Redskins Coach Jay Gruden’s plan to play his starters for at least one quarter could throw a wrinkle in Cleveland Browns Coach Mike Pettine’s game-plan for Monday’s preseason game between the teams, which Pettine has said will serve as the final test in deciding whether he names Brian Hoyer or rookie Johnny Manziel the team’s starting quarterback.
Pettine initially said he would start Hoyer against Washington Monday and bring Manziel off the bench. But it’s essential that he get the chance to evaluate both quarterbacks against Washington’s first-team defense before awarding starting honors.
Pettine told Cleveland media this weekend that he planned to contact Gruden to discuss playing time for the respective units. “But his plan is his plan,” Pettine said of Gruden, according to a transcript prepared by the Browns. “It’s his football team, and if we have to make some adjustments to get the matchups we want, then we will.”
Gruden and Pettine are among four first-year NFL head coaches this season, along with Houston’s Bill O’Brien and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer. Gruden will face all three of his rookie counterparts this year, with Washington scheduled to open the regular season at Houston on Sept. 7 and visit Minnesota Nov. 2.
While the lion’s share of hype surrounding Monday’s game has focused on the franchise quarterbacks on display, Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Manziel, it should prove an intriguing coaching test, as well.
Gruden and Pettine are both 47, both sons of football coaches and served as NFL coordinators last season.
As Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator, Gruden led the Bengals to three consecutive playoffs in his three seasons and is credited for developing quarterback Andy Dalton.
As the defensive coordinator in Buffalo (2013) and the New York Jets (2009-12), Pettine developed a reputation for aggressive, blitz-happy defenses.
Under Gruden, Cincinnati’s offense ranked 10th in the NFL last season, rolling up 5,891 total yards.
Under Pettine, a Virginia graduate, Buffalo’s defense ranked 10th in the NFL last season, allowing 5.334 yards.
While the two coaches have a passing acquaintance, having spoken during the NFL combine, Gruden should have a better feel for his opponent Monday, given that he game-planned against Cleveland’s defensive standouts during his time in Cincinnati.
“Every team in the NFL gives you different problems, but Cleveland’s defensive personnel is obviously very good,” Gruden said.
Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine, among the standouts, is expected to miss Monday’s game with a thumb injury. But Griffin and his wide receivers will still have cornerback Joe Haden to contend with, as well as first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert, who’ll presumably inherit Skrine’s first-team reps.
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More from Jason Reid’s talk with Kyle Shanahan; The Redskins and Browns clash on Monday Night Football at 8 p.m.
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