Johnny Manziel did a stupid thing last night. He didn’t stay focused, he didn’t stay within that zone all the quarterbacks speak of, and he didn’t find a balance between being his aggressive, excitable self, and a sense of calm.
The result: scattered, sprayed passes, some that sailed far out of reach, and an offense that was in general disarray under his watch.
Oh, he did another stupid thing. And he was still really disorganized and lacking focus with that too. Veterans like Marshawn Lynch know that when you communicate with your middle finger, it should be directed at your own bench. No poise there, Johnny.
There was a constant disconnect between Manziel and his receivers. Though the split practice reps with the first team between the rookie and Brian Hoyer didn’t help in that regard, at some point fundamental accuracy needs to be shown on staple routes. Manziel made routine plays look challenging, and downright daunting.
There was some improvement in the third quarter of an eventual loss to the Washington Redskins, but it came against a lower caliber of competition. When faced with the first-team Redskins defense in the opening half, Manziel looked overwhelmed.
He’s far removed from Texas, where improvising and creating with his legs seemed easy, and became second nature. On one read-option play he kept the ball after the defensive end collapsed, only to be met immediately by a linebacker after a minimal gain. It’s early yet, but we may need to be patient and wait for the real, Harry Potter level Manziel magic.
Repeatedly throws lacked touch. He missed Josh Gordon on a simple, short route up the middle, forcing the wide receiver to slow and reach backwards. Before that he expected Jordan Cameron to sit on a route, and instead the tight end kept going, resulting in another ball turfed.
Those communication issues should get ironed out with time, but that’s where we arrive at the problem Browns head coach Mike Pettine now faces.
Manziel may have completed only 43.8 percent of his throws last night at a pathetic average of 4.1 yards per attempt (with 65 total yards). But Brian Hoyer really sucked too, connecting with only two of his six attempts for 16 yards. Pettine initially said he would name the winner of the Great Hoyer-Manziel Battle of 2014, but now he’s stuck between a bad option and a worse option.
He can rush a decision and name a starter this week, which seems premature since neither man has really distinguished himself, and there are still two weeks left in the preseason. Or he can wait another week, giving his coaching staff a third game with live reps to evaluate. But then the eventual starter will spend seven more days of practice getting reduced work with the first-team offense, and a clear lack of chemistry could persist when games matter.
Though that risk is a little terrifying given what we saw last night, making no decision right now is the best decision. In his post-game comments Pettine said he might just do that, and wait another week. What’s the rush? He’s a rookie head coach evaluating a rookie quarterback, and the benefits of more practice time outweigh the drawbacks.
Pettine also dabbled in some always true coach speak, saying that the quarterback who gives his team the best chance to win in Week 1 will be the starter. How can he possibly know who that is right now?