The Cleveland Browns Played Their Final Preseason Game….And It Mattered. (Sort Of)

Preseason 4Okay, I am not watching anymore of the Cleveland Browns 4th and thank-the-lord-final preseason game. As I write this, it’s somewhere in the 3rd quarter, and Rex Grossman just came in at quarterback. I‘m actually impressed that I hung in there that long. I figured I’d be in a coma somewhere in the middle of the 2nd quarter.

If you’re expecting an article of “What did we learn from the Browns final exhibition game,” or “Who did this game help the most,” I won’t be wasting your time with that nonsense. That is for people who need to fill some space with a recycled article that gets rewritten every year. Everybody Hates Cleveland doesn’t do recycled.

But, of course, I do have some opinions on what I managed to watch.

First, the Browns looked much better than I expected they would. Not because they were so good as much as they have been so bad. I’m not going to get into the whole, “Yeah, but so and so wasn’t playing.” Yes, I know the game doesn’t matter and, yes, I know some of what we saw was against guys who will be washing windows for Christmas money, but that doesn’t mean anything to me.

Every year you get this mindless argument: “They did well, but it was against second-stringers.” “Yeah, but it was also with second-stringers.” This could go on forever. Actually, it does. Read the comment section on many sports articles this time of year. I won’t be doing that here.

I really liked Brian Hoyer’s drive. Not just the end result (touchdown) but the way he handled the pocket, his decision-making, and his throws. They looked like a true NFL offense, and Hoyer looked like a veteran quarterback.

(Behind me, as I type this, some guy I never heard of just made a nice run. Cornell…Crowell…Crennel….? I have no idea. I guarantee that fans are already calling in to sports-talk shows demanding that what’s-his-name make the team.)

There’s really nothing more to say about Hoyer. He’s the starter. He should be and he should have been since Day 1. Not because he won two games last season, but because he is the veteran and, unless he proves otherwise, he is reliable.

What I want to talk about is Johnny Manziel. (Me and 1,286,318 others, I know.) Let me preface what I am about to say with this: I don’t watch college football. Not at all. And I don’t watch SportsCenter. Ever. I could not have picked out Manziel in a line up before he was drafted by Cleveland. I barely know that he played for Texas A&M.

So I had no opinion or expectations of the guy. The fact that he plays quarterback for the Browns doesn’t change that for me. I’m not going to love a guy and inflate his value just because he plays for the Browns. It annoys me when people do that. (You know what else annoys me? When people call him “Johnny,” like they know him. First names are for personal use. And worship him all that you want, you don’t have a personal relationship with Manziel. So stop it. You sound ridiculous.)

Manziel had several inaccurate throws. He also had some nice throws and added some excitement with his ability to move around. Those inaccurate throws prove to me that he should be the 2nd quarterback for now, but everything else I saw makes me believe that the Browns might really have something.

I know, I know. Every idiot on ESPN thinks that. But I’ve never been interested on their take on a lot of things. They’re as much about buzz as they are about honest analysis. Maybe more so.

Even on those inaccurate passes, the entire play leading up to the pass said a lot of positive things. Manziel seems to have good pocket awareness. He kept his eyes downfield while running. He didn’t take off as soon as the line broke down. He didn’t stare down a receiver. He was able to find the open guy. Then he didn’t throw it so well.

I know that how he throws the ball is the whole point of his position, and that if this continues then he’ll never be a good quarterback. But will it? I don’t think we know that. He’s a rookie. Let’s see him spend some time working on the mechanics. Because if he gets that accuracy down, wow, this guy will be the franchise quarterback they’ve been looking for since Bernie Kosar.

(Isaiah Crowell – I looked it up – just scored and Solomon Wilcox thinks he should be on the team, which confirms to me my feeling that they should cut him or put him on the practice squad. If you and Wilcox agree on something, make a point of immediately reevaluating your opinion.)

As for the rest of the team:

CB Justin Gilbert looks more lost than I think he should. I get that he’s a rookie, but covering is covering. Yes, the guys are faster and plays are better developed, but he’s getting beat a lot. Not going to overreact, but do find that concerning.

The Browns D-line can bring some pressure. It seems like their issues on 3rd down are more about not letting the guys rush the QB in those situations. Is that more vanilla play-calling? I hope. Or I hope they make the adjustment. The strength of this defense is that line.

Wide receivers looked better than I expected, but I don’t know how much to believe in what I saw. Television limits your ability to see a play develop. I’ll remain skeptical for now.

Hey, PK Billy Cundiff looked great. Okay, I don’t care. Nothing means less to me than the placekicker. I’m not saying they’re meaningless, I know they’re important. But after six seasons of watching the Browns kick field goals, I don’t want to see another.

So I think that’ll about do it for this article. I am happy that the season starts next week. It’ll be intriguing to see what the real thing looks like, to see how it develops. While I would love to see the team have a winning season, I have no hopes for that. Instead, I am hoping that we find out they finally have a GM, head coach, and quarterback who are worthy of still being here two years from now.

For the Browns, that would be a victory in itself.

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