LANDOVER, Md. — Talk about not living up to the hype.
The duel between Browns quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel against Washington on Monday night at FedExField disappointed in almost unimaginable fashion because neither player made strides nor a strong case he should become the starter heading into the upcoming season.
The veteran and rookie combined to deliver perhaps the biggest dud since the Y2K scare. Despite all the hoopla, nothing of significance happened with the Browns’ top two quarterbacks in the team’s second preseason game. The most talked about moment came when Manziel was caught on camera sticking his middle finger in the air late in the third quarter.
The primetime showdown, nationally televised on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, was supposed to be their final audition before a victor was scheduled to be declared.
The Browns planned to meet today to choose one of them as the starter for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.
But why wouldn’t Browns coach Mike Pettine call an audible and force the quarterback derby into overtime after Monday night’s debacle?
Pettine has said a committee led by him, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains will make the decision. Pettine made it clear he would exercise his power to break a tie should one occur.
There was a tie Monday night, but it was a dead heat in futility.
Pettine has said all along he wants to name a starting quarterback before the team’s third exhibition game Saturday against St. Louis. He wants the starter to have an opportunity to build chemistry with his supporting cast during a “dress rehearsal” in which the first-team offense will likely play into the third quarter in preparation for Week 1.
Right now, there is no semblance of cohesion on offense. The Browns squandered several opportunities to capitalize on the playmaking abilities of their defense and trailed 7-3 at halftime on their way to a 24-23 loss.
Hoyer appeared to be a slight front-runner over Manziel heading into the game, and he received the starting nod. Hoyer played four series, plus one play at the end of the second quarter. He faced Washington’s first-team defense during his first two series.
Hoyer completed just two of six passes for 16 yards. His longest pass went for 12 yards, and he finished with a passer rating of 42.4.
Manziel entered the game with 5:26 left in the second quarter after Hoyer took the first two series. He played two series in the first half, both of which were against Washington’s starters. He completed two of seven passes for 29 yards and a rating of 44.3 through the first two quarters.
Manziel remained in the game into the third quarter. He went 5-for-9 in the second half while surrounded by backups from both teams.
Overall, Manziel completed seven of 16 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a passer rating of 76.3. He dumped a short pass over the middle to running back Dion Lewis, and Lewis took it for an 8-yard touchdown with 13:33 left in the fourth quarter.
Neither quarterback received much help from the rest of the offense.
The Browns’ first possession was a disaster because linebacker Ryan Kerrigan zoomed untouched around right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and sacked Hoyer. Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas was flagged for a false start before the next snap. On second-and-21 at the Browns’ 9-yard line, Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron wasn’t looking for the ball and failed to catch it. Not even a 19-yard run from running back Ben Tate, who finished with 10 carries for 51 yards (5.1 average), could save the Browns from punting.
The Browns caught a break during the ensuing possession when running back Alfred Morris fumbled and inside linebacker Craig Robertson recovered at Washington’s 48. The Browns, though, went three-and-out when Hoyer’s third-down pass to slot receiver Andrew Hawkins was thrown low.
Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden intercepted a pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III during the next series and returned it 37 yards to Washington’s 46. But the Browns again went three-and-out. On third down, Kerrigan sacked Manziel. Linebacker Brian Orakpo flashed Manziel’s signature money sign after the play, and it wasn’t the first time he flaunted it.
The Browns completed a goal-line stand early in the second quarter. Robertson tackled Morris short of the end zone, which a replay review confirmed, and fourth-and-goal from the 1. The offense marched to Washington’s 39, but Manziel’s third-down pass to All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon was off target and fell incomplete.
Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson picked off a pass from backup quarterback Kirk Cousins and returned it 43 yards to Washington’s 15. The Browns settled for Billy Cundiff’s 29-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 4:58 left in the second quarter after Hoyer threw an off-target pass that went deflected off Hawkins’ hands in the end zone.
The Redskins struck late in the first half when running back Evan Royster barreled through Robertson to score a 2-yard touchdown with 23 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Washington tacked on another touchdown and took a 14-3 lead with 10:39 left in the third quarter when Cousins completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Grant, who beat the coverage of Browns defensive back Royce Adams.