Browns GM: Hoyer ahead of Manziel ‘by substantial margin’

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks to pass during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns practice facility.

Andrew Weber/Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

BEREA, Ohio – On the night he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel said he knew he was "starting at the bottom of the totem pole."

He was right.

The Browns were on the field for their second organized team activity practice of the spring Wednesday, and Manziel spent part of that practice operating the third team.

The Browns — from owner Jimmy Haslam on down — have been very clear that Brian Hoyer is their starting quarterback, and that if Manziel wants to change that he’s going to have work to earn it.

"He was going to have to kind of check his ego at the door and earn that ‘Johnny Football’ nickname again," Browns coach Mike Pettine said earlier this week.

Later Wednesday, Browns general manager Ray Farmer said in a radio interview with one of the team’s partner stations that Hoyer is the better quarterback "by a substantial margin" right now.

Manziel spoke to the media last weekend after a rookie minicamp practice, saying he was humble and eager and understood the fight he’s facing. He did not speak on Wednesday.

Hoyer ready for Browns QB battle

"Johnny has done a good job of being a rookie, keeping his mouth shut," Browns seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. "Rookies are supposed to be seen and not heard."

Hoyer, who’s recovering from a torn ACL last October, isn’t cleared for full 11-on-11 work. On his few snaps with the full team Wednesday, the defensive linemen were under orders to basically stand there. Veteran Tyler Thigpen, added to the Browns roster late last month, got most of the other reps with the first unit. Earlier this week, Pettine said the team would track reps closely to ensure a fair competition throughout the spring and summer.

It’s a competition that’s just beginning.

"It’s just like any other rookie, that he’s just inconsistent," Pettine said of Manziel. "A lot of it’s the mental part of it. He’s more worrying about getting the formation right, making sure the motion’s correct and he’s got the cadence. Then he’s got to worry about where guys are. Once all that stuff becomes second nature a little bit, he’ll be a lot more comfortable.

"He flashed some things that made him kind of who he is, the ability to make plays on his feet."

Manziel and the Browns have eight more OTA sessions over the next two weeks, then a full-squad minicamp June 10-12 that wraps up the offseason for the veterans. Manziel and the rookies will be at the facility for about two weeks after that.

Training camp will begin in late July, two weeks before the Browns open the preseason — a preseason that the drafting of Manziel and the launching of this quarterback competition made very interesting.

"I don’t need to be handed anything," Hoyer said. "They’ve made it really clear that it is going to be a competition."