Football / Sports

Browns coach says starting QB for Week 1 not guaranteed job for entire season

BEREA, Ohio -- When Browns coach Mike Pettine and his top offensive lieutenants emerge from their highly anticipated meeting Tuesday, they should have a starting quarterback picked for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh.

But Pettine made it clear the winner of the duel between veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel won't be guaranteed the starting quarterback job for the entire 2014 season.

"I think quarterback is different from other positions, that you do want to make a commitment," Pettine said Friday after practice. "I don't know if you can necessarily make a permanent commitment. So much can change over the course of an NFL season, the circumstances, but I think that's the one position where you probably have to have a little bit more patience maybe than some others.

"As far as if a guy's not performing to the level you think he can and you're not getting the results, then you'd go ahead and make a move. It's somewhere in between. I don't want whoever the starter is to feel like, 'Oh, if I make one mistake, I'm out.' But I also don't want him to feel like, 'Hey, I've achieved something. This is my team for the year.' "

Pettine's line of thinking seems to suggest he's leaning toward Hoyer. It would make sense to bench a struggling Hoyer for Manziel, but not the other way around because the Browns drafted Manziel 22nd overall on May 8 and view him as their future. Most, if not all, coaches would want to stick with their rookie first-round pick through thick and thin rather than demote him and risk shattering his confidence.

Either way, the competition is not over, but a decision should be made by Tuesday.

"Yeah, that should be the target date," Pettine said. "Something unforeseen could come up, but we're hopeful because I want to see if I can cut the quarterback questions 1/8from the media3/8 down by about 90 percent after next week. The chemistry, the continuity, I think that's important to establish that."

Although Pettine announced Thursday that Hoyer would start the second preseason game Monday night at Washington, the team plans to give the two quarterbacks about the same number of snaps with the starters and Pettine warned reporters not to count Manziel out of the derby.

"All of our options are still on the table," Pettine said Friday. "I think a lot of people read into what happened. Every option for us is still on the table.

"We feel like we're in a good position, that we have two quarterbacks that we feel have NFL-starter ability. That's why it'll be a difficult decision. But I don't see it as a disappointment that one of them hasn't distinguished himself over the other."

So, to be clear, can Manziel still win the starting job heading into Week 1?

"Sure, he can," Pettine said.

So what does Johnny Football need to do against Washington to prevail against Hoyer?

"He just needs to go out and play. That's the bottom line. They both do," Pettine said. "I've met with both of them and discussed the situation, and they're both comfortable with it and they both know that it's going to be up to them when they're out there to just go out and do their job. You never want a guy trying to do too much and come out of structure in order to accomplish something. We keep preaching to our guys: 'Do your job. Good things will happen.' "

Hoyer started the Browns' 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions on Saturday in the preseason opener. Pettine has described the quarterback competition as open, so some question why Manziel didn't receive the starting nod against Washington in the interest in fairness.

"Because that's the decision we made," Pettine said. "We're making our decisions based on the information we have, based on the body of work. That's what we decided to do. There were a lot of factors involved, and that's what ultimately 1/8was decided3/8 when we hashed it out. That's the direction we went."

Manziel worked with the first-team offense during Friday's practice, completing 11-of-19 passes (three were broken up and another was dropped) in 11-on-11 drills, according to the Beacon Journal's unofficial tally. Hoyer, meanwhile, finished 7-of-12 passing with two touchdown. Running back Dion Lewis dropped one of Hoyer's passes, and safety Jordan Poyer intercepted it off the deflection.

It'll be Hoyer's turn to work with the starters in practice Saturday to prepare for his start Monday night. Pettine hasn't committed to a specific plan for rotating Hoyer and Manziel against Washington.

"I think it's hard to go every other series," Pettine said. "If the first drive is a long one, there's a chance we could go ahead and make the switch. I don't want to back myself into any commitment on, 'OK, it's going to be this. It's going to be that.' The goal is at the end of the half we want to have the reps close to equal."

The Browns will play their starters for about a half. Pettine said he wants to see Manziel against Washington's No. 1 defense and said, "I'm confident he'll get some work against their ones." It might be a close call, though, because Washington coach Jay Gruden told reporters Friday his starters will receive roughly a quarter's worth of playing time.

Hoyer and Manziel's performances Monday night will be crucial to the outcome of their duel, but other factors will be considered. Pettine, who wouldn't confirm or deny ESPN's report about Manziel being late to a team meeting Monday, conceded leadership ability, maturity and off-field behavior are among them.

"I don't know if I can say, 'Hey, this is the amount,' but it does 1/8matter3/8," Pettine said. "You're looking for the total package, the quarterback who's best suited to take the field and lead this team to a win against the Steelers. That's the bottom-line decision we have to make. There will be a lot of things that go into it."

Even if Hoyer were to hold off Manziel and secure the starting job heading into Week 1, it wouldn't mean he'd keep it long term. And neither Pettine nor offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have ruled out creating a package for the mobile Manziel, so Johnny Football could still play some even as a backup.

Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby seems to think that's in the cards.

"I know Kyle. Kyle's a young, energetic guy," Dansby said Friday. "There's no telling what Kyle's going to do, so I'm loving it. I've got a certain kind of vibe that I feel off Kyle, so I think I've got his mindset, where he's going to go with this thing. He's got so many different things he can do with both of those quarterbacks, so it's going to be exciting."

Is creating a special package part of the excitement?

"A whole lot of that's going on," Dansby said. "It's going to be something new."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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