Johnny Football gets the call: Manziel to start for Browns on Sunday


Mark Maske The Washington Post.

Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan can dust off that 2012 Robert Griffin III playbook now.

The Browns have made the move to Johnny Manziel, albeit a week too late.

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The switch became official Tuesday, with the Browns switching from Brian Hoyer to Manziel as their starter at quarterback this week. Manziel, the highly celebrated, closely scrutinized rookie who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman at Texas A&M and was selected in the opening round of the NFL draft in May, is scheduled to make his first NFL start when the Browns host the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday in Cleveland.

Now it’s time for Manziel to show he deserves the job. Remember when he had his chance to stake a preseason claim to the starting job? He played poorly at FedEx Field and directed an obscene gesture toward the Washington Redskins’ bench. Soon thereafter, Coach Mike Pettine named Hoyer the starter entering the regular season.

There can be no more of those on-field antics. It’s time for Manziel to act like a grown-up, and a leader, as he takes over a team with a winning record heading into the stretch run.

Shanahan showed during the preseason he was inclined to use Manziel much as he used Griffin as a rookie with the Redskins. Shanahan, then the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, helped his father Mike, then Washington’s head coach, to construct an offensive system for Griffin that borrowed heavily from the college version of the sport, with its pistol formations and option-style running plays.

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Whether that was the right thing for Griffin’s long-term NFL development and staying power as a productive player has been fiercely debated. But there’s no question that it was effective at the time, as Griffin led the Redskins to the playoffs and was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year.

Manziel showed at times during the preseason he clearly can move around and make things happen running with the ball as well as throwing it. He showed that again when he ran for a 10-yard touchdown in a recent appearance in relief of Hoyer during a loss to Bills in Buffalo. Is he ready to succeed in the NFL as a passer? That remains to be seen. But it’s time to start finding out. In fact, it’s overdue for that.

In truth, there was no decision to be made by Pettine this week. The move was obvious. Hoyer is the NFL’s 31st rated passer. He has played particularly poorly of late, with one touchdown pass and eight interceptions in the last four games, and the Browns’ record has dropped to 7-6.

The Cleveland defense scored two touchdowns in last Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Even a mediocre quarterbacking performance would have given the Browns a badly needed victory, under those circumstances. Instead, Hoyer connected on only 14 of 31 passes for 140 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdown passes. He had a passer rating of 31.7 in that game and the Browns lost by a point.

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Will Manziel play better than that this weekend? It would be difficult to play worse.

Manziel time has arrived.

And, if nothing else, it will be interesting to watch.