October 30, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
46°F

Browns coach Mike Pettine holding off on naming Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel starting QB

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel stands with quarterback Brian Hoyer before the preseason game against the Washington Redskins Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel stands with quarterback Brian Hoyer before the preseason game against the Washington Redskins Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The beat goes on.

Until today. Or next week. Browns coach Mike Pettine hadn’t decided yet.

Pettine had a meeting scheduled Tuesday night with his coaching staff to discuss the quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel. They could’ve decided to name a starter today for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 versus Pittsburgh, or delayed the decision until after the third preseason game Saturday night at home against St. Louis.

“The meeting about the quarterbacks will occur later and we’ll decide then if we’re ready to name a starter,” Pettine said at about 4:30 p.m. on a conference call. “All options are on the table.”

That includes going with Manziel versus the Steelers. But Pettine remained upset about Manziel’s obscene gesture toward the Washington bench Monday night and said it would be considered in the decision.

“We’ll take into account all things quarterbacks A to Z,” Pettine said. “So it’s body of work, it’s everything from the time they set foot in the building back in the spring up until today.”

Manziel is subject to a fine from the league, which Tuesday was reviewing plays from the weekend for discipline. The team will also issue a punishment.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Pettine said. “We talk about play like a Brown. We want our guys to act like a Brown and we want this to be a first-class organization. We have thousands of kids come to our training camp practices and look up to our players and that type of behavior is unacceptable.

“You have to maintain your poise and your composure, especially at that position, and he should know better than anyone that all eyes are on him. I know it’s something that will be addressed by the league and will be addressed internally.”

Pettine’s goal has always been to have a starter in place by the third preseason game, so the first unit has enough time to work together in preparation for the season. The inconsistent play of Hoyer and Manziel had Pettine reconsidering his plan.

“I’m very clearly on record: I would like to make a decision. And that’s still very much a possibility,” said Pettine, who’s in his first year. “And if we do have to wait until after the next game, so be it.”

He values chemistry, but not above everything.

“We want to get the decision right,” Pettine said. “So it’s the risk-reward with it. I don’t want to rush it and make it for the sake of making it and then you’re risking the chemistry and the cohesion if you have the wrong guy there.”

The hope was for Hoyer or Manziel to distinguish himself Monday night in Washington. It didn’t happen.

They struggled with accuracy and to sustain drives in the 24-23 loss, and the first touchdown of the preseason wasn’t scored until the fourth quarter when Manziel was in with backups facing Washington’s backups. Hoyer was 2-for-6 for 16 yards, Manziel 7-for-16 for 65 yards and a touchdown.

“I think what was disappointing was that the guys around both quarterbacks didn’t play particularly well or were inconsistent,” Pettine said. “We had guys making mistakes at inopportune times. I just think it was overall inconsistency on the offense.

“So it is tough to evaluate (the quarterbacks) when the overall level of play around them isn’t what it should be.”

Pettine didn’t absolve Hoyer of the blame for missing wide-open receiver Andrew Hawkins in the end zone. But there were other incompletions in which the receivers ran routes at the wrong depth or took the wrong angle.

“Just not being on the same page,” Pettine said.

The ugly offensive showing, particularly from the starters, left fans in an awful mood, even if it was the preseason. Sloppy quarterback play, dropped passes and wasted opportunities have been staples of the Browns no matter who’s been coaching or quarterbacking.

“We’re not anywhere near hitting the panic button here,” Pettine said. “We’ll discuss it in detail tonight and we’ll formulate a plan and move forward with it.”

Pettine said it’s still a two-horse race between Hoyer and Manziel. The other options would be third-stringer Rex Grossman, who hasn’t played since 2011, or a trade.

“No, not at this point,” Pettine said when asked if he was considering other options. “We all know what last night looked like, what the appearance was. There were some underlying things that came up on the tape. It’s not as bad as it looked in person.”

Pettine defended his decision to split first-team reps between Hoyer and Manziel the last two weeks, saying it wasn’t the reason for the lack of rhythm. And he doesn’t regret not naming a starter before camp to avoid the bright and constant spotlight on the competition.

“I wanted the guys to truly compete,” he said. “Brian has been in the league for a good amount of time, but he really doesn’t have that many starts. Even though he was a veteran, he was kind of a veteran rookie just given his sample size.

“And then Manziel obviously is a true rookie. There’s a reason we drafted him in the first round. And we wanted to see those guys go out there and compete and put them in some adverse situations and see how they reacted.”

They didn’t inspire confidence Monday night, but Pettine insisted naming a starter today wouldn’t be a tough sell to the rest of the locker room.

“Football players, they’re a lot more resilient than you think,” he said. “You say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, here’s the plan and we’re moving forward.’”

If a decision wasn’t made Tuesday, Pettine put a cap on how long he’s willing to wait.

“If it just goes too late and it goes beyond next week and you wait until after the fourth game, then we have really only one week worth of practice,” he said. “You’re definitely at risk of somebody not being ready.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.