Is the next step for highly-scrutinized Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel a special Johnny Package in the playbook to get him on the field and utilize his mobility?
On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said his team "fully expects" to see a package for Manziel in Sunday’s Browns-Steelers season opener at Heinz Field.
"When you have a talent like Johnny Manziel, you’re going to get him on the field," Tomlin said.
Manziel lost a training camp and preseason battle for the starting job to Brian Hoyer, who came in as the No. 1 quarterback and got about 80 percent of the snaps with the starting offense through the preseason. Manziel admitted on multiple ocassions that he was still adjusting to the game and that he was more comfortable with the shotgun and pistol looks implemented by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
When Hoyer was named the starter, Browns coach Mike Pettine said the Browns were "Brian’s team" and that he wouldn’t be for installing a Manziel package or using him as a change of pace. Later, though, his answer changed and Pettine said he was open to the possibility.
He’s not giving answers this week, of course, for much the same reason he’s considered it.
He’s keeping the Steelers and future opponents guessing.
"I would think that they’re smart enough to know, and they’ve talked about Johnny and what he brings to the table," Pettine said. "I would think that any defensive coordinator that we play, especially early on until we’re kind of more of a known quantity, will prepare for all eventualities."
Citing his past as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, Pettine admitted preparing for a dropback quarterback like Hoyer and also a more mobile quarterback "does have a big effect on your prep time."
Pettine talked of a specific Jets vs. San Francisco 49ers game before Colin Kaepernick took over as the full-time starter for the 49ers, saying he had to prepare for "two very different offenses." Manziel might not be as fast as Kaepernick, but Manziel and Hoyer are two very different players.
"We did spend time preparing on it and still gave up some chunk plays," Pettine said. "There is that positive to it that you’re forcing prep time, but the negative is you’re affecting your own continuity."
Manziel ran for 55 yards against backups in last week’s preseason finale. Asked directly about the possibility of getting in on a part-time basis, Manziel said he’s open to it and continues to work towards getting more comfortable and prepared when his name is called.
"For me, going forward, it’s preparing like I’m going to play every snap," Manziel said last week. "I need to prepare that way. 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. That’s my job."
Back on July 31, in Shanahan’s only meeting with the media of the preseason, he was asked about the possibility of installing a Manziel package if Hoyer was named the starter.
"I can imagine it," Shanahan said. "I would do it if it looked like the right thing to do. That has to do with studying Pittsburgh, what their schemes are, whether we think something looks good vs. them that maybe Johnny can do that Brian can’t, what the rest of our team is doing. I have no problem with that. I think that does present some issues, but I don’t like to ever do something just to do it.
"There’s got to be a reason for it. If we think something looks good and it can help our team move the chains and be successful then I would never hesitate to do it."