Glazer: Browns name Johnny Manziel starting quarterback

BY foxsports • December 9, 2014

Johnny Manziel will finally have his chance as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback.

A source told FOX Sports that Manziel and Brian Hoyer were both informed that the former would be given the nod for Cleveland on Sunday against visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

The team confirmed the news in a statement later Tuesday afternoon.

The decision comes one week after the NFL world thought it should have happened. But Hoyer was so ineffective over the past four games that it left Browns coaches no choice but to make this move.

Hoyer’s struggles continued in last Sunday’s 25-24 home loss to Indianapolis. Hoyer completed just 14 of 31 passes for 140 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions to finish with a season-low passer rating of 31.7.

Manziel has seen limited action this season in relief of Hoyer during his rookie season.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said in a statement that the switch isn't about Hoyer or Manziel, but about the Browns.

"We are trying to get the offense to perform at a higher level," he said. "Johnny has worked very hard to earn this opportunity and it will be very important for every member of the offense to elevate their play for us to obtain our desired result."

Manziel's debut start will come in Cleveland's final home game, against a Bengals team Hoyer beat on Nov. 6. Manziel will try to show the Browns he can be the franchise quarterback they've coveted for two decades.

Manziel is the Browns' 21st starting quarterback since 1999.

"I've tried to spend my entire season learning what it takes to become a pro and it's been great to watch Brian because he knows what it takes," Manziel said. "I've prepared every week to be ready to help the team however possible and my focus has been on improving every day."

Even before Manziel was told he'll start, the possibility sparked some controversy with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis calling the 6-footer "a midget" during a radio interview Monday night. Lewis later apologized, but the jab stirred the Ohio rivalry.

The Browns really had no choice but to turn to Manziel in light of Hoyer's recent struggles. It hasn't been all Hoyer's fault as teammates have dropped passes and run pass routes incorrectly, but Cleveland needs a spark and Manziel changed games in college with his legs and right arm.

Pettine considered the switch a week ago but stuck with Hoyer, who has gone 10-6 as Cleveland's starter, prior to the poor performance against Indianapolis.

Manziel's promotion could signal the end of Hoyer's time with the Browns. A Cleveland-area kid who grew up attending Browns games with his dad, Hoyer, who battled back from a season-ending knee injury in 2013, is in the final year of his contract. With Manziel around, it's likely Hoyer will have to sign elsewhere to remain an NFL starter.

"Although I am disappointed by coach's decision, I respect him and his choice and will be there to support Johnny," Hoyer said. "As always, I will do whatever I can to help this team win."

The No. 22 overall pick in this year's draft, the popular and polarizing Manziel has been on the field just 18 plays this season. He came off the bench two weeks ago in the fourth quarter at Buffalo, completed 5 of 8 passes and scored on a 10-yard touchdown run.

Manziel won the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M, where his ability to improvise made him a star and earned him his Johnny Football nickname.

The Browns are hoping he can perform some of that magic on Sundays.

Manziel couldn't beat out Hoyer during training camp and the 22-year-old's off-the-field behavior, which included weekend trips to Las Vegas, led to outside criticism of his maturity and commitment. The Browns held off on playing him until they felt he was ready, and now Pettine has put the team's season in Manziel's hands.

Johnny better be good.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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