Well, shit. Johnny Manziel made his first NFL start today, and it was about as thorough a mollywhopping as you'll see from the professionals.
Manziel finished 10-of-18 for 80 yards with two interceptions, rushed five times for 13 yards, and took three sacks for 26 yards. That's a curb-stomping, but even stats that bad can't cover how dire this was.
On the first series, the Browns went three-and-out after Manziel tried to break out of the pocket on third and 2, but went down for a one-yard gain. On the next, Manziel took a sack up the middle and had his dance thrown back at him. Then, he was intercepted. Then, another three-and-out. But things turned horrendous on the fifth.
Manziel's fifth drive was his first to extend beyond five plays. It started with five straight Isaiah Crowell runs and picked up 15 yards on a Cincinnati taunting penalty. The next play, Manziel threw high to Travis Benjamin—he was high all day, which is the exact wrong way to be off with a new group of receivers—and the ball was tipped and intercepted, but the pick was called back on a neutral-zone infraction. On the next snap, Manziel sprinted backwards and left, away from pressure, and back-footed a pass over a Bengals defender to Josh Gordon, who turned it into a 19-yard gain. The following play was a false start, followed by a shovel pass for two yards. After the two-minute warning, Manziel had to take a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. And following the timeout, the Browns ran a play where, as soon as the ball came off, Manziel made a check short-right, and then appeared to freeze, finally taking off in the hurried way young Mike Vick used to, only 80 or 90 orders of magnitude slower. The next snap was a nine-yard run by JFF to the Cincinnati 28; the drive ended with a pick to Pacman Jones.
In the second half, the Browns only had one first down—on a 32-yard catch-and-run to Gordon—and were otherwise held to -17 yards of offense after halftime. This was a powerfully inept day of offense, and impressive only in its ability to somehow surpass the pants-shitting quarterback play that Brian Hoyer had put on for the last month. It's also a shame, because the JFF luster only works if he's an intrepid little shit who can actually back it up. It's no fun (well, less fun) making jokes about the next Blaine Gabbert. We've already got enough of those.
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