The Cleveland Browns quarterback competition between Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer is just about dead even at this point, because all of the positives and negatives associated with starting either are basically a wash at this point. By the time we get into mid-August, the Browns will have a good idea of who will be their starter for the 2013 season, but it’s all guess-work at this point. My guess is that they are going to let the best man win, regardless of the philosophical debates between Manziel learning on the bench and learning on the job.
In an interview with ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi, Browns head coach Mike Pettine stated that the quarterback competition is more about Manziel learning the playbook than beating out incumbent Hoyer at this point. Remember, “at this point”. Pettine said, “We’re still going to evaluate Johnny just as we’ll evaluate any other player, with his repetitions, so it shouldn’t be misconstrued if he’s not taking early reps with the ones. I think at this point, right now, it’s more Johnny v. the playbook than it is v. Brian. I think he’s got to make sure that continues. He’s well along the path, but that needs to continue. That’s a big part for him, to be able to know the play, execute the play, start the right guy in motion at the right time. So I think there’s a lot of that first. So he needs to make sure that he doesn’t jump ahead and tries to match (Hoyer). It’s certainly more him against the playbook.”
It’s incredible common for teams to give the more veteran player the first-team reps, and we’ve seen that this offseason with the Chicago Bears giving Jordan Palmer second-team reps in their backup QB competition and the New York Giants giving Daniel Fells the first-team reps at TE. Hoyer is going to run with the ones to start things off, but there will be ample opportunity for Manziel to showcase his skills.
Pettine’s comments about it being “Johnny v. the playbook” are incredibly accurate, because the concerns with him are mental tools and how his game translates. Nobody questions Manziel’s physical tools, and nobody questions the fact that he is a more individually talented player than Hoyer. But Hoyer has more experience and better decision-making skills, so it’s up to Manziel to prove that he knows enough about the offense and has enough decision-making skills to ensure that his physical tools won’t be undermined by mental errors. Once he proves that, then the rest could take care of itself in a direct competition with Hoyer, who cannot be underestimated.