Twenty-four hours. That's all that it took for me to have a total change of heart.
I sat at my desk yesterday writing word after word about how I was mad, sad, [insert emotions], about Austin Davis being named the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback for Sunday.
See, I've been one of the biggest Johnny Manziel supporters (fans) there's been. I wanted the Browns to draft him at #4, and was elated when he fell to a manageable draft spot. I understood starting Brian Hoyer last year, but still was excited to see Johnny get a shot. I wanted Manziel to beat out Josh McCown earlier this year and be this team's starter, now. And even when Manziel actually was named the starter, I was off-the-walls excited.
However, hearing head coach Mike Pettine name Austin Davis the starter for Sunday, deflated the wind from my Manziel-sails.
My knee-jerk emotional reaction, as I look at it now, was ill-founded. I thought that Pettine was being childish in the benching of Manziel to the third string. Don't get me wrong, I thought sitting Manziel was the right call, just thought that third string was a little unnecessary. Then, when McCown went down against Baltimore, freeing the quarterback spot the rest of the season, I thought for sure Manziel should be slotted in as the starter.
We don't really know what the Browns have in Johnny Manziel. He's looked good at times, and looked bad at times as well. We know his off the field antics have certainly cost him, a lot. We also know that he's not yet embraced the fact that he is an NFL quarterback, and the responsibilities that come with that. Nevertheless, as I sat yesterday stewing on this decision, I still felt that Manziel should be starting.
Manziel is exciting. Every play he snaps the ball you watch and think something crazy is about to happen, for better or for worse sometimes. The Browns sit at 2-9 with nothing to play for other than pride and evaluation for the future. I wanted to have some excitement in the last 5 games of the season, something Manziel has proven he can deliver.
Thinking about Davis starting was like getting excited for a new Cedar Point roller coaster, only to realize they're building the hill at 50 feet tall. It was just a let down.
That is, until this morning when I had a change of heart. Hayden Grove of the Orange and Brown Report wrote a great article yesterday on Austin Davis, you can find the entire piece, here. I thought about the quarterback decision a lot over the last day or so, and while my thinking started to change, Hayden's article put me fully in the Davis-camp. Here's one of the key excerpts that did it for me:
"I feel like there are so many people that are counting on you and looking at you to play well," Davis said. "The fact of letting people down just bothers me. So I think that's where it comes from. I think that's where just the hard work and prep comes from. I just think it's a big responsibility."
That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is EXACTLY the way Johnny Manziel SHOULD be thinking. Regardless of which quarterback gives the Browns the best chance to win, if sitting Manziel until he realizes that exact quote causes the Browns to start Austin Davis, then so be it.
I was squarely in the Manziel-should-start-camp, but I've done a 180 in just 24 hours. Yes, Austin, you hit the nail on the head, being the starting quarterback IS a "big responsibility." That's not something Manziel has realized yet, and it's why I've had my change of heart. Davis appears to 'get it,' and while I clamor for the excitement of Manziel evading pressure and diving into the endzone, now's not quite the time.
My hope is that Manziel will ultimately get his stuff figured out. We know he's a barely nine months removed from rehab, and still a recovering addict. That stuff takes time to work out. Add in the added pressure of being an NFL quarterback, and I can't imagine the difficulty that comes with that. I'm not making excuses for him, he's been given repeated opportunities and messed them up, I get that. But, to understand why is a separate issue. One that only really Manziel himself can figure out.
Sitting Manziel is the best thing for him right now. I didn't think that twenty-four hours ago, but I've thrown my support 110% behind Austin Davis. If and when Manziel is able to show that he's truly ready, really truly ready to embrace the responsibility of leading this team in the huddle, and off the field, then we can have the quarterback discussion again. But for now, Austin Davis will be leading that team out on Sunday against the Bengals, and I'll be damned if I won't be excited for that.