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Johnny Manziel fails to win Browns starting quarterback job

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Brian Hoyer, not Johnny Manziel, will start for the Cleveland Browns at quarterback Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh.

Brian Hoyer was named the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh.

First-year head coach Mike Pettine said Tuesday he needed more time to evaluate the competition between Hoyer, who started both of the Browns' preseason games, and rookie first-round pick Johnny Manziel.

While Hoyer has only four career starts -- and went 3-0 with the Browns before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in 2013 -- his biggest advantages were experience and leadership.

"He was the clear leader from the beginning," Pettine said. "We've maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room."

A defensive coach, Pettine had experience with teams who used rookie starting quarterbacks. Most recently in Buffalo last season, Pettine was defensive coordinator watching first-rounder EJ Manuel go through growing pains.

Hoyer was victimized by at least four drops in the preseason opener and completed only two of six passes for 16 yards in Monday night's loss against the Washington Redskins. Pettine said he considered Hoyer's "body of work" which includes leading the Browns to victories in the two full games he played as a starter last season and the way he has prepared himself throughout the spring and in training camp.

"I think Brian's been very poised," Pettine said. "I think he's handled the situation well. He's had a lot of things going on."

Manziel, drafted 22nd overall in May, played only two seasons at Texas A&M in an offense designed to win at that level. The Browns want him to get more time in an NFL offense before asking him to beat NFL defenses. Manziel was not great statistically in two games. He also showed immaturity Monday night, Pettine said, when he raised his middle finger to the Redskins' bench in response to heckling from the sideline.

Hoyer has battled back from the right knee injury suffered during the Browns' Oct. 3 victory against the Bills.

"I think a lot of people discount that," Pettine said. "Here's a guy coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Really, these are his first, essentially, 20-25 plays of live work back from it, and he's only going to get better."

Pettine said before training camp that he felt it was essential for the team to name a starter entering this week's preseason game. St. Louis visits FirstEnergy Stadium this week and the Browns will maximize the amount of time Hoyer and the rest of the offense have to prepare for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.

"I think it's especially good, as an offensive unit, to go out and play and gain cohesion and chemistry," Pettine said. "That was one of the reasons I wanted to go ahead and make the decision before this third preseason game so that (Hoyer and the rest of the starting offense) could play as a unit for a good chunk of it."

After reaching a decision with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains last night, Pettine informed the players this morning.

Pettine said the decision should not be read as an indictment of Manziel.

"He's certainly made great strides," Pettine said. "We are pleased with where he is, and he has shown that he has come a long way in his ability to pick up the playbook, be coachable and lead an offense. We are confident that Johnny is going to have a great future, but we just felt that Brian still had a decided edge on him."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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