Johnny Manziel Must Start Season on Bench for Cleveland Browns

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) talks with  offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Washington Redskins Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/Associated Press

There have been many fans and experts who claim Johnny Manziel should be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 of the regular season. But the rookie should begin the year on the bench.

With plenty of room to grow on and off the field, Manziel would have time to learn the game as Brian Hoyer’s backup.

Manziel proved his immaturity Monday night. During Cleveland’s 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins, the first-round pick struggled to find any rhythm offensively, racking up a 43.8 completion percentage, 65 passing yards and one touchdown.

As if his statistics weren’t bad enough, Manziel also gave the Washington bench the middle-finger hand gesture during the national broadcast of Monday Night Football. If the rookie thought he wasn’t going to get caught, he learned his lesson about the coverage each game gets.

The official Twitter of ESPN’s SportsCenter shared an image of the gesture:

When asked about giving the middle finger to the Redskins bench, Manziel told Mark Maske of The Washington Post about the pressure of being in the limelight and how he must handle it next time:

I get words exchanged with me throughout the entirety of the game every game, week after week. I should have been smarter. It was a Monday Night Football game. The cameras were probably solidly on me. So I just need to be smarter about that…. There’s always words exchanged on the football field.

While Washington defender Brian Orakpo thought the gesture was hilarious, according to John Keim of, head coach Mike Pettine was disappointed in the actions of his rookie quarterback, according to Chris Wesseling of

The problem for the Browns is that Hoyer did not show great skill during his opportunities and has not separated himself from the rookie.

Against Washington, Hoyer completed only two passes for 16 yards and didn’t prove that he deserved the starting job. Manziel has far more upside for the franchise, but the team must start Hoyer and give the first-year player the time to learn on the bench.

ESPN’s NFL Twitter account shared former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth’s take on the situation and his opinion on Manziel:

There is no doubt that Manziel must mature as a person off the field to become the face of a franchise, and allowing him to do so out of the public eye would make the process easier. Cleveland would be forced to continue enduring the questions about when he will eventually start, but the organization must do what’s best for its future.

The competition between Manziel and Hoyer proved nothing Monday, and it has done more harm than good for the players and the team.

Instead of naming Hoyer starter from Day 1 and alleviating the pressure on Manziel, the open competition has undermined any of the credibility Hoyer had built and shaken the confidence of Manziel.

As the backup, Manziel would have the chance to learn the playbook and develop an understanding of the league before ever hitting the field as a starter. He can learn from the mistakes Hoyer makes during the season and avoid them when he finally gets his opportunity.

When Pettine finally names the starting quarterback, Manziel should be on the bench watching and preparing for his eventual opportunity to lead the Cleveland franchise into the future.


Stats courtesy of