Browns' choice for starting quarterback a tough call


Duke Johnson Jr. and Brian Hoyer

LANDOVER, Md. – Nobody said that picking the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns would be easy.

But did anyone really think it would be to be this hard?

It's fair to say that Browns coach Mike Pettine saw what the rest of us saw in Monday night's 24-23 preseason loss against the Washington Redskins at FedExField: Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel misfired on multiple throws, they had receivers drop passes that were on target, they did little to put a whole lot of fire into a mostly listless offense.

Yes, one of the two leading candidates – Manziel – did finally get the team into the end zone (on an eight-yard pass to running back Dion Lewis) for the first time this summer. But that didn't come until the fourth quarter, against the Redskins' third-string defense.

"All the options are still on the table," Pettine said.

The fact Hoyer made his second start in as many preseason games prompted plenty of us to conclude that he had the inside track to start in the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh – that all he really had to do was avoid a poor showing against the Redskins and the could would be his.

Then, Hoyer went out and completed only two of six passes for 16 yards while alternating series with Manziel in the first half. It was far from a performance that said, "I've got this."

"It probably couldn't have been any worse," Hoyer said. "It's disappointing, it's embarrassing."

Although he insisted he wasn't pressing or feeling distracted by the competition, his play indicated otherwise. Hoyer also didn't buy the notion that he was thrown off by the plan to alternate series with Manziel.

"There's no excuse for it," Hoyer said of his poor play.

Manziel? He wasn't a whole lot more impressive. He completed seven of 16 passes for 65 yards and a score.

"There was some good and some bad," Manziel said, acknowledging that "learning the playbook" was still his greatest challenge.

For the second time in as many games, Manziel struggled with his reads and was woefully off the mark on several passes. Manziel also made less happen with his legs than he did in his rookie debut at Detroit, with Redskin defenders sacking him three times, limiting him to one carry for minus-one yard, and forcing him into poor throws when he was under duress.

Manziel's night wasn't helped by the fact that he also was caught by ESPN's cameras raising his middle finger to the Redskins' bench after a play.

"It does not sit well," Pettine said. "I was informed of it after the game, and it's disappointing. We talk about being poised and being focused, and that you have to be able to maintain your poise. That's a big part of all football players, especially the quarterback."

Said Manziel, "I get 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, cameras were probably solidly on me, so I just need to be smarter about that."

Pettine has said he wanted to select a starter this week, so that he would be in place for the third preseason game – the traditional tune-up for the regular season – Saturday night against St. Louis.

However, he didn't sound as certain about that after the game.

"It's possible," Pettine said of waiting another game to make a decision on the starter. "I think all the options are on the table." >>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford" on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.

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