Johnny Manziel’s No. 2 jersey has double meaning.
He’s behind Brian Hoyer.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said Hoyer is “securely ahead” in the competition to be Cleveland’s starting quarterback this season, but his lead over Manziel isn’t “insurmountable.”
After the Browns ended their three-day mandatory minicamp Thursday, Pettine sized up the battle as a friendly fight that will heat up when the team opens training camp late in July.
Pettine said Hoyer, who is recovering from knee surgery and has been limited during practices, still has a grip on the starting job — for now.
“It’s been hard to evaluate because Brian hasn’t been able to take the 11-on-11 reps, but when we put the depth chart together, Brian will be No. 1,” he said.
Pettine agrees with Browns general manager Ray Farmer’s evaluation that Manziel, the wildly popular 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft pick from Texas A&M, has some catching up to do.
Manziel is behind, but maybe not by much.
“I don’t think it’s insurmountable,” Pettine said. “Brian is securely ahead of him right now, but we will compete and we will decide. The issue for us as a staff is finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then nobody’s ready for the opener, if you do it too soon, then it wasn’t a true competition.
“That will be part of our discussions as well as far as OK, here’s the plan, here’s a date that we want to go ahead and name him.”
During recent workouts open to the media, Manziel has shown some of the flashes that earned him the Johnny Football nickname in college. But there have also been moments where he looked like another lost rookie.
Pettine made it clear the Browns have made no decisions and the competition is in its infancy.
“We haven’t really been in the mode of thinking, ‘He’s this far ahead today. How much was the gap closed?”’ Pettine said. “They’re still learning the basics of the offense. The rookies haven’t been here very long. They’re playing catch-up from a playbook standpoint. So at this point, we really weren’t keeping score. “
Pettine kept Hoyer and Manziel off limits to reporters this week, hoping to contain a story that’s expected to only grow.
In the next few weeks, Pettine and his staff will decide how to best divide the snaps between Hoyer and Manziel. Pettine said it’s safe to assume the duties will be shared.