When Johnny Manziel Could Start


The Cleveland Browns enter their bye week at 1 – 2 after a difficult starting stretch against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens. Many thought that following that gauntlet that Johnny Manziel would take over for Brian Hoyer in Week 5 and the Browns would move on with their QB of the Future starting the rest of this season. That is unlikely to happen, we believe Hoyer has answered the questions (New Window), and that Manziel will be continued to be limited to a few plays here and there.

However it is very possible that Manziel could start games this season and it would be foolish not to assume that this is a possibility at some point. Hoyer is a free agency after this season and reportedly contract extension talks have not gone great. The Browns could use the Franchise or Transition Tag on his this upcoming season but they would only likely do so for 1 season, at most two.

Manziel on the other hand is in the first year of his rookie contract, that has 4 years on it, and is the more likely choice long term. He still has a ton of work to do to become a NFL ready passer but his electric playing style and ability to ad lib plays is second nature and great. Many analysts, especially those who played in the NFL, believe the only way to improve and develop is on the field. This may not be true for Manziel, who has to un-train some of the things he has done all his life and learn new skills.

None the less it is possible that he sees the field this year as a starter. So when? Here are a few spots that could lead to Johnny Manziel starting:

Hoyer Injured

Not something anyone wants to think about and certainly nothing we hope for but a Brian Hoyer injury is possible. Though he gets rid of the ball quickly, has a good to great offensive line and a solid run game to protect him, Hoyer is like all quarterbacks who can get injured quickly in and out of the pocket.

Hoyer still attempts to extend plays running, though he seems far more judicious this year in taking off. So far this year Hoyer is only credited with 3 rushing attempts, for a total of 2 yards. As his knee heals and he gets more comfortable this could increase. In his 3 games last year he ran 6 times.

Oct 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) is attended to by medical staff after being injured during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

In the pocket it only takes one lineman to role up on an ankle or knee, a bad shot to the head from a defender or landing wrong when being tackled to take Hoyer out of the game. There are things in place to help minimize these concerns but in the NFL they are concerns.

An injured Hoyer would lead to a starting Johnny Manziel. Coming in off injury may be the worst for Manziel as he wouldn’t have a week to prepare, the game plan would be more Hoyer-centric in terms of skills and the adrenaline could overcome him being pushed into the spot quickly.

Poor Play

Hoyer has played well this year so far. The team’s 1 – 2 record does not indicate how well he has played. While he still makes mistakes and isn’t perfect, Hoyer has done enough to have the Browns in position to be 3 – 0. Yet nothing is sure to stay.

Like all financial commercials warn “Past performance does not guarantee future success.” If Hoyer regresses over a number of games, and the Browns lose many of those games, Head Coach Mike Pettine and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan would have to strongly consider making a change. If Hoyer isn’t performing there is little reason, see contract statuses, to keep him in the game if the team is also losing.

No Hope For Playoffs

This would be the most interesting one for everyone involved. Hoyer could continue to play well but the team still lose. The Browns, looking for a spark and looking toward the future, would have nothing to lose by inserting Manziel. There are a few points of entry that this makes sense and a point where it makes far less sense.

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  • Weeks 11 through 14 would be the perfect places to put Manziel in if the team’s playoff hopes were gone. At that point a 2 – 7 or 3 – 6 team, going into Week 11, would technically be out but most likely would have to be counted out. Starting in Week 11 the Browns either face teams with weak defenses or teams at home that wins are possible. Week 11 is the best defense, a home game against the Houston Texans. Having Manziel’s first game as a starter against his home state team but in Cleveland’s home stadium would be a ton of fun. After that the Falcons, Bills and Colts do not have defenses that the Browns should fear. Josh Gordon would also return for those games.

    If Manziel is not inserted by Week 14 he should not start the last 3 games of the season. Instead of feeding him to the wolves of the Bengals, Panthers and Ravens defense the Browns wold be better off saving his body and confidence by keeping him on the bench. Don’t let his smaller frame take too many hits and don’t let his confidence as a QB take hits going against such talented defenses. Plus, if the team isn’t sold on him for the future, don’t hurt his trade value putting him in against top notch defenses.

    All of these entry points make sense. As if the odds are that Hoyer starts the remainder of the season and the Browns continue to compete well into the season giving the coaching staff no reason to make a change. But this is the NFL and anything can, and usually does, happen.

    When do you think Manziel makes his starting debut?