The case for starting Johnny Manziel continues to grow

Cleveland's second-year QB has a higher upside than Josh McCown -- and their floors appear to be about the same.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/David Richard)

(AP Photo/David Richard)

The case for starting Johnny Manziel continues to grow

Josh McCown remains entrenched as the starting quarterback in Cleveland, as the Browns continue to not show any hint of a competition for the starting gig. Thursday night was an uninspiring performance by McCown (he had to undergo X-rays on his finger, which reportedly came back negative), as he faced one of the better defenses in the league in the Bills. He completed just one pass targeted beyond the first-down marker, had a couple of passes intercepted, and finished with a 44.6 QB rating.

On the flip side, it wasn’t a perfect night for backup Johnny Manziel, either. He missed on an easy check-down and forced a couple of other passes. Most of his completions came on throws short of the markers. But he did hit on a couple of deep throws, including his 21-yard touchdown pass to Shane Wynn. Naturally, Manziel was more able to escape pressure and extend plays with his feet — an area that was a particular weakness for McCown last year with the Bucs. McCown ranked 36th out of 37 quarterbacks with a -10.2 pass grade under pressure.

The Browns understandably do not want to rush Manziel onto the field before he is ready, and he may not have shown enough to be the starter at this point. However, his upside is still higher than McCown’s, and if last year is any indication, their floors aren’t too dissimilar. Manziel’s performance this preseason has improved thus far over last year. Coupled with McCown’s preseason, there is a case for a legitimate competition for the starting job in Cleveland.

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • Sam Doohan

    My guess is the Browns are looking for Manziel to start next year – This year they aren’t likely to be particularly competitive anyway, so taking this year to develop him, keep him healthy, get him some garbage time reps etc I think probably works out better in the long term. That way you get a full season to really work with him and next season you can go get more offensive talent and build an offense that gives him a far better chance to succeed.

    If they try to rush him back in then I think they end up looking like the Jets; with the staff scared for their jobs and a high draft pick who never really gets a chance to succeed. Everyone knows McCown is a stop gap guy and their offense stinks so there aren’t any expectations and that makes a really big difference. One more year, then I think they’ll give him the chance to really make his mark.

    • Mike Kirkner

      devils advocate, if the Browns go onto win what is likely to be between 4-7 games and they haven’t truly evaluated Manziel what do then do next April in Chicago when a possible franchise altering QB could/would be available in the draft?

      • Sam Doohan

        I guess it depends on the talent available and what they are seeing from Manziel off the field. If he looks good to go then you go get him some pieces; a high quality WR at the very least, ideally a starter caliber RB too. If he’s not practicing well enough for them to even try (which seems unlikely based off the pre-season so far – he seems at least to be working hard) then maybe they do go get another QB. I’m not a college guy and I really don’t know the talent pool but I have to imagine if you are the Browns and have been burned in the draft so much it’d take Manziel punching a coach not to get him at least one season as the starter.

    • leona.bennett2

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  • crosseyedlemon

    The Browns only hurt themselves by being indecisive here. They spent a high draft pick and big bucks on Manziel so the sooner they can determine if he is the answer or not the better.