Having the Cleveland Browns win is great, but improvement from Johnny Manziel is more important.
The Cleveland Browns got back in the win column on Sunday, which made Monday morning at work far more bearable for Browns fans. Winning is never bad and the Browns did a lot of positive things in their 24-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
However, many Browns fans are overreacting to their team’s first win in two months. As usual, much of that overreaction stems from hot takes about the quarterback position.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel played well, completing nearly 68 percent of his passes on the way to 270 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception. After the game, Browns head coach Mike Pettine was complimentary of his assessment of Manziel’s play.
Pettine is right. Manziel did a fantastic job mixing traditional quarterback play with his uncanny ability to extend the play when the play breaks down. Manziel has graduated from relying on his ability to extend plays to utilizing that ability strategically.
He proved to be on the same page with tight end Gary Barnidge, who recently signed a contract extension, multiple times throughout the game. Perhaps one of the plays that showed the chemistry between Manziel and Barnidge was one of the least flashy: in the face of an all-out blitz, Manziel and Barnidge connected on a hot route for seven yards midway through the second quarter.
Barnidge, too was complimentary of Manziel:
Despite Manziel’s shortcomings, he clearly still has the trust of the locker room. Barnidge’s comments and willingness to re-sign with the team are evidence that there may be more positives with this Browns team than many are willing to let on.
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Manziel’s play was not the only positive from the Browns win on Sunday. Running back Isaiah Crowell had by far his best rushing output of the season, running for 145 yards on 20 carries with 2 touchdowns. The defense also held the 49ers to only 221 total yards of offense. All was good in First Energy Stadium.
Despite the enthusiasm for the complete performance, Browns fans need to not overreact.
After Manziel’s performance, many claim to have seen enough out of Manziel to feel comfortable with him as the quarterback going forward. In fact, many have taken that a step further to say that Manziel should have been the starter all along, or at the very least, since he took over for Josh McCown when the Browns beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 2.
That notion however is silly. The first time Manziel was able to make consistent plays in the pocket–something all successful NFL quarterbacks must do–was on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That game was when Manziel won the job.
Unfortunately, poor decisions cost him the job momentarily, and the discipline for Manziel was just. That discipline proved that Pettine is at least attempting to establish a culture of accountability, which is something so many fans have longed to see.
Manziel has proven he has what it takes to be the quarterback on the field, but the jury is still out about whether he has what it takes to be the quarterback off the field. McCown has done wonders for Manziel’s maturation, but that perhaps is a story for another day.
The next three weeks (and the offseason that will follow) will say much more about the Browns than the 49ers game did. Before getting too excited about a wire-to-wire win, some context is necessary: of their four wins this year, only one of the 49ers’ victories was on the road.
There is still plenty to play for this season for the Browns. Manziel and the Browns have the opportunity to prove to themselves worthy to play on the same field as the NFL’s elite with games on the road against the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs and at home against the Steelers in Week 17.
Those three games will speak volumes more than a win over the lowly 49ers ever could.