12/18/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak
It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. When would Johnny Manziel make his first start for the Cleveland Browns? That was the question all the way back to when the Browns drafted him last spring. With all of the hype and all of the expectations, many thought that "Johnny Football" would be under center when the 2014 season kicked off. Except he couldn't beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job in the pre-season.
But surely he would start once the regular season started. It's the Browns and Hoyer is a journeyman quarterback who's just keeping the seat warm for Manziel. Except the Browns were one of the surprise stories of the NFL, at one point sitting in first place in the AFC North, the first time the Browns were in first place since 1995. With a record of 7 and 4, Cleveland was battling for the division title and were right in the thick of the playoff mix. Then the bottom fell out. The Browns lost their next two games, and Hoyer threw 7 interceptions in those losses. So at 7 and 6, it was time for "Johnny Football" to salvage the Browns season.
Except his debut was awful. Cleveland was pummeled by Cincinnati 30 to 0. Manziel passed for 80 yards and threw 2 interceptions. He was sacked 3 times. The Browns only gained 5 first downs the entire game...the Bengals had 24. Cleveland had 107 yards in total offense. Manziel was harassed all day, both by the play of the Bengals defense, and by the Bengals players who repeatedly mocked Manziel's "money fingers" gesture. The Browns were shut out for the first time since 2009, and ran their fewest offensive plays (38) since the first game the reincarnated Browns played back in 1999 versus Pittsburgh.
I know, it's just one game. Many great college players have struggled in their first NFL start, it's part of being a rookie. Troy Aikman was shut out in his first career start for the Cowboys. The odds are good that Johnny Manziel will turn out to be a pretty good NFL quarterback. So why is this one game and a bad debut performance by a rookie quarterback such a big deal? Because Johnny Manziel was surrounded by so much hype and expectation. Some of which he brought on himself. But some of it was because for Browns fans, he was their hope. He was going to be the end of the QB carrousel that has been Cleveland the past 15 years. "Johnny Football" was something to believe in for Browns fans who have suffered through so much bad football.
Sure, it was just one game. Sure, Johnny Manziel may just live up to the hype. But you know Browns fans have to feel that little bit of doubt that maybe he's going to be another Tim Couch. Or Brady Quinn. Or Colt McCoy. Or...well you get the drift. Because even with all of the hype and potential, Johnny Manziel plays quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. And that hasn't been a very good position for anyone to be in. Just ask the other 21 guys who have started at quarterback before him.
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