If this Cleveland Browns training camp continues the way it started, a true quarterback controversy will never develop. You get the sense that the national media has been gearing up for it all along because Johnny Manziel is popular. He is a high profile player who generates excitement whenever you talk about him. His jersey sales alone tell you that. Among Browns fans in Berea for camp every day, he’s the guy everyone wants to see. That said, I don’t get the feeling that Browns fans are all that eager to see him beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job.
I’m sure some out there do want to see Johnny Football under center right away. There will always be some who say “you can’t draft a guy in the first round and then sit him on the bench.” It’s inarguable that the NFL has become a place where first round quarterbacks start from day one pretty frequently. That doesn’t mean it has to be the case for these Cleveland Browns this season. I get the sense if it was put to a vote, Browns fans would prefer to see Johnny Manziel start the year on the bench.
I’m sure some of it has to do with the fact that Brian Hoyer is from Cleveland, but I think that’s only a part of the equation. If he was just a Clevelander, that wouldn’t be enough for Browns fans. Brian Hoyer’s body of work is also really limited even if it did give Browns fans some hope a year ago. I think the real answer lies in the fact that we’ve seen the rookie quarterback scenario play out in front of our eyes recently with both Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden.
Also, I think Browns fans really want a fair competition. If Manziel is going to win the job, they actually want to see him beat out the more experienced Hoyer. Pat Shurmur and Mike Holmgren’s QB competition was a sham when Brandon Weeden was drafted to “compete” with Colt McCoy. I don’t think many Browns fans thought Colt McCoy was going to magically become a top five quarterback in the NFL, but at least from my perspective, Colt McCoy’s experience could have eased the Browns into Brandon Weeden’s first season with the elder draft pick standing on the sidelines. Maybe that quarterback depth chart was utterly doomed regardless, but there’s something to be said for choosing experience over ceiling at least initially.
The point of all this to me is that I feel that Browns fans are being very level-headed about the quarterback position right now, despite the way the national media is portraying the situation. Fans are excited to watch Johnny Manziel and cheer him loudly when it’s time for autographs after practice, but I don’t think that translates to any sort of mandate that he play right away. In that respect I think there’s a mismatch between what the national media thinks about Browns fan preferences, mistaking Manziel excitement for something it’s not.
As for who will actually win the job, it’s still early and the performances in pre-season could change that on a dime. I’m still learning, but it weighs heavy on my mind what I saw last year as Brandon Weeden shined in camp and even the first two pre-season games. That gives me pause as Hoyer has clearly looked better than Manziel in camp so far this year. Let’s say Johnny Manziel does eventually beat out Hoyer in the pre-season. I think Browns fans’ preference shift from Hoyer to Manziel will be based on something real as opposed to the larger-than-life hype and excitement that Johnny Manziel brings to the NFL. As Brian Hoyer leads the Browns in training camp and leads the competition to be king of the hill on the QB depth chart, I think Browns fans are absolutely content with that.
Imagine that? Browns fans are being pretty level-headed about their QB situation.