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Johnny Manziel Must Be Browns' Starting QB in Week 1

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Johnny Manziel Must Be Browns' Starting QB in Week 1
USA TODAY Sports

Let's put the "Football" back in "Johnny Football" for a moment, no?

Johnny Manziel, at 21 years of age and the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is the player who must waltz through the tunnel at Heinz Field Week 1 as the Cleveland Browns' starter.

Not Brian Hoyer, and certainly not Tyler Thigpen or Connor Shaw. Manziel, the guy named after, well, the sport.

A star since he was a teenager, birthed from a rich Texas family and an ungodly amount of football talent, Manziel is an international sensation and—gasp—a kid. A rich kid who has managed to transcend traditional tabloid junk stuff like TMZ to the point of being borderline stalked wherever he goes.

While the media focuses on his off-field escapades that are really nothing more than a 21-year-old kid being a 21-year-old kid—while ignoring work he does like mentoring young quarterbacks at the Elite 11—Manziel has been hard at work perfecting his craft when not acting like a normal human being.

Which is what it is. Well, Manziel's not a normal human, so his night's out are going to be a little more extravagant. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com has a pertinent quote from the man himself:

I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. I'm going out. Everybody goes out on the weekends and enjoys their life and lives their life and just for them, they don't have people that when they walk into a place pull out their phones and all they want to do is follow me around and record everything, so my situation is unique and different and now more than ever I've seen that it's an every weekend thing wherever I'm at, whether it's here in Cleveland on a weekend, or in Dallas or anywhere on a weekend people want to record what I'm doing because they think it's a story.

He's not wrong, and until the results on the field suggest otherwise, Manziel can live life however he wants.

On the field, there is no denying he has what it takes to be the starter right away, and that has to be preferable for Mike Pettine and Co. in an era where rookie signal-callers are routinely thrown to the wolves.

The situation, of course, is quite dire in Cleveland. When Miles Austin and Nate Burleson are the No. 1 targets at wideout, any quarterback will struggle.

But it's better to let Manziel go out there and give the Browns the best chance to win right away than to hope beyond hope that Hoyer can be the starter in the interim. If the franchise was that in love with what the veteran had to offer pre-knee shredding, Manziel wouldn't be in town in the first place.

Per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, Pettine has even said Hoyer's lead is not "insurmountable," a smart stance for a head coach who just potentially lost his greatest weapon, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, and has a veteran under center who has not proved to be anything more than a flash in the pan through 192 career pass attempts.

Manziel can, at the very least, improvise on the field and use his escapability to give the Browns a fighting chance. His pairing with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who helped get the most out of a rookie Robert Griffin III, should prove nothing but fruitful right away (Terrance West, coincidentally, can be quite the Alfred Morris in time).

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After all, should Hoyer go out and stumble, the pressure to bring on Manziel from fans and media will resemble a riot. That's not to suggest a professional coaching staff should be swayed by the wants of a fanbase, but better to avoid a combustible situation that can negatively impact the finances of a franchise, especially when, on paper, they might just have a point.

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If Manziel struggles and does not seem focused on the task at hand during training camp, then the Browns have a serious issue. But there's nothing to suggest either of those will be the case.

"I want to play. That's what anybody wants to do. Anybody that's been a starter in the past, and been playing, they want to play," he said, per Kinkhabwala. "To say I don't want to be the starter, that would be ridiculous. I absolutely want to start, that's my goal. Hopefully I can achieve that."

Were this another franchise with a rookie quarterback, like say the Minnesota Vikings, a staff that can ride Matt Cassel and Adrian Peterson for a year, then this would be a different conversation entirely.

But this is Cleveland, a dire situation that calls for somewhat extreme measures. That means Manziel needs to be out there from Day 1, and with any luck, he'll come out with a major chip on his shoulder as a reaction to all of the scrutiny and prove the globe wrong.

 

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