Johnny Manziel is still not even the starter for the Cleveland Browns, but the team’s schedule is set up perfectly for Johnny Football to claim the starting spot early in the year and to have a successful first season.
Coach Mike Pettine has repeatedly made it clear that Brian Hoyer is the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback. However, Pettine has also left open the possibility for Manziel to become the starting quarterback eventually, noting that “it’s more Johnny versus the playbook than it is versus Brian.”
Manziel has even taken reps with the first team in practice, something Pettine has said will happen from time to time.
However, this is where things start to work in favour of Manziel and against Hoyer.
The Browns open the season on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers followed by a pair of games at home against the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens.
That is three playoff contending teams with three of the top 13 defenses during the 2013 season in terms of yards allowed.
While Manziel is still taking some time to learn the playbook and watch from the sideline, the Browns could very easily start the season 0-3 with Hoyer at quarterback.
It is generally accepted that if a team is going to make a change at quarterback, that is not a result of an injury, the best time to do it is following a bye week. This gives the team two weeks of practice to acclimate to the new quarterback.
The Browns’ bye comes during week four.
If the Browns are 0-3 entering the bye, it will be very tempting to make the move to Manziel.
As difficult as the first three games will be for Hoyer, the Browns couldn’t ask for an easier five-game stretch to start Manziel’s career than the first five after the bye.
The toughest game will be the rematch against the Steelers at home. But the stretch of games also includes games against the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars on the road, and the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home.
Those four teams combined to go 19-33 last year. If the Browns catch a few breaks and Manziel plays well, it is not absurd to think they will go 3-2 or even 4-1 in those games and the move to Manziel will start to look smart.
Here is where things really start to get interesting. The Browns could easily be 3-5 or 4-4 with Manziel getting better each week.
Manziel would also have achieved this without the team’s best receiver, Josh Gordon, who has been suspended for the 2014 season after failing a drug test.
However, Gordon has appealed the year-long suspension and the Browns are hopeful that his ban will be reduced to as few as eight games according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. If that happens, Gordon would be eligible to return for the Browns’ week 10 matchup against their rival, the Cincinnati Bengals.
The second-half of the Browns’ schedule is no cake-walk and includes four games against teams that played in the playoffs last season. But a team with growing confidence along with the addition of Gordon will be tough to beat.
And all of this will just further add to the legend of Johnny Football.
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