Now that the Browns have drafted Johnny Manziel and are heading into rookie mini camp this weekend, the proclamations have begun. I’ll try not to create any straw men here, but I’m pretty confident most of us have heard variations on the following phrase. People say, “You don’t draft a guy in the first round to sit him on the bench.” Or more specifically to Johnny Manziel, “You don’t draft Johnny Football and then sit him behind Brian Hoyer.” There are these ideas that regardless of whether it’s Andrew Luck, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Christian Ponder or Ryan Tannehill, you just have to live by a clichéd statement disguised as a pseudo-intellectual philosophy. I don’t buy that there are hard fast rules for this and my preference is for Manziel to sit at the beginning.
I admit that my instinct is almost rule-like, which is somewhat hypocritical. I was in favor of Brandon Weeden beginning his career on the bench in favor of Colt McCoy. Even as I seem to land on that side of the fence more times than not, for me, it’s hardly a rigid point of view. For example, if the Browns had traded up for RG3 a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have wanted him to sit. But this year, with this team, considering what they are trying to put together on offense, I think the Browns would best be serving their chances in the win column by starting Brian Hoyer.
Consider the number of new pieces on offense. The Browns have a new offensive lineman, Joel Bitonio, who will be working in front of a new running back, Ben Tate, with all new receivers, assuming Josh Gordon is going to be out. The Browns will be doing this with a new offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. None of these are specific reasons why it’s impossible for Johnny Manziel to start right away, but I think they’re reasons why the team might be more suited to being ready to start this NFL season if they’re also not working extra hard to bring along a rookie quarterback. Granted, these are just my instincts with limited knowledge of just how prepared Manziel may or may not be.
At least for now, it seems the Browns agree with me. All the talking the team has done regarding Manziel coming in as the backup with no free ride to the top of the depth chart isn’t just lip service. If the Browns thought they had RG3 or Andrew Luck, they wouldn’t waste words posturing about making Manziel earn his spot. They’d be talking about setting up their first-year offense in a way that plays to the prior knowledge and experience that Manziel brings to the table. Much like Shanahan did with RG3, he’d be designing the offense in such a way to specifically ease the transition for Johnny Manziel. It’s possible they could be doing that behind the scenes while saying something else publicly, but I doubt it.
I’m not even saying I can’t be on board with Johnny Manziel being the starter by the time the team is on their way to Pittsburgh for the first game of the year. I want to see how everyone looks in training camp and the pre-season. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me to picture Manziel beating out Hoyer and obviously giving the Browns their best chance to win. If that evidence reveals itself, I’ll surely change my stance. In many ways I hope that happens, because like the rest of you, I hope Johnny Manziel proves he is a player the Browns can bet on for the next decade. I just wouldn’t bet on it being the Browns best chance to win out of the gate this season.