Extra Points: Browns setting up Manziel to fail

(SportsNetwork.com) – Brian Hoyer knew his margin for error was small, he just
didn’t know how small.

In today’s NFL, you don’t take quarterbacks in the first round of the draft
unless you plan on playing them sooner rather than later.

Sooner came Sunday in Buffalo for the Cleveland Browns after Hoyer threw two
interceptions and the playoff-hopeful Browns found themselves trailing the
underrated Bills, 20-3.

Browns coach Mike Pettine told Johnny Manziel to loosen up and sure enough the
“Johnny Football” era began with 12:01 to play in a lost cause. Moments later,
Manziel completed his first NFL pass and after 80 yards, he accomplished what
Hoyed couldn’t, leading Cleveland to a touchdown against one of the stoutest
fronts in all of football.

A 26-10 loss became a footnote lost in the giddiness of Manziel mania.

The rookie was surprised his number was called and Hoyer, who is now a solid
10-5 as the Browns’ starting quarterback was stunned.

“I mean, this is my team and I’ve always felt that way,” Hoyer said, “so we’ll
see what happens.”

Um, it was your team.

Pettine could always backtrack by Wednesday but it looks plainly obvious that
Manziel is going to be the guy moving forward.

“The door is definitely open for a change at the quarterback position,”
Pettine told ESPN. “It’s not like we’re just going to go back to Brian. This
has been a cumulative thing, where discussions about a change at quarterback
have been more and more lively. We’ll evaluate both quarterbacks and have a
decision soon.”

In this case lively might as well mean a fait accompli.

“It’s obviously up to coach (Mike) Pettine and some higher up people than me
in this organization,” Manziel said. “If that is the case and my name is
called, then I definitely will be ready.”

The higher up Manziel was speaking of is general manager Ray Farmer, the man
who chose Manziel with the 22nd overall pick and has some serious skin in the
game when it comes to Manziel’s future in Cleveland.

A rookie general manager, Farmer sold team owner Jimmy Haslam 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.

As many around the Browns feared, however, 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 as he jetted off to
Hollywood, Sin City or Austin every time he had a free moment during OTAs.

Just last week the immaturity resurfaced as Manziel reportedly was taken to
task by both Pettine and Farmer for staying out late and being involved in a
fight at a Cleveland hotel.

Yet, an 18-for-32 performance for 192 yards with the two picks by Hoyer
changed everything.

“We’re all about competition,” Pettine said after the loss. “So I’ve said it
all along, we get together as a staff each week and at the end and the
beginning of each week, we say, ‘Who gives us the best chance to win?’ So far,
Brian has been the answer to that question.”

And now he’s not with a month left of football and Andrew Luck on the horizon?

Manziel did provide a spark in a game that was long over but that was fool’s
gold against a Bills D which took its foot off the gas.

“When I was told to go in today, I feel like those guys rallied around me for
that little bit,” Manziel said. “I mean they came up to me, making sure I was
locked in, they were encouraging me and they rallied around me for that little
bit.

“So If I were to be the guy moving forward, you want to carry that a little
bit, that weight, even though its one drive and it’s a small part of this
whole entire football game, I still feel I am very thankful for those guys.
And I feel they did a great job rallying around even for that little part.”

Rallying around the new guy is great but emotion like that can’t be sustained
for an entire football game, never mind a complete playoff push in the month
of December.

This decision has Farmer’s fingerprints all over it and it seems like a
proactive approach that takes a hard decision on Hoyer, a Cleveland native who
is set to become a free agent after this season, off the table.

But if Pettine does indeed pull the trigger, it will be incredibly unfair to
Manziel, who, like any rookie, is sure to undergo some serious growing pains
under the harsh spotlight of a perceived playoff push.

The spin now is that the Browns were succeeding despite Hoyer and fans will be
expecting Manziel to traverse troubled waters that not only include Luck but
also division games against frontrunner Cincinnati and 7-5 Baltimore over the
final month.

“I think at this point it is by any means necessary, by all cost to go out and
win these games to make a push,” Manziel said. “I don’t think this (Buffalo)
game completely shuts the door as what we want to do as a football team moving
forward.”

With Hoyer Cleveland had a slim chance to make the postseason. Without him,
slim hopped a cab and is on his way to Hopkins International.

The second incarnation of the Browns has been an abject mess for most of its
history, jumping from owner to owner, coach to coach and front office
executive to front office executive with only one constant — failure.

Despite his lack of a pedigree, Hoyer was beginning to change that narrative
and the Browns will be playing a meaningful football in December, not exactly
a common occurrence for the franchise.

Hoyer’s record as the starter in Cleveland is a number panned only by those
who don’t understand the organization was 20-57 in its previous 77 games
without him.

Bad organizations are bad for a reason and poor decision making is usually at
the core of the problems. In this case the Browns are not only burning the
bridge with a guy who has won for them at a .667 clip, they are also setting
up Manziel to fail.

“I think everyone is extremely hungry and determined to finish this season the
right way and to add in a better season for us so far that it has been in the
past,” Manziel said.

Unfortunately for “Johnny Football,” the past remains prologue in Cleveland.