If the Cleveland Browns pick a quarterback based solely on numbers, there’s not much either Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer did to show he deserves the job.
If the choice is based on maturity, the hot-shot rookie’s obscene gesture lost him some ground to the nondescript sixth-year veteran.
Manziel raised his middle finger toward the opponents’ bench as he returned to the huddle late in the third quarter of Monday night’s 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins. Truth be told, it was one of the few times a Browns QB actually found his intended target.
“It does not sit well,” Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said. “It’s disappointing, because what we talk about is being poised and being focused. … That’s a big part of all football players, especially the quarterback.”
Manziel called the moment a “lapse of judgment” and suggested it was brought about by another game of unprintable verbal grief from another team’s players and fans. He was openly mocked by Brian Orakpo in the first quarter when the Redskins linebacker raised both hands and performed the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner’s “money” gesture after a sack by Ryan Kerrigan.
“I get words exchanged throughout the entirety of the game, every game, week after week, and I should’ve been smarter,” Manziel said. “It was a ‘Monday Night Football’ game, and cameras were probably solid on me, and I just need to be smarter about that.
“It’s there, and it’s present every game, and I just need to let it slide off my back and go to the next play.”
Meanwhile, Pettine needs to pick a starting quarterback. The performances were so unspectacular that the coach suggested he might audible from his previously stated plan of announcing his regular-season starter on Tuesday.
“All the options are still on the table,” Pettine said.
Hoyer started Monday night and completed 2 of 6 passes for 16 yards. His self-assessment: “It probably couldn’t have been any worse. It’s disappointing. It was embarrassing.”
Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the NFL draft, was 7 for 16 for 65 yards and a touchdown. Of his series early in the game, he said: “I really tried to force everything and not let it fly like I should have. I need to get better at that and throw the dang ball.”
Those stats, as mediocre as they are, were padded by series against the Redskins’ backups. In the first quarter – when Washington’s starters were in the game – Manziel was 2 for 7 for 29 yards, and Hoyer was 0 for 2.
“They both missed some throws,” Pettine said.
If there’s any hint as to which way Pettine is leaning, it’s worth noting that Hoyer started for the second consecutive game and played mostly with the first-team offense. Manziel was sent out with the reserves to play in the second half.
Manziel took advantage by leading a 16-play, 68-yard drive capped by an 8-yard pass to Dion Lewis for Cleveland’s first touchdown.
But the six points were overshadowed by the one finger.
“A lot of people just scream out things that are very, very disrespectful,” Browns cornerback Joe Haden said. “He’s just got to zone it out.”