After suffering a crushing loss at home to the Colts last week, the Browns have opted to pull the plug on the Brian Hoyer experiment. He got the Browns in the position to make a playoff push, however, over the last few weeks may have cost them a chance at making the playoffs. Obviously that is not all on his shoulders, but he didn't do enough to put his team in position(s) to win the games.
Ultimately Mike Pettine decided to make the quarterback switch and start rookie Johnny Manziel Sunday against division-rival Cincinnati. It'll be Manziel's first career start, and one that will surrounded with media hoopla.
If the Browns are going to get the win, here's my three reasons why:
1. Johnny Manziel
It's no secret that Brian Hoyer was awful the past few weeks. Take a look at his recent run of play.
Brian Hoyer, last 4 games (Browns 1-3):
Completion %: 49.7%
That's flat out not getting the job done. I'd also add that the yards can be misleading. He threw the ball a combined 90 times against Houston and Atlanta, posting 320+ yards in both contests. The Texans game was also the last time he threw a TD. Against the Falcons, despite 300+ yards, he threw 3 INTs.
I was in Pettine's corner last week starting Hoyer. I agreed that I thought he gave the Browns the best chance to win, and I was wrong. I concede that.
Therefore, it's Johnny Football Time. We saw what Johnny brought to the Browns offense against the Bills a couple weeks back. He provided an instant spark, leading to his first career TD. It's obviously a whole different ball game to be the starter, especially against a division rival. A task that I believe Johnny Manziel is up for.
Going with Manziel this week is the right call, and Pettine knows it now. Just yesterday he even admitted what we're all feeling, "I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't excited to see him play."
2. Johnny Manziel
Kevin Jones over at ClevelandBrowns.com has a great piece on Johnny Manziel this week. It provides a good look into Johnny's mindset and preparation heading into Sunday's game against the Bengals.
I linked the article above, so give it a read for yourself, if you haven't already. I did want to point out one thing that I think is pivotal for Manziel this week.
Coming off the bench to play against the Bills is one thing, but to get the starting nod is another thing. I said earlier I think he's ready, and from the sound of it, he believes he's ready as well.
I felt like I was out there with a lot more confidence even going into today, I felt like last time I stepped on the field I tried to show that a little bit and get these guys to trust me and rally around me a little bit, even though I'm the young guy here on the offense.
Manziel may only be a rookie, but his confidences is way up there in terms of most-confident players. Some call him cocky, and maybe that's accurate. But if one thing is for sure, the kid has confidence coming out of his ears. Let's just hope that confidence translates to winning.
3. Johnny Manziel
If you flip on ESPN, NFL Network, etc., there's always a talking-head going on and on about Manziel. Literally everything he does is news. His career has been under the microscope since he stepped on the field the first time, it's unlike anything I can remember. Maybe Tim Tebow? But I still think Manziel-mania is worse.
Since Manziel's name is in the press pretty much everyday, his confidence (cockiness, if you will) tends to rub people the wrong way. One can assume that is why Marvin Lewis called him ‘a midget' earlier this week.
People genuinely are bothered by Manziel. The problem I see, is that fuels Johnny's drive. Manziel has a huge chip on his shoulder. He's too short. He's too cocky. He runs around too much. Etc. etc.
Manziel had all these knocks against him coming out of college. Add to this Lewis's shot at him, and you have recipe for a hungry Johnny Football looking to make an impact in his first shot at starting.
Do I expect him to come in and set the world on fire? Nah. But I do think he'll provide that spark that the Browns are looking for. He adds an exciting element to the offense, one that makes it hard to gameplan against.
Marvin Lewis may have thought it was funny at the time, and in all honesty, it was. But you know Manziel has heard this by now, and you know in the back of his mind he's pinned that to his mental bulletin board. Lewis just added another chip to Johnny's shoulder, and he's ready to wreck this league even more now.
4. BONUS: Cincinnati and the Run
The correlation between the Bengals wins and their offensive rushing game is astounding. In the Bengals 9 non-losses (wins and their tie), they have averaged 144.1 yards per game rushing. In their 4 losses, they've averaged 70.7 yards per game rushing.
Now, is this to say that their wins are directly related to gaining 100+ yards on the ground? Of course not. But it is interesting to see that in all but one of their wins they have gained 100+ yards on the ground, with the exception of opening weekend at Baltimore, when they rushed for 79.
The Browns have been gashed at times this season against the run. They're giving up 129.5 yards per game on the ground. That's good for 26th in the league, one spot ahead of the Bengals, coincidentally.
Cleveland has been better in recent weeks, giving up an average of 87.3 yards a game on the ground the past three games. The last time the Browns faced the Bengals they only gave up 86 yards rushing, but Cincinnati was without Giovani Bernard for that game.
If the Browns want to come away with the victory, one of the key reasons they'll be able to do so is if they contain Cincinnati's rushing attack. Do that, and they'll position themselves very well for the win.
Obviously my three reasons this week are a little tongue-in-cheek, given all the Johnny Football love. I did throw in a bonus fourth reason this week though!
I was on record last week thinking that Hoyer should get one more shot at starting. Obviously, that ship has sailed. It's time for Johnny. And as I said earlier this week, that doesn't mean they're looking at next year already. I firmly believe Manziel gives the Browns the best chance to win this week, all while still keeping the playoff chances alive, even if they're diminished at this point.
I feel that starting Manziel will give a boost to the stagnant offense, and will propel them to actually scoring touchdowns on offense again. Pair that with the necessity to stoping the run, and you have a recipe to be optimistic this week.
What are your reasons that you are optimistic for a win against the Bengals?