In a world of 24-7 social media, by now, most sports fans have heard the news — Cleveland Browns’ media icon and quarterback Johnny Manziel will be holding a clipboard, sporting a ball cap and wearing an earpiece when the Browns take the field during the first week of the 2014 regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And in less relevant news, Brian Hoyer has been awarded the starting gig for the season opener.
Since Johnny “Football” was drafted with the 22nd overall pick by Cleveland in May, he has been deemed the savior of a franchise that has witnessed nothing but tumultuous times on and off the field.
When Browns’ rookie head coach Mike Pettine officially declared a quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer,(who started three games last season before tearing his ACL) and Manziel, the statement was almost deemed laughable.
Hoyer is now Mr. Irrelevant in Cleveland and during his own draft process, wasn’t even fortunate enough to reach Mr. Irrelevant status (which is awarded to the player who is drafted last), as he went undrafted.
If the various media reports are even remotely accurate — and when there is smoke, there is usually fire — then the competition has never been between the career backup and the rock star.
If a sub-standard franchise uses a first-round selection on a quarterback, the question isn’t “if” but “when” the rookie is going to see the field.
In Manziel’s case, he’s been struggling to learn the playbook for Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Apparently, Manziel’s college program, Texas A&M, didn’t have an extensive playbook, which is hurting the former Aggie at this stage in his rookie campaign.
Various media entities have reported that Manziel has even had trouble relaying the plays while in the huddle. Again, those reports might be somewhat exaggerated, but then again, it also explains why Hoyer was named the opening-day starter.
During the first two preseason games, Hoyer hasn’t done anything to earn the starting job, nor has Manziel. The timing of Pettine’s announcement is peculiar, unless Manziel is really struggling learning the offense.
Despite the low expectations in Cleveland, the coaching staff wants to win and nobody in their right minds would play a rookie quarterback against a Dick LeBeau defense in Week 1 unless that rookie was physically and mentally prepared.
Therefore, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to assume when the decision was made to start Hoyer at quarterback, his name probably never entered the conversation.
In the first three weeks of the season, the Browns face the Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens. There isn’t much optimism for a Cleveland victory before their Week 4 bye. After the week off and the probable 0-3 start, Manziel —ready or not — should get his chance to flourish or fail.
So don’t worry Cleveland fans, your media darling will be on the field sooner rather than later. Then the fun of Manziel “Mania” will really begin.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.