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Is two better than one?

Browns hoping Steelers are preparing for both QBs

August 27, 2014
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle ( , Tribune Chronicle

CLEVELAND - The hope of the Browns as they prepare to open the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers is that perception becomes reality.

If Steelers coach Mike Tomlin buys into the possibility that Browns coach Mike Pettine will utilize a two-quarterback rotation with Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, he'll immediately place more on his plate in preparations leading up to the Sept. 7 game at Heinz Field. Theoretically, that would take time away from some of the things the Steelers normally would work on.

Whether Pettine is seriously planning to rotate quarterbacks in week one won't be known until game day, but it's safe to say the Steelers think they might see Hoyer, who's been named the starter, and Manziel. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said before Pettine selected Hoyer that he expected Manziel to be the starter.

It's all about confusing the opposition to gain the slightest of advantages. When you've won only one time in the last 11 trips to Pittsburgh, any edge is welcomed.

But can an advantage really be gained by playing two quarterbacks? Browns safety Donte Whitner played for the San Francisco 49ers when coach Jim Harbaugh went with Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith two years ago. Kaepernick eventually led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"With those words (two quarterbacks) alone, they have to prepare," Whitner said. "They have to prepare for the option. They have to prepare for the read play and all of that, so even if he (Manziel) doesn't get out there for Pittsburgh, whoever we play has to prepare for it. That's how you do it."

Looking back on the 49ers' situation of two years ago, the decision by Harbaugh to use two quarterbacks looks wise because of the results. We also know now that Kaepernick, who was then a rookie, is a legitimate franchise-caliber quarterback, while Smith, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was in the process of putting up a 104.1 passer rating.

Pettine isn't so fortunate. Hoyer is on track to be a journeyman, which has never been more evident than during this training camp. No one can predict accurately how Manziel will play when he gets his first taste of the regular season.

The key to making a rotational system work is for the quarterbacks to have separate skill sets. Two drop-back, pocket quarterbacks might not work, nor will two option quarterbacks. Put a drop-back player (Hoyer) with an option guy (Manziel), and it might be a success.

"Now you have to teach those defensive ends and outside linebackers to slow play certain things," Whitner said. "In certain defenses you might get it confused or messed up. I believe it will take a big chunk out of their time, but Dick LeBeau and those guys know defense. They'll have two or three ways to try to stop that."

Manziel plays the Kaepernick role in this scenario young, mobile and flashy at times. He's the wild card in the mix. Hoyer is Smith, but with fewer credentials.

"Just want to make them take time off something else and they might mess up something else while Johnny is back there and being a mobile quarterback," Whitner said. "Mobile quarterbacks scare defensive coordinators because he's unaccounted for."

Manziel is also like Kaepernick in that beneath that media-savvy exterior is a rookie that wants to start. As of now he might have to be satisfied with a Johnny-specific package of plays put in by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

"Kyle is a very innovative guy and is extremely creative," Manziel said. "Whatever is asked of me, then I'm absolutely happy to do and would be extremely excited to be on this field and help this offense in any way that I can."



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