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Johnny Manziel will start for Browns vs. Bengals

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Johnny Football will get his first NFL start just in time for the final weeks of the AFC playoff race.

Coach Mike Pettine decided that Johnny Manziel will start at quarterback this week for the Cleveland Browns, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday, via a team source. Fox Sports first reported the news.

Pettine met with the quarterbacks Monday to deliver the news, per Rapoport. It was not a surprising change.

"This decision is really not about Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, it is about the Cleveland Browns," Pettine said in a statement released by the team announcing the news.

Hoyer started the season with mostly solid play, helping the Browns reach their current 7-6 record. But he's been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league over the last month by any metric, including eyesight. Pettine had little choice but to turn to Manziel, the No. 22 overall pick in May's draft.

When Pettine made the polarizing decision to stick with Hoyer last week, he cited the opinions of many voices in the organization. All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas said going to the rookie would feel like giving up on the season, and those words carried weight with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. In the end, sticking with Hoyer another week would feel self-defeating. He's completed less than 50 percent of his passes with one touchdown and eight interceptions over the last month.

Manziel gave the Browns' offense a spark in his brief relief effort against Buffalo. He clearly has speed and arm strength superior to Hoyer. While Manziel's pocket-passing game figures to be rough, Hoyer was struggling with his poise and accuracy for weeks. He wasn't a comfortable pocket quarterback, either.

"I'm very excited to get out on the field with my teammates on Sunday and to have the opportunity to make the Dawg Pound proud," Manziel said.

Manziel offers the unknown, which is exciting and probably scary for the coaching staff. There have been multiple reports that raised questions about his readiness to take over an NFL offense. Manziel sitting on the bench this long is one of the big surprises of the season, especially when compared to rookie quarterbacks like Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and even sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger.

None of those rookies attract the attention of Manziel. Now the most talked-about player of the 2014 NFL Draft will be dropped right into a playoff race, likely needing wins in his first three starts to make it to the postseason. We couldn't script it any better.

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