Cleveland Browns  

 

Johnny Manziel-mania to begin with LeBron James in tow

Print

Finally today, with the most fanfare of any rookie in the 2014 class, Johnny Manziel will make his first NFL start. With his team in the thick of the battle for the AFC North, Browns coach Mike Pettine will turn to his electric former backup quarterback to take the team to a promised land Clevelanders so rarely experience.

Ex-starter Brian Hoyer led the team to a 7-6 record, but it's Johnny Football time now.

Of course, when Manziel takes the field today against the Bengals, celebrity follows.

Manziel's business partners and agents Erik Burkhardt and Maverick Carter share a suite at FirstEnergy Stadium, and Cavs star LeBron James is expected to be with them watching the debut of his buddy, Johnny Football.

The four-time NBA MVP even had a message of encouragement for Manziel on Sunday morning, tweeting "Best of luck to my lil brother @jmanziel2 on making his 1st start today. Let's Go!!"

LeBron will be the most famous name in the house, but he won't be alone. The eyes of the NFL will be on this much-anticipated Battle of Ohio.

"If he's successful, he'll be the most famous athlete in the world," said one member of the Browns organization.

Despite what some might have heard before the draft, Manziel has been nothing but professional inside the building. One Browns source said Manziel has been the first one in the building this week -- arriving at 7 a.m. each day -- and the last one out -- exiting at 7 p.m. each day. He has been serious and studious like he has all season, even surprising some staff members.

In practice this week, there was an excitement from the players, but those inside the building say the defense is particularly amped for the QB change. Meanwhile, coaches have mixed feelings, with excitement for Manziel but sadness for Hoyer, who put in more than the necessary work and did everything he could to put the Browns in this position.

On the field today, the Browns' offense won't change completely. There will just be a group of read-option plays in the game plan this week to take advantage of Manziel's mobility. Expect them to look a lot like the plays that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ran two years ago with the Redskins and Robert Griffin III.

As for the Bengals, they've gone back and watched those 'Skins tapes, along with Manziel's performances in the preseason. The reality is, however, there isn't much film to scout. He's played in just one regular season game. Their main goal, according to a Cincinnati source, is to keep Manziel in the pocket.

Easier said than done.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop