CLEVELAND – Less than 24 hours away from making his NFL debut, can Johnny Manziel spark the 7-6 Cleveland Browns to an improbable playoff birth?
In what may seem a last-ditch and desperate hope of sparking a suddenly dormant offense, Cleveland wisely benched a regressing Brian Hoyer for the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner out of Texas A&M.
That–as well as gaining back Pro Bowlers in wideout Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron—should help make Manziel’s much-anticipated debut, that much easier.
While we will never know why it took Cleveland this long to finally hand the reigns over to Manziel, one can make an educated guess that Hoyer’s 1/8 TD-INT ratio and league-worst 29.4 QBR rating in his last four games, may have been factors in his benching.
Looking at Hoyer and Manziel is like comparing a used rental car to that of a freshly bought fusion hybrid with all the fancy trimming.
With Hoyer, the Browns got a serviceable quarterback that they got a lot of miles out off in getting from point A to B and a 7-6 record, as he passed for close to 3,200 yards (3,192), 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
What he did in last-minute wins over New Orleans, Tennessee and Atlanta is nothing short of admirable, and will forever live in Browns lore.
However, his struggles in losses to Jacksonville, Houston, Buffalo and most recently Indianapolis, where he looked unsure of himself, inaccurate and seemingly tentative in either making bad decisions or overthrowing a wide-open Gordon by ten yards, proved to be his undoing.
What Hoyer lacks is an arm with quality touch and strength, accuracy and the ability to extend plays—thus enter Manziel.
Aside from mobility and accuracy on the move, what also separates Manziel from Hoyer, is his fearlessness and not being afraid to take chances, which is what the Browns need now.
With games against the 27th-ranked rushing defense in the Bengals, the 19th-ranked rushing defense in the Panthers and the 31st-ranked passing defense in the Ravens, Cleveland has a quarterback in Manziel that can effectively attack these weaknesses down the stretch.
That, as well as being fresher and getting time to learn the NFL game from the sidelines could prove to be invaluable for both Manziel and the Browns, down the stretch.
With Manziel under center, teams now have to honor Cleveland’s running game again, as Manziel poses the dual-threat of either running or passing, as opposed to Hoyer throwing it, enabling them to stack the box against it, and daring him to beat them with his arm.
In a league of mobile quarterbacks, capable of winning games with either their legs or arm, it is nice to finally see Cleveland embrace the NFL of the 21st century, as while Hoyer was their past, Manziel is their future, which for once in Northeast Ohio looks promising.
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