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“Bring him on.”
That’s what Brian Hoyer told GM Ray Farmer after the latter reached out to him when the Browns picked Manziel, per ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon.
Of course, Hoyer has a year with the team, but it’s a new offense and staff. He’s had more time to acclimate himself to both, but it’s not a huge leg up. He’s also coming off an ACL tear and could struggle in this offense given that new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme seems to favor mobile quarterbacks more.
Meanwhile we have been clearly told—ad nauseum—that Manziel isn’t being handed anything and will have to fight for his job and roster spot.
Several media types have called “shenanigans” on this, like MMQB.com’s Peter King, and given that the team sold 2,300 season tickets in less than 24 hours after Manziel was picked, there might be some pressure to get the rookie in sooner rather than later.
Head coach Mike Pettine told NFL Network (h/t CBS Sports): “We're not going to let jersey sales determine our depth chart," and they shouldn’t. As the saying goes, if you start listening to the fans, you’ll soon be sitting with them.
That said, fans (and let’s be honest, media) have expectations. When they aren’t met—with wins, in particular—teams tend to react in ways they probably shouldn’t.
On the surface it would seem as if Manziel’s mobility and arm are a much better fit for Shanahan’s offense than Hoyer is.
Additionally, Manziel’s mobility, playmaking ability and upside are all (on paper) a lot greater than Hoyer’s, and if the Browns didn’t agree, they wouldn’t have moved up in the draft to grab him. But they did, which says they know Hoyer isn’t a long-term solution.
By the way, some might throw in Tyler Thigpen or even undrafted free agent Connor Shaw, but it’s going to come down to Hoyer and Johnny Cleveland.
Despite all that, it seems very much as if Cleveland is bound and determined to make Manziel earn his keep. I’ve long thought part of a year on the bench would be good for him developmentally and believe the Browns feel the same.
At the end of camp, I expect Hoyer to be under center. At the end of the season?
That’s nowhere near as certain.