Johnny Manziel starting for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday gives NFL fans a little extra incentive to watch the Browns vs Bengals game in Week 15. But it’s not just fans who are excited to see Johnny Manziel starting for the first time. Apparently even Browns head coach Mike Pettine is on the Johnny Football bandwagon.
“I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t excited to see him play,” Pettine told reporters after announcing Manziel would replace Brian Hoyer in the Browns starting lineup this weekend. “We’re not trying to install a new play book in a week, we’ll just be highlighting different portions of it.”
That could mean we’ll see the Browns run a few more read-option plays against the Bengals than they did with Hoyer at the helm. Manziel is a much more mobile quarterback than Hoyer, as evidenced throughout his career at Texas A&M.
In fact, Manziel last Sunday scrambled for a touchdown after replacing Hoyer late in the game, giving the rookie QB the chance to give his trademark money sign in the end zone. However, Manziel was even more impressive from the pocket, lacing several passes through defenders.
During a pre-season in which Johnny Manziel starting seemed to be a foregone conclusion, Pettine at first waffled and said the Browns may use a two-QB system a la Chip Kelly with the Oregon Ducks four seasons ago. After the veteran Hoyer showed more poise in certain situations, Pettine eventually named him the starter.
Hoyer started Cleveland’s first 13 games of the season but has struggled in recent weeks. Last Sunday was particularly disastrous against the Colts, as the Browns defense scored two touchdowns against Andrew Luck — more than Hoyer could muster on offense.
That performance, coupled with Hoyer’s impending free agency, gave way to the decision that Johnny Manziel starting for the Browns was the way to go at home against the Bengals this Sunday.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis responded to the announcement of Johnny Manziel starting by cracking some height-related jokes about the rookie QB. To Manziel’s credit, he passed off the personal digs by making a Drew Brees reference and saying he was focused on preparing for his first career start.
We’ll find out Sunday whether he uses Lewis’ jabs as bulletin-board motivation against the Bengals.