Extra Points: It's 'Johnny Backup' in Cleveland
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Johnny Manziel made things very easy for Mike Pettine.
The only real question in Cleveland was if the first-year head coach had the authority to play the quarterback he wanted on Week 1 in Pittsburgh.
One of the underreported aspects of the so-called Brian Hoyer-Manziel competition for the Browns' starting quarterback job was the fact that there were others involved in the decision-making process outside of Pettine, his offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and his quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, the three people who know better than anyone else that Manziel is simply not ready to start an NFL game.
Rookie general manager Ray Farmer drafted Manziel with the 22nd overall pick back in May and obviously has a stake in his future as does team owner Jimmy Haslam, who was sold on the fact that "Johnny Football" was going to be the face of his franchise and the superstar who would finally elevate the Browns' brand from bumbling to must-see.
To a degree Manziel has been as advertised when it comes to star power. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been a television ratings juggernaut, the key cog in the NFL Network's highest-rated preseason game, and the impetus that made Monday's game between the Browns and the Redskins ESPN's second highest- rated preseason telecast.
On the field, however, it's been a far different story.
As many around the Browns feared Manziel showed up for training camp woefully unprepared and behind the 8-ball because of his laissez-faire attitude during his first offseason as a professional.
If you are wondering just how bad Manziel's first few months as a pro have gone consider that at least two organizations trying to pump up their own young quarterbacks coined the term "anti-Manziel" to describe them.
Sources close to both the Eagles and Vikings used that term to describe Nick Foles' understated leadership style, as well as Teddy Bridgewater's willingness to work when talking to The Sports Network.
The Browns, meanwhile, were ignoring common sense and enabling their own young QB as he jetted off to Hollywood, Sin City or Austin every time he had a free moment during offseason activities.
The straw that broke the camel's back for the team seemed to be the picture which surfaced showing Manziel with a rolled-up bill in a nightclub bathroom.
"I've talked about that with coach Pettine; I've talked about it with Ray Farmer and the people that I need to talk about that with," Manziel dodged at the beginning of camp when asked about the picture and all it entails. "Moving forward, they're good with everything and I've told them everything I need to."
As he's prone to do, however, Manziel couldn't help himself and defended his behavior.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with me going out and having a nightlife and having a social life," he said. "I am 21 years old, and I do like going out. It was the offseason. It's free time for us, and if I want to go out and hang out with my friends or go to nightclubs or do things like that, then I think that's within my rights to be doing that. I think there are other guys throughout the league that are doing that. I'm not trying to compare myself to anybody else, but I think that's within my rights to be doing that."
The Browns, however, obviously had a problem with Manziel's behavior and Haslam took it on his shoulders to finally address it.
"I don't want to wear this subject out," he said when camp commenced. "Johnny said it himself. He made some mistakes. We expect better from him. I'm sure he'll perform now. We're anxious to see what he can do on the field, which is what really counts."
Early Wednesday morning Pettine finally confirmed Hoyer, a Cleveland native with a journeyman's background, would be under center in western Pennsylvania when the 2014 regular season kicks off on Sept. 7.
"(Hoyer) was the clear leader from the beginning," Pettine admitted. "We've maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room."
Indeed Manziel would have been a tough sell to the veteran players in Cleveland's locker room who understand what it takes to be successful at this level.
"I'm 21 years old and age is not an excuse, but I need to mature and I have done some immature things but moving forward I'm going to try and mature and get better and handle myself better as a professional," Manziel said.
Pettine, though, would be derelict in his duty to assume Hoyer, who is attempting to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament his right knee suffered during the Browns' Oct. 3 victory against the Buffalo Bills last season, is any kind of long-term answer.
And that means the coach has to keep building up Manziel.
"He's certainly made great strides," the coach said of his embattled rookie QB. "We are pleased with where he is, and he has shown that he has come a long way in his ability to pick up the playbook, be coachable and lead an offense. We are confident that Johnny is going to have a great future, but we just felt that Brian still had a decided edge on him."
That might seem like an oxymoron but it's all Pettine has right now.
08/20 13:28:17 ET