Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine claims he hasn’t decided whether Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel will start this Sunday against Indianapolis, saying he’s “not leaning one way or the other.”
Well, Pettine may want to decide soon – because the future of his team, not to mention its playoff hopes – rest squarely on this decision.
That’s not to say that the decision is easy. Hoyer led Cleveland to a 6-3 start but has struggled in recent weeks. The Browns lost at home to Houston, 23-7, survived the Falcons in Atlanta, 26-24, and then scored just three points through three quarters this past Sunday in Buffalo.
In came Manziel, who promptly led Cleveland on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive – which culminated in a 10-yard run by, yes, Johnny Football.
So, who gets the start this Sunday?
“I’ll be honest with you: I would have played Manziel from the start,” CBS Sports NFL columnist Pete Prisco said on The Morning Show. “I don’t think they were ever going to be a playoff team, and all you do when you don’t play the kid is delay the inevitable. So I’ll start with that. I would have played him right from the get go.”
Yes, Prisco is almost always a fan of playing the young quarterback over the so-so veteran. Why? Because so-so quarterbacks rarely lead you to the postseason. And even if they do, they almost certainly won’t be there very long.
“I think when you play the Hennes, the Hoyers, the Schaubs and the McCowns of the world, all you’re doing is preventing your team from actually becoming something it should become, which is a team that has a franchise quarterback,” Prisco said. “You got to keep trying to find that guy. And if you draft one and all the young kids are playing – (Teddy) Bridgewater and (Blake) Bortles and (Derek) Carr – and they’re making a slew of mistakes. But they’re learning. They’re learning they can cost their team games. They’re also learning to win some games. Johnny Manziel hasn’t learned any of that yet. So I would have played him from the start.”
Hoyer is 61-of-120 (50.8 percent) for 844 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions in his last three games. He has thrown for 3,056 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season, most of which was played without Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
Manziel, meanwhile, finished 5-of-8 for 63 yards against Buffalo. He also ran twice for 13 yards.
Mathematically, the Browns are still very much alive in the AFC playoff race. Realistically, however, this is probably going to be a close-but-no-cigar kind of season.
“I know that the Browns have been (teasing the fans) by being 7-4, 7-5 and (people think), ‘Oh, they might be a playoff team,’” Prisco said. “They’re not that good. (Hoyer’s) not that good. So I sit him down, I play Manziel and and (go from there).”