When Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced Wednesday Brian Hoyer will start over Johnny Manziel at quarterback to start the season, it was a decision based on the current coach not wanting to end up like his recent predecessors. Pettine obviously wants to get more than one year as a head coach, a luxury the last coach, Rob Chudzinksi, wasn't given, so naming Hoyer the starter makes sense in the short-run.
It's not a terrible thing for Pettine to put his own job security over the future of the franchise at the moment, as he is the fourth head coach who will be on the Cleveland sideline in Week 1 the past six seasons. But there is no question Pettine made the wrong choice in picking Hoyer over Manziel.
Granted, Hoyer's time as the team's starting quarterback might not last half-a-season, but in today's NFL, there's no reason to sit back and wait for a potential franchise to develop on the bench, when he can do so immediately on the field. Manziel is the future of the franchise, not Hoyer. In fact, Hoyer most likely won't even be on the team's roster next season.
Manziel may be a lightning rod for controversy; he may not be emotionally ready to handle the job of starting quarterback in the NFL; he may not even be the best player at the position on the Cleveland roster, but there is no doubt he should be the Browns starting quarterback in Week 1.
Manziel could have sealed his fate as the for-now backup when he gave the middle finger to the Redskins bench on national television Monday night on ESPN. The finger salute did prove Manziel might not be ready to take over the franchise quarterback role, as he hasn't developed the thick skin needed to play the position at a high level. Manziel, however, isn't going to learn the old adage of "stick and stones" while sitting on the bench.
"That type of behavior is unacceptable," Pettine said of the gesture. "He should know more than anyone that all eyes are on him."
That is absolutely true, but if Manziel's not on the field dealing with the physical and mental warfare that comes with playing in the NFL on a weekly basis, especially since he would be the biggest target in the league all season long, he's not going to learn how to deal with it.
The decision to bench Manziel only stunted the growth of a player who needs to do a lot of it. The question is, would you rather have him go through the typical rookie mistakes, plus all of the Johnny Football-type mistakes, this year when the Browns won't win much, or next year, when the organization and fans should be expecting a playoff run? The answer should be obvious.
Plus, if Manziel completely implodes this season as the starting quarterback, Ryan Leaf-bad, the Browns know they have to look in another direction a year sooner. Or, if Manziel shines, well, the entire franchise is a year closer to the ultimate goal of making a run at a world championship.
Hoyer may be the best quarterback on the roster right now, but Manziel should be the one taking snaps in Week 1. Pettine, however, is coaching for his job this season, and the Browns will delay their own progress because of it. Of course, the Browns front office has no one to blame but themselves for that predicament.