Johnny Manziel has the number one selling jersey in the NFL right now. Brian Hoyer looks to have the edge on the number one quarterback job in Cleveland.
Five days before the start of the team's training camp in Berea, Ohio, Browns coach Mike Pettine told the Akron Beacon-Journal Monday that the team plans to name their starting quarterback before the third preseason game on August 23.
It's a strange deadline for Pettine to declare, especially several days before anyone on the roster has donned any pads. Pettine obviously got a glimpse of both players at last month's minicamp, but with Hoyer returning from a season-ending injury, it's a little curious that the first-year coach would want to set a deadline right now for a decision that will require plenty of evaluation of both players.
But maybe after witnessing the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow fiasco of 2012 firsthand while serving as the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets, Pettine wants to try and be as definitive as he can as soon as he can. Not that it mattered for his former head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan did nothing but praise incumbent starter Mark Sanchez all training camp, but it never quieted the clamoring among Tebowmaniacs for him to get his shot.
While no quarterback since Tebow has generated as much pre-arrival hype as Johnny Football, this isn't the same situation. Manziel is clearly the team's future franchise quarterback, while Hoyer's current contract runs out after this season.
Pettine noted after minicamp that Hoyer was "securely ahead" of Manziel at the time. He also said that "the issue for us as a staff will be finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then no one is ready for the opener. If you do it too soon, was it a true competition?" Clearly this timeline is something he's been thinking about for over a month.
Regardless of what cutoff Pettine sets to make the choice, there is going to be a deafening chorus of people clamoring to get Manziel on the field. Even if Hoyer is outstanding in the first two preseason games and Manziel has typical rookie struggles, the desire of fans to see the playmaker in regular season action isn't going to be muted.
Setting a two-game deadline to make the decision certainly seems to be Pettine's attempt to give Manziel a decent look, but ultimately award the job to a veteran so that the rookie can acclimate himself to the NFL game from the sidelines. But unless Cleveland native Hoyer comes out and plays like a 1999 Kurt Warner, the local product and Pettine are going to have to deal with the calls for Johnny Football all year long.
Eventually the coach is going to give in.