BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns wide receiver Nate Burleson supports coach Mike Pettine's decision to start veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer in the regular-season opener at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Sept. 7.
However, should Hoyer struggle, Burleson believes the team can turn to who he described as "the best No. 2 quarterback in the NFL," rookie Johnny Manziel, who lost the training-camp competition with Hoyer on Wednesday.
"They've both got their qualities," Burleson said. "They're different in ways, but I like the way Brian has commanded the leadership in this team and grabbed a hold of the playbook, but Johnny being the no. 2 as you want to call it, we've got arguably the best No. 2 in the NFL. I'm okay with that.
"We've got two quarterbacks that are good, and I've been saying that since we first got to camp. Regardless of who was named the starter week one, I feel like we were going to be winners. I say that selfishly speaking as a receiver. I get to benefit from that. I caught balls, touchdowns in one-on-ones, made plays from both QBs, so for me, I was straddling the fence between the two."
As a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M, Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions while completing 295 of 434 attempts despite taking 22 sacks.
Then, as a follow-up to his Heisman campaign, Manziel completed 300 passes for 4,114 yards with 37 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and was sacked only 19 times in leading the Aggies to nine wins last fall.
"Johnny will be successful in this league," Burleson said. "He'll have his opportunities. Regardless of how many chances he'll get or waves of opportunities he gets, he's going to take advantage of them.
"It's not a bad thing for him to be the No. 2 week one. He is a rookie, still has a lot to learn and to do as a professional and as a player when it comes to the playbook. He's going to be alright. I'm a Johnny Football fan. Not only was I a fan before he got here, but now, he's family because we play for the same team, so I'm always going to be in his corner."
Despite being fun to watch as a freshman, Manziel almost did not have a sophomore season at Texas A&M.
During his last offseason in college, Manziel was investigated by the NCAA for being paid to sign autographs, which would have been a violation of its by-laws. Although the NCAA could find no evidence of violations, Manziel was suspended for the first half of the 2013 season opener against Rice for "a violation of the spirit" of the rules.
Even with his extracurricular activities since that point, including riding a swan while sipping a bottle of champagne in Las Vegas, mysteriously photographed rolling up a dollar bill while in a bathroom, and most recently, being fined $12,000 by the NFL for throwing an obscene gesture toward the Washington bench in a 24-23 loss on Monday night, Manziel has the support of Burleson.
"I'll just say this, Johnny's still the man," Burleson said. "He's still a really good quarterback. He's an NFL-quality starting quarterback. I don't mind the guy making mistakes, especially young in his career. God knows that I've made a lot of mistakes over my 12 years. I just didn't have five high-definition cameras on me at all times, so I'm fine with a guy making decisions and manning up to them.
"It's going to happen. You can't expect a guy to be perfect. I don't care if he's a rookie, a vet or old guy like myself. You're going to make mistakes. What you want to look for is a guy that shows up every day and wants to go to work.
"Now, when he shows up and doesn't want to work, he's lackadaisical about the playbook or you can tell there's other things in life that have him distracted from what he's paid to do, then we can have that discussion and I'll probably answer differently. But from what I've seen from Johnny, and the way he approaches this job, he loves this sport and he wants to be great at it, so I'm alright with the mistakes. I'm no one to judge."