October 26, 2014

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Boring offense OK if it scores

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

The excitement level in the stands rises significantly when rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel takes the field.

Coach Mike Pettine doesn’t believe that translates to an increase in energy in the huddle compared to when starter Brian Hoyer is running the show.

“Yeah, I don’t agree with that,” he said Friday on a conference call. “They both have unique skill sets and certainly when a play gets extended by Manziel that will tend to get the crowd on its feet, but there are different ways to move the football and be efficient.

“To me, our offense doesn’t have to be exciting. It can be real boring as long as we’re gaining yards and scoring points. So I think their styles more lend itself to what you’re trying to say, but I don’t really see that as potentially an issue.”

The thrill ride that is Manziel as your quarterback is easier on the crowd than the coach.

The fans scream their heads off for everything Manziel does, and can’t wait for him to turn something into nothing. The coach finds himself saying, “No, no, no” as Manziel passes on an open receiver and leaves the pocket in search of another option.

“We would prefer it be no, no, no, yes,” Pettine said “You always want the play to end with a yes, but I think that’s part of it and it’s not going to just click for him overnight.

“I just think you want him to be able to make those plays, but I just think he needs to learn to pick and choose those times, just be more prudent with those decisions. If a guy is open, and it’s there, take it. And if the play does break down in those circumstances, to go ahead and make a play with his feet as he showed he could do last night. But it’s just maybe changing the percentage of times that that happens and I think that just comes with playing.”

The Browns beat the Bears 33-13 Thursday night in the preseason finale. Manziel threw a 1-yard touchdown pass, rushed for 55 yards and looked like Houdini on a scramble that led to a 27-yard completion to receiver Nate Burleson.

It could be the last time fans see Manziel during a game for a while. But maybe not.

Hoyer is the starter with the season set to open Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh. Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are open to a package of plays for Manziel, but when and how he would be used remains a mystery.

Manziel offers a running threat Hoyer doesn’t, but would he be used in the red zone, for an occasional series or on sporadic plays — like Joshua Cribbs once was in the Wildcat? Shanahan made sure Pittsburgh saw what Manziel can do in the read option, but the Browns won’t tip their hand on just what the two-quarterback system would look like.

Manziel is far from a finished product. He doesn’t always see the open receiver, was sloppy with ball security and threw a handful of awful passes in a 6-for-17 performance.

“It was good and bad,” Pettine said. “He did some things, he pulled a rabbit out of a hat a couple times, as what he is known to do. It was just another opportunity for him to go out there and play.

“It’s just part of his learning curve to go against NFL defenses and to have the ability to execute a play and be productive.”

Pettine sees Manziel becoming more decisive from the pocket, and joked with him about the wounded duck to Travis Benjamin that looked like it had been tipped but wasn’t.

“I’ve always liked how he’s thrown the deep ball,” Pettine said. “I think it was a bit of an anomaly. Yeah, I thought on certain plays he was more decisive with his reads.”

Time for change

Left tackle Joe Thomas wasn’t shocked that the indefinite suspension of receiver Josh Gordon was upheld. That doesn’t mean he’s OK with the NFL’s drug policy.

“I think they haven’t really touched it in a lot of years because it’s kinda been the one thing when you’re collectively bargaining that it kinda gets put to the end and then when you’re close on a deal you just say ‘Ahh, let’s just leave it how it’s been’ rather than actually work on maybe some issues that are there,” he said after the game. “The problem is that now you’re sitting in a situation where you have a collective bargaining agreement that lasts 10 years and in the middle of it nobody’s going to want to go back to the bargaining table and try to hash out things that may be an issue as they clearly are on a number of different levels but that are only going to affect a couple of people.

“Obviously there’s some oversights when they wrote the program and some cultural changes that have happened that I don’t think the program accurately reflects the morals of society today and the NFL and pro sports in general.”

While he’s rewriting the rules, Thomas would like to lessen the commissioner’s power when it comes to handing out punishment.

“A necessary change that I’d like to see is maybe an unbiased, nonpartisan arbitrator instead of having Roger Goodell make all the decisions,” Thomas said. “But he did not want to give that up in the last CBA and I don’t expect him to want to give it up so I don’t expect that to change at all.”

No worries

Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert, the No. 8 pick, took his lumps during the preseason, including missing tackles that led to a pair of long touchdowns. The second came Thursday when veteran receiver Santonio Holmes reversed direction after catching a slant.

Pettine thinks Gilbert made it through with his confidence intact.

“He realized right away the mistake he made against Santonio, that he had safety help inside and could’ve stayed outside leverage and kind of stumbled coming out of his break,” Pettine said. “But I think just the preseason was a good experience for him, that he saw the good and the bad and what can happen in the NFL. I would rather have it happen this way than everything just have gone perfectly for him and then all of the sudden have to deal with the reality of an NFL season. I think preseason was a positive experience for him and I certainly think he’s confident heading into the year.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.