinski may have been revived.
Before facing the Steelers, there is much to fix. With a package of plays for Manziel scrapped at this point, Pettine said the Browns must “narrow the [offensive] package to fit what we do well.”
The onus is on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who showed in Washington with Robert Griffin III and in Houston with Matt Schaub that he can adapt to different style quarterbacks.
To this point I’ve been unimpressed with Shanahan, but perhaps he’s unwilling to tip his hand to what’s in store. The Browns have looked overwhelmed with Shanahan’s new system, even those who played in a West Coast offense under Pat Shurmur. I thought the offensive line had timing issues with Hoyer in the first preseason game at Detroit, even though the unit was generally praised.
The biggest thing Pettine got right in the quarterback competition was when he made his decision. He knew had he waited until after the dress rehearsal game Saturday at home against the St. Louis Rams, he ran the risk of having no cohesion or chemistry on Sept. 7.
There is none now, at least none that is evident outside of practice. The offense is a mess, save for the running game, and Hoyer needs every snap with the first team he can get.
It appears Hoyer was awarded his dream job more for what he did off the field than on. But rather than argue the injustice of it all, Manziel’s supporters need only wait. Barring a swan dive from the Browns’ graces, he’ll get his chance.
By Marla Ridenour - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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