Browns rookie backup quarterback Johnny Manziel has a thrilling playing style, but in the NFL, passing to an open teammate is strongly recommended over scrambling in the backfield and firing the ball to a receiver forced to abandon his route because of improvisation.
Coach Mike Pettine wants Manziel to hit the open man more often and work his trademark magic less.
The play that stood out Thursday night in the Browns' 33-13 preseason finale win over the Chicago Bears was one on which Manziel ran around in the backfield before hitting receiver Nate Burleson with a pass that turned into a 27-yard gain. That set up Manziel's 1-yard touchdown strike to tight end Jim Dray on the next play.
Pettine described Manziel's connection with Burleson as the type of play that makes coaches utter "no, no, no, yes" as it unfolds.
"You want him to be able to make those plays, but I just think he needs to learn to pick and choose those times, just be more prudent with those decisions," Pettine said Friday during a conference call. "If a guy is open, and it's there, take it. And if the play does break down in those circumstances, to go ahead and make a play with his feet as he showed he could do last night. But it's just maybe changing the percentage of times that that happens, and I think that just comes with playing."
In other words, there's nothing wrong with a quarterback being boring if he's effective. So if it seems like the offense has more energy when Manziel has its reins than when starter Brian Hoyer does, Pettine doesn't see it that way.
"I don't agree with that," Pettine said. "They both have unique skill sets and certainly when a play gets extended by Manziel, that will tend to get the crowd on its feet, but there are different way to move the football and be efficient. To me, our offense doesn't have to be exciting. It can be real boring as long as we're gaining yards and scoring points."
Sometimes, said Pettine, Manziel is too exciting for his own good because he makes plays more difficult than they should be.
"We know what he can do with his feet to extend a play, but there are times where he can just go ahead and make the read and deliver the football without having to extend the play," Pettine said. "He's done that with increased frequency, and we just think that needs to continue.
"I think it's all part of the learning curve, of learning NFL defenses and reading them and knowing what play you have called and who's going to come open early based on the read. We just think that's all part of it for Johnny."
In five series Thursday, Manziel completed 6-of-17 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. He took a sack and finished with a passer rating of 71.4. He rushed four times for 55 yards.
"It was good and bad," Pettine said. "He did some things. He pulled a rabbit out of a hat a couple times, as he is known to do."
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