BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – There is a leader in the clubhouse in the competition between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel to be the Cleveland Browns starter this fall.
And its not the Browns’ first-round draft pick either.
“I want the best quarterback to start” general manager Ray Farmer said in an interview with Bull and Fox Wednesday afternoon on 92.3 The Fan. “Who is the best quarterback right now? Brian Hoyer….I would tell you, by about a substantial margin.”
Farmer’s comments might seem stunning to some but they fall in line with the team’s approach with handling Manziel and Farmer made it clear on Wednesday that he has a lot to learn before the reigns are turned over to him.
“I say that because here’s a guy that’s a 5-6 year veteran, has been in the league, that knows the defenses, that reads it quicker, that understands…He’s got an advanced calculus degree and Johnny’s good at math but I don’t know if he’s in the advanced calculus stages yet,” Farmer said.
Manziel was third in line behind Hoyer and Tyler Thigpen for reps during Wednesday’s OTA session and the Browns are trying to keep external expectations for the rookie in check.
“Every young quarterback is going to struggle in this league,” Farmer said. “As good as Andrew Luck was, and he’s a very good player, he had his shortcomings as a rookie. Peyton manning threw 26 interceptions his rookie year… You gotta grow into it.
“I don’t want to stunt his growth. I want to give him the opportunity to learn, grow and prosper.”
Browns head coach Mike Pettine likes what he’s seen so far from Manziel but stressed that there is a long way to go for the rookie from Texas A&M.
“It’s just like any other rookie, that he’s just inconsistent,” Pettine said. “A lot of it’s the mental part of it. He’s more worrying about getting the formation right, making sure the motion’s correct and he’s got the cadence. Then he’s got to worry about where guys are. Once all that stuff becomes second nature a little bit, he’ll be a lot more comfortable.
“He flashed some things that made him kind of who he is, the ability to make plays on his feet.”
The Browns clearly want Manziel to work his way up the ladder even with the entire country watching his every throw – much to the amusement of Farmer, who doesn’t mind the added attention the team is getting.
“I don’t know if there’s any way I could contain the phenomenon that is Johnny Football but that’s not my role to try and contain the legend that is Johnny Football,” Farmer said. “The interesting part is, all of the comments, and the questions and the thoughts about who Johnny is, it’s funny to me because it just makes the story better.
“Whenever he writes the book, it’s going to be awesome. The text came, and if he actually manipulated the draft to get himself drafted or however it comes out, it doesn’t matter… It’s legendary, so it’s all good.”
Manziel was the first to ever win the Heisman trophy as a freshman and has been a polarizing figure for the last 2 years in College Station, Texas. Farmer and the Browns knew what they were getting themselves into and have found out that a lot has been blown out of proportion concerning Manziel and his larger than life persona.
“He’s almost like the Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth throwback that he’s your guys guy,” Farmer said. “When you see him he’s having fun, he’s partying, he’s doing his thing. I think people are attracted to the fact that not only does he make plays and is a really good athlete…he’s a really good player, but he lives life.
“I think the fact that he lives life is what brings people circling back to who Johnny Football really is.”
There’s a perception that the Browns are trying to “humble” Manziel and that the team isn’t willing to embrace Manziel’s popularity, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Farmer and the Browns just want to make sure that football and the team comes first.
Farmer also wants to make sure Manziel is willing and able to adjust his playing style to the NFL.
“There’s definitely a benefit to allowing Johnny be Johnny,” Farmer said. “He’s got to understand the pro game and be able to apply that to having success in this league. Some of the things he accomplished in college I don’t think are necessarily attainable here.
“Inevitably you have to take a little bit of the edge off of somebody so that they can then start to really hit it as an NFL quarterback and attain greatness.”
Farmer played with another quarterback that loved to run in Michael Vick. He saw first hand how Vick had to learn to be smart when trying to run wild against defenses and that’s something that Manziel will also have to learn – much like Seattle’s Russell Wilson did.
“Johnny played a lot of baseball as a kid, I know he knows how to slide,” Farmer said. “I’ve seen him slide in college football. We don’t want to take the risk out of Johnny in moving out of the pocket, throwing on the run or playing on the move, but I promise they will hit you…So don’t put yourself in harm’s way all the time.”
“[Wilson] figured out that I can be tough when it’s time to be tough, but I can be smart when it’s time to be smart.”
As for on the field and where he’s at within the competition, it is just May and OTAs so Manziel still has plenty of time to pass calculus before September.
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