CLEVELAND >> Go, Johnny.
Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel will make his first NFL start on Sunday against Cincinnati, replacing the slumping Brian Hoyer as Cleveland tries to pump life into its sagging playoff hopes.
Manziel, one of college football’s most captivating players, is getting his shot with three games left in a season he has spent as Hoyer’s backup on the sideline watching and learning. Browns coach Mike Pettine said Monday he was leaning toward making the switch, and after meeting with his staff, he informed both quarterbacks of a decision that many Browns fans have wanted.
Hoyer has been awful in his last four games, throwing just one touchdown pass and eight interceptions. It hasn’t been all Hoyer’s fault as the Browns have dropped passes and run pass routes incorrectly, but Cleveland needs a spark and is counting on Manziel to deliver one.
Manziel is the Browns’ 21st starting quarterback since 1999.
Pettine considered making the switch a week ago but stuck with Hoyer, who has gone 10-6 as Cleveland’s starter. Hoyer had two interceptions on Sunday in a 25-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, who rallied from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter. The Browns’ offense couldn’t get anything going in the second half, picking up just three first downs behind Hoyer.
The No. 22 overall pick in this year’s draft, the popular and polarizing Manziel has been on the field for just 18 plays this season. He came off the bench two weeks ago in the fourth quarter for Hoyer at Buffalo and 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.
The Browns are hoping he can perform some of that magic on Sundays.