Manziel flips the bird during Browns' Monday night game
Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine came to Washington planning to announce his quarterback for the regular-season opener in the next couple of days. However, neither highly-touted rookie Johnny Manziel nor holdover Brian Hoyer played very well against the Redskins Monday night, leaving the Browns in a quandary.
Neither Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, nor sixth-year journeyman Hoyer had distinguished themselves in Cleveland's 13-12 loss to Detroit in its Aug. 9 preseason opener either.
Hoyer finished 2-for-6 for 16 yards. Manziel, who got equal time against Washington's starting defense before playing the entire third quarter, was 7-for-16 for 65 yards, the last eight yards coming on a toss to running back Dion Lewisfor the touchdown that closed the Browns' deficit to 14-10 with 13:33 remaining. That 16-play, 68-yard drive consumed 8:15 and might have been huge for the rookie who posted a 76.3 passer rating on the night.
Manziel was 5-of-14 for 49 yards before completing his final two passes. He was also sacked three times. Hoyer went down once while posting a 42.2 passer rating.
Then, Manziel made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he extended his middle finger toward the Redskins bench after he threw an incomplete pass near the Washington sideline in the third quarter.
Earlier in the game, Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo mocked Manziel's famous "money" hand gesture after fellow Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked Manziel in the first quarter.
Said Orakpo, "Just having a little fun, just welcoming him to the NFL. He's a great player. He's going to be a good one for them. He's still got a lot to learn, still got some growing pains, but ... he's a playmaker. Our defense was a great test for him."
As for the middle finger salute, Pettine said, "Yeah, that doesn't sit well. I was informed right after the game and I'm disappointed. We talk about being poised, being focused. You have to be able to maintain your poise. It's a big part of all football players, especially the quarterback. We have to keep our composure and that is something that we will obviously address."
Said Manziel, "I had words exchanged with me throughout the entirety of the game, every game, week after week. I should have been smarter. It was a Monday Night Football game and the cameras were probably solidly on me, and I need to be smarter about that.
"With me, since my name has grown bigger and people have known who I am, it just continues to go as the games continue to go on. I don't know if there is a single level of severity each game, but I know it's there and it's present every game. I just need to let it slide off my back and go to the next play. I feel like I did a good job of holding my composure throughout the night and you have a lapse of judgment and slip up."
The Browns took a 17-14 lead when veteran safety Jim Leonhard intercepted Redskins third-string quarterback Colt McCoy's first pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown with 12:19 to go.
Pettine, a defensive specialist, will surely rely heavily on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in making the choice between the headier, less talented Hoyer or Manziel, who has a bigger upside but much less of a handle on the offense.
After the game, when asked if he might delay the decision on who the starting quarterback will be, Pettine acknowledged, "All options are on the table. (But) somebody's got to be ready for the opener."
Although he might not even start for a team that went 4-12 last season, Manziel is already one of the NFL's most scrutinized players because of his extraordinary athletic gifts and his well-publicized love for nightlife. In the first two-plus months after the Browns drafted the former Texas A&M star, Manziel's jersey was the league's top seller.
Hoyer's first two series were ugly. He was seemingly not ready for the first snap and was sacked for a 6-yard loss. Tight end Jordan Cameron dropped Hoyer's pass on the next play before a draw preceded a punt. When the Browns got the ball back, Ben Tate ran twice before receiver Andrew Hawkins couldn't hold Hoyer's low throw.
Manziel didn't start any better when he took over for Cleveland's third series. After Tate gained five, Manziel threw behind running back Isaiah Crowell on second down before he was dropped by Kerrigan to force a punt.
Manziel's second series, which began at the Washington 1-yard line, was better. He hit tight end MarQueis Gray with a screen for 17 yards and neatly fit in a 12-yard completion to Hawkins while on the run. However, Manziel's next three plays were a 1-yard loss, another Cameron drop and an ugly throw behind standout receiver Josh Gordon.
Hoyer then took over again to get some work against Washington's backups. Fortunately, the Browns had the ball at the Redskins' 15 after a 43-yard interception return because Hoyer and Co. managed just three yards before Billy Cundiff kicked a 29-yard field goal to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead with 4:58 remaining in the first half.
When Hoyer finally completed a pass after six incompletions, Gray fumbled and the Redskins recovered.