Why the Cleveland Browns Must Start Johnny Manziel from Day 1

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Why the Cleveland Browns Must Start Johnny Manziel from Day 1
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After another season in which the Cleveland Browns struggled on the field, the front office brought life to the organization when it traded up in the draft to grab quarterback Johnny Manziel earlier this month.

A former Heisman Trophy winner, Manziel has become one of the world's most recognizable athletes, and he instantly boosted the Browns' season ticket sales hours after being drafted.

Despite being one of the most highly touted quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told the media after the draft that Manziel is not the team's starter.

The team currently sits with journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer on top of its depth chart.

Hoyer spent three seasons with the New England Patriots after going undrafted in 2009 followed by stops in Pittsburgh and Arizona before landing in Cleveland last season.

Before an ACL injury ended his season, Hoyer made three starts, throwing for 615 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions and an 82.6 quarterback rating. 

The team saw quarterback Brandon Weeden leave for Dallas earlier this offseason while Jason Campbell signed with Cincinnati, leaving Hoyer as the team's best option at starting quarterback in 2014 heading into the draft.

New head coach Mike Pettine was adamant prior to the draft that it was going to be difficult for any quarterback in this year's draft to be able to come in and beat out Hoyer, telling Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today:

There will be competition, but I think it will be very difficult, based on my evaluation of this year's draft class, it will be very difficult for anyone in this draft class to come in and beat (Hoyer) out. There's that certain 'it' factor he has. Just the way he's attacked his rehab, the way he's attacked learning a new offense.

Now that Manziel is a member of the Browns, Pettine acknowledged that Manziel and Hoyer will be fighting it out to be the starter in 2014, starting at the minicamp that began earlier this week.

"We don't want guys who are going to be warm and fuzzy," Pettine said this past Monday, per Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.

They're fighting for a job. It's somebody you're going to be working with. It's a unique situation where you're competitive, you want that job. It's not going to be this warm and fuzzy (thing). That to me is how you want your quarterback to be.

Both Manziel and Hoyer have flaws in their game, but Manziel's potential is far greater than Hoyer's.

Manziel, while great at moving around in the pocket and creating something out of nothing, often relies too much on his feet and passes up open receivers in favor of trying to make the spectacular play.

Hoyer is a fundamentally sound quarterback who displays good mechanics, but he has a tendency to stare down receivers and doesn't always appear to be able to read opposing defenses very well.

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So what should the Browns do? Go with a veteran who has proven he can be a consistent, albeit unspectacular, starter in the NFL? Or, go with an unproven rookie that has given the team the most buzz it has received in decades?

Manziel is not a perfect quarterback; anyone who watched him at Texas A&M knows that.  

While he has the amazing ability to make something out of nothing on the football field, he can often leave many scratching their heads. The ability to make things up on the fly becomes increasingly harder when making the jump from college football to the NFL.

He is going to struggle in the beginning, like all young quarterbacks do, but in the long run it will be better for him to take on the struggles early in his career than to sit behind Hoyer and not see the field until later in the season.

The days of drafting a quarterback early and letting him develop behind a veteran on the bench are over. The league has seen players like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III excel in their rookie seasons when given the opportunity to start from Day 1.

Manziel is not in the same category as Luck and RGIII, but a guy like Ryan Tannehill has proven that when given the opportunity to be the starter from Day 1, a player can develop while on the field.

While Hoyer was a pleasant surprise for the Browns in his limited time on the field in 2013, the impact that Manziel can have not only on the field, but on the franchise as a whole, should not be overlooked.

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According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, Manziel already has the best-selling jersey among all rookies from the 2014 draft class.

Manziel's arrival helps boost an already passionate fanbase's love of their team, and depending upon his play on the field, he may be able to attract potential free agents in the future.

Is Manziel the guy that is going to bring the Browns to the promised land? It is far too early to know, but he does have the ability to change the perception of the organization on and off the field if he is the starter come Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow @MattEurich

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