Why Browns should give Johnny Manziel a shot

Josh McCown has already proven to be a mediocre NFL quarterback. The Browns should see if Johnny Manziel can do better, writes Ben Stockwell.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/David Richard)

(AP Photo/David Richard)

Why Browns should give Johnny Manziel a shot


While Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine is singing the praises of his “low-mileage veteran quarterback,” it has surprisingly become easy to overlook the fact that the Browns have a 2014 first-round pick on the bench whom they shouldn’t be giving up on just yet.

Johnny Manziel’s rookie season was disappointing in every conceivable manner, but it would be short-sighted to throw him away as a player simply because of one bad game. Manziel joined a long list of rookie quarterbacks who struggled in early starts, but there are plenty of examples of QBs on that list who went on to turn things around.

Fellow rookie Teddy Bridgewater finished 2014 as well as any quarterback in the NFL, but subpar displays against Detroit and Buffalo (league-worst 62.9 PFF QB rating in those two weeks) were cause for early concern. Looking further back, Matt Ryan posted a PFF QB rating of 49.8 in his second career start, topping only JaMarcus Russell in that statistic for Week 2 of the 2008 season.

The fact that Manziel struggled early is by no means a guarantee of future success (Blaine Gabbert got off to a poor start and never improved), but it does show that it’s too early to dismiss his chances of becoming a quality NFL starter.

That is particularly the case for the Browns. It’s true that he has “plenty of gas in the tank” from not having played a ton in his career compared to your average 36-year old NFL quarterback, but it’s far more likely that the Browns will be getting the McCown who struggled for the Bucs last season than the McCown who excelled for the Bears in 2013. His performance against pressure that season for Chicago proved completely unrepeatable, and even though the Browns have a much better offensive line than the Bucs did in 2014, Cleveland shouldn’t expect much out of McCown this season.

If this proves to be the case, there’s no reason not to give Manziel a chance to rebound in his second pro season.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Derek Lucht

    “Teddy Bridgewater finished 2014 as well as any quarterback in the NFL, but subpar displays against Detroit and Buffalo were cause for early concern” Really? Teddy struggling against the top 2 defenses is cause for concern??

    • Richard

      I don’t think they said it is cause for concern. They were using it as an example that Manziel could still be good despite playing poorly in his 1 start. I would assume they did that because they feel like Bridgewater is going to be a good quarterback. So in reality they were saying the opposite of what you think they were saying. Despite bad performances by Bridgewater in those games, they don’t have concern that he’s going to be a good quarterback.

    • http://carywebdev.com/ Jason

      I saw Bridgewater make some nice throws last year, but I wouldn’t say he looked great.

      • Tim Edell

        Great in-depth reply!

  • VikingMonkey

    Teddy was given 13 games and started to hit his stride in the last 5 or so when his completion rate averaged over 71.7% while the prior 8 were 60.4%. That approach made way more sense than what the Browns did last year. Also worth reading up on is the early NFL career of Brett Favre and his rough starts.

  • http://carywebdev.com/ Jason

    Manziel is gonna be fine. He just needed more time to get his head on straight. Not everyone come out of that, but it looks like might do it.

  • Sam Doohan

    I agree that Manziel deserves another chance but of course the Browns are going to play whoever looks the best to them in their camp. If Manziel really can’t beat out McCown then he’s clearly not ready to get another shot on the field. If McCown seriously gives them a better chance to win games then how can they think about putting Manziel on the field?

  • Mark West

    None of you know the genius of bringing McCown to Cleveland. Not only is he turning heads at spinning the ball all over one of the Top 3 D backfields in the league he is the ultimate teammate and leader. Cleveland will have a top 10 D this year and a top 3 O-line. McCown will have success. He is also doing all he can to help Manziel start. He’s that kind of dude. Without McCown, Manziel may have never played again. With him he’s getting the perfect opportunity to learn and become a pro. When Manziel does start(which may or not happen this year) McCown will be the first to cheer him on.