Time to give Johnny Manziel the keys to the offense
On Thursday night, the Browns lost to the Bengals in convincing fashion, giving Cleveland their fourth straight loss and a 2-7 record. It was just the third time that Johnny Manziel both started and finished a game, and despite the raw numbers along with the loss, it was Manziel’s best start of his career.
He only completed 45.5 percent of his passes, but he was accurate on two thirds of his throws. Five of his incompletions were drops, and another three passes were thrown away. Had those dropped passes been caught, he would have had another 59 yards on his passing total from yards in the air alone, as well as any potential yards after the catch.
He also had very few inaccurate throws, with most of them coming late in the game, where he tried to force things in order to make more plays. Typically, they were thrown in front of the receiver or under-thrown, but rarely in danger of turning the ball over.
Where Manziel was most successful is when he could get the ball out quickly. On passes where the time to throw was 2.3 seconds or faster, he completed 9-of-12 passes for 75 yards, with one of those three incompletions being a drop. Being down early in a game doesn’t always allow for quick passes, but if the Browns can keep games closer, Manziel could find more success with that quick passing game.
On top of doing an average job throwing the ball, he had four quarterback scrambles for 31 yards. With this kind of play, Manziel won’t be the reason the Browns win games—but he also won’t be the reason Cleveland loses.
At a 2-7 record, the Browns chances of making the playoffs are minimal. If Cleveland starts Manziel and he plays worse than McCown, they will keep losing, and know they need to find another quarterback ASAP. If Manziel is better, the Browns can start building around him for the future. Either way, even if McCown is healthy, it’s probably time to see what Manziel can do.