Even after naming Brian Hoyer as their opening-game starter against the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns all but confirmed this week that it will be the 21-year-old hotshot rookie taking all the snaps that matter most come Sunday and beyond.
NFL Nation still your pulsating hearts for the unleashing of the “Johnny Package,” ideally a diagrammed selection of big-yard plays in which Manziel would replace Hoyer and “provide a boost to the Browns’ offense.” Translated it simply means Brian Hoyer should keep his clipboard nearby.
Already, the speculation is Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will spend as much time this week preparing for the rifled-armed and fleet-footed former Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner as they will to the comparatively robotic Hoyer.
Browns safety Donte Whitner has witnessed and experienced it all before. “They have to prepare for the option, they have to prepare for the read play and all of that,” said Whitner, who was with the 49ers in 2011 when the team employed a similar scheme in initially incorporating Colin Kaepernick into the mix.
“That was just a special situation where you have a guy that has all the attributes and is really headstrong, and he was actually better than the starter,” added Whitner. “Johnny… could actually get some yards, make some things happen.”
All that comes with simply letting Johnny be Johnny. At A&M, Manziel amassed 7,820 passing yards and 63 touchdowns in just two seasons, including as a freshmen becoming just the fifth player in NCAA to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for at least 1,000 more in the same season. With league-leading wideout Josh Gordon lost to the Browns for the season by virtue of suspension, benefitting from any jolt the dynamic Manziel can provide could be the difference between a lost season and a potential playoff berth for Cleveland.
And the ever-boastful Manziel isn’t about to shy away from the potential glare of it all. “For me, going forward, it’s preparing like I’m going to play every snap,” he said. Whenever the time may be, whether it’s however long or extremely far down the road or if it is soon or something in between, I need to be ready. Whether it’s a package, or coming in and playing, whatever it is I’m asked to do, I need to be ready to step in and execute that without any hesitation. I need to prepare that way.”
And Brian Hoyer need keep his clipboard on the ready.