The Cleveland Browns’ quarterback competition between prized rookie Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer degenerated Monday night into a stumble-and-bumble routine. Both failed to shine against the defensive starters of the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in the Browns’ second preseason game, leaving the team with an interesting and perhaps less-than-inspiring choice to make in its pending quarterback decision.
Hoyer was on the field for five of the Browns’ seven first-half possessions and completed 2 of 6 passes for 16 yards. The Browns managed one field goal on a Hoyer-led drive, although their offense moved only four yards to get it.
“It probably couldn’t have been any worse,” Hoyer said. “It’s disappointing. It’s embarrassing.”
But Manziel was no better while working with the Browns’ offensive starters in the first half, connecting on 2 of 7 passes for 29 yards. Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked each Browns quarterback once in the first half. Manziel remained in the game into the fourth quarter, playing with and against backups, and finished the game having completed 7 of 16 passes for 65 yards.
He threw an eight-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to running back Dion Lewis and finished the night with one rushing attempt for a one-yard loss.
Manziel said he was happy to have led a touchdown drive but said: “I wanted to be better. I wanted to complete more passes than I did tonight.”
Manziel also appeared to direct an obscene gesture toward the Redskins’ sideline as he jogged away from it, while on the field, during the third quarter. He referred to the gesture as a “lapse in judgment” and said: “I should have been smarter. . . . There’s always words exchanged on the football field.”
Cleveland Coach Mike Pettine said he didn’t learn of Manziel’s gesture until after the game, and said: “It does not sit well. . . . It’s disappointing.”
Until Manziel’s fourth-quarter touchdown against Redskins reserves, neither he nor Hoyer had led the Browns to a touchdown this preseason. The two quarterbacks were coming off a preseason opener at Detroit in which Manziel showed some promise but the Cleveland offense had more production, two field goals to one, with Hoyer on the field.
This was supposed to be a showcase in which both quarterbacks worked with the starting offense and, the Browns hoped, at least one of them played well enough to make for a clear-cut decision about which the team could feel good. The Browns’ plan has been to make their quarterback choice in the coming days, perhaps Tuesday. But Monday night’s performances gave the team’s coaches few positives on which to base their decision.
Hoyer led the first two Cleveland drives, and both resulted in punts. Manziel took over for two possessions after that, resulting in two more punts. Manziel’s first drive ended with him being sacked by Kerrigan and fellow Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo celebrating with his version of Manziel’s famed finger-rubbing money sign.
The Browns began at their own 1-yard line for Manziel’s second drive. Manziel led the Cleveland offense out from the shadow of its own goal post. He made one nice throw on a rollout in the end zone for a completion, and the drive later continued when the Redskins were called for defensive holding and unsportsmanlike conduct after Manziel threw a pass away under pressure for a third-down incompletion. But even all of that produced only another punt.
Hoyer played the rest of the first half and led a field goal drive — sort of. The field goal came on a possession that began on the 15-yard line of the Redskins. Hoyer made an inaccurate throw into the end zone on third down and, at that point, still didn’t have a completion all night. Hoyer’s first completion of the game came on his fourth drive of the game — and the Browns’ sixth — and the play ended with tight end MarQueis Gray losing a fumble after the catch. Hoyer also completed a screen pass on the final play of the half.