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Johnny Middle Finger flops

Best-executed play for Manziel was flipping off Redskins' bench

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Washington Redskins inside linebacker Will Compton pursues Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel on Monday night.

RICHARD LIPSKI / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Washington Redskins inside linebacker Will Compton pursues Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel on Monday night.

LANDOVER, Md. -- After the Cleveland Browns' quarterback duel fell as flat as the numerous incompletions from Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel in their Monday-night meltdown, coach Mike Pettine's post-game frustration was only compounded when he learned that Manziel flashed a middle finger at the Washington Redskins sideline in the third quarter.

"It does not sit well," Pettine said of the rookie's loss of composure after the Browns' 24-23 loss at FedEx Field. "I was informed right after the game. And it's disappointing to me because we talk about being poised, being focused. You have to be able to maintain your poise... That's a big part of all football players, especially your quarterback.

"And it's something we'll obviously address with him."

Asked if Manziel's behaviour factors into his decision to tab the starter, Pettine said, "It's whoever gives us the best shot to win the opener will be the starter."

Still, the Browns' offence may have proven more obscene than Manziel's gesture. And yet Pettine can't wait much longer to choose his quarterback, with opening day less than three weeks away.

He had hoped to reveal the winner of the summer-long battle Tuesday but conceded he might have to delay even if he ideally needs to have a starter working with the first-string offence by the start of today's practice. The Browns host the St. Louis Rams on Saturday night in their third pre-season game.

"Someone has to be ready for the opener," Pettine said while admitting he may need to see how Manziel and Hoyer play this weekend before rendering a verdict.

"It's possible... All the options are on the table. We will see. We need to score touchdowns. We need to move the ball."

But that didn't happen Monday.

Both passers struggled painfully while failing to grasp an opportunity. Hoyer and Manziel combined to complete nine of 22 passes for 81 yards with Manziel's eight-yard touchdown pass to running back Dion Lewis the lone time the Browns' first- or second-team offense has reached the end zone in 16 pre-season possessions.

"It probably couldn't have been any worse," said Hoyer, who threw for 16 yards and missed on seven of nine throws. "It was disappointing. It's embarrassing. We started off poorly and really never changed after that."

Hoyer said the competition has not been a distraction hanging over the team and denied he has been pressing in his bid to secure the top spot on the depth chart. But he chastised himself for missing slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, who was wide open in the end zone for what would have been an easy first-half touchdown.

"There's no excuse for it," Hoyer said.

Here's how bad things were at one point late in the first half: Browns defensive backs caught as many passes (two) as Manziel completed to receivers. Hoyer was 0-for-4 to that point.

But because Manziel couldn't keep his cool, Hoyer may win the job by default.

Manziel, who was sacked three times, conceded he is struggling to adjust to the speed of the NFL and that he hesitated throwing the ball while playing with the starters for the first time in a game situation.

"I forced some things and didn't let it fly, and I have to get better at that," Manziel said. "Things are definitely faster, quicker and things close up a lot faster if you hesitate."

Pettine and the Browns can't hesitate much longer.

 

-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2014 C5

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