Earlier this week, Browns’ quarterback Brian Hoyer refuted a report that he would have no interest in re-signing with the team if Johnny Manziel is on the roster. Although he denied the report, the thought that Hoyer wouldn’t want to assume a Matt Cassel in Minnesota type role, remaining as a placeholder to the eventual first-round pick makes sense.
Still, Hoyer insists that there is no truth to the report at all. However, there is definitely some conflict going on, with both quarterbacks looking to be the long term starter in Cleveland. It is not only Hoyer that has to respond to that report, but Manziel who now has the uneasy role of backup quarterback who has to pretend to have no interest in the starting job in order to not cause waves in the locker room.
Still, so far he is saying the right things, writes Jeff Schudel of The Morning Journal and News-Herald. “Brian didn’t even really need to come up to me because obviously he dismissed that and then between me and him and our room, I don’t think we ever even thought that had even the slightest piece of legitimacy behind it,” Manziel said. “So between me and him, everything’s been fine.”
Manziel is the only rookie quarterback drafted in the first 60 picks in 2014 who has not started a game this season. Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr have all been handed the starting jobs for their respective teams. Hoyer is the only veteran quarterback who was able to ward off his successor.
“I think all of that stuff will really play itself out, but it’s not something that’s really been on my mind,” said Manziel. “I think it’s hard to sit here right now and kind of guess how things are going to play in the future. but every quarterback that’s come into the league has had a different circumstance. I think it’s all about how you handle it when you’re not on the field and continuing to try and better yourself even when it’s really hard.”
However, despite saying the right things, Manziel acknowledges that he is prepared to go in if he is called upon, writes Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland.com.
“I feel a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable,” said Manziel. “Getting into a new system, just getting around these guys, the whole process of being under center a lot more, everything that’s involved in this offense just wasn’t anything that I was asked to do really at A&M. I knew it would take me some time. Now going through these game plans and getting some of the same ideas spilling over into the next week, I’m a lot more honed in on that.”
Quarterback situations can be fickle in the NFL. One injury, or one bad game from Hoyer could open the door for Manziel to get some game action. Play well enough in that opportunity, and it may be enough to overtake Hoyer for good. Manziel stresses readiness in case that opportunity presents itself.
“My strategy, my mindset really haven’t changed much this year except stay on top of my stuff and make sure I’m ready,” said Manziel. “It’s a wacky league, so you never really know when you could be thrust in there.”
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan follows a similar philosophy with his young quarterback. Shanahan is committed to Hoyer, but stresses that Manziel must be prepared for his time under center, despite limited opportunity.
“He could end up being – as the cliché is – one play from starting,” said Shanahan. “I hope he’s working to be ready, and if that ever does happen I think he will be.”
While some have pointed to Steve Young sitting behind Joe Montana or Aaron Rodgers sitting behind Brett Favre, the Hoyer/Manziel situation might be most similar to Philip Rivers sitting behind Drew Brees, writes Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Fowler writes that all Manziel can do in the mean time is to come up with creative ways to say that he is alright waiting for his turn.
It might not be in Manziel or Hoyer’s best interest to leave Cleveland. Shanahan’s recent record with quarterbacks has been fantastic, and both could benefit by playing under his expertise, writes Chris Wesseling of NFL.com. Hoyer is playing his best football right now. In Washington, Robert Griffin III was dominant when healthy, and Kirk Cousins was drawing trade interest before being thrust into the lineup this season where he has mostly turned the football over. Before that, Shanahan spent time with the Texans, where Matt Schaub had some great years before self combusting in 2013, shortly after Shanahan left.
Hoyer staying in Cleveland would make sense, but the truth is that the Browns are committed to Manziel at some point in the future. Albert Breer of NFL.com writes that the team should take a wait and see approach with Hoyer when it comes to a contract extension. Giving him an extension now would risk him petering out, and the team would be heavily invested in a backup after a small sample size of competency.
Of course, if they wait too long, Breer points out that the uneven quarterback situations with the Bills, Buccaneers, Jets, Texans and Titans that Hoyer could have multiple suitors in the open market, and a bidding war could force the Browns hands. They may be starting Manziel next season out of necessity rather than choice.
Still, as of right now, the Browns are 3-2 and clicking on multiple cylinders. Hoyer has them in the playoff race, and All Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon will be back in uniform in a few weeks. For now, Hoyer is the starter and Manziel is the backup, and everything’s been fine between them.