Pettine: ‘We didn’t play well’ vs. Rams

Mike Pettine might be having one of those “on-second-thought” moments.

Last week, the Browns coach spoke of installing an offensive package specific to the skills of quarterback Johnny Manziel that could be incorporated into an offense led by quarterback Brian Hoyer. Since then he’s had to answer several questions about a two-quarterback system, which is topical now that Hoyer had another shaky performance in a 33-14 loss to the St. Louis Rams last Saturday.

If anything, Pettine seems to be backtracking a bit. Maybe he doesn’t want to reveal too much to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the opening-day opponent. Then again, he might realize that a system with dual quarterbacks is a recipe for disaster.

“Timing is the question,” Pettine said during a teleconference call Sunday. “Whether we feel comfortable or if it’s necessary.”

It might be necessary if Hoyer doesn’t begin to pick up his play, but it’s doubtful it would be a comfortable fit. If the pressure of the competition with Johnny Manziel is a reason for Hoyer’s poor preseason showing, then could anything else be expected if Manziel is on the field when the season starts?

Hoyer had a few decent moments two days ago in his first start since being named the starter, but he again was plagued by inconsistency. He went 3-of-4 for 38 yards on the Browns’ first possession but was 7-of-12 for 44 yards with an interception and a 5-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Hawkins after that before leaving early in the third quarter.

We’ve been told since the start of training camp that it’s a process in getting comfortable with Kyle Shanahan’s offense one season after working in Norv Turner’s Air Coryell offense. That process has gone from being a legitimate problem to an excuse.

While adding Manziel’s unique playmaking skills to the mix is intriguing, there are also potential problems. Rotating quarterbacks in and out of play would have a high school look to it. Continuity with Hoyer, which is already on fragile footing, would be gone, and it could create a divided locker room.

Pettine doesn’t need that in his first year as coach. The best course to follow would be to stick with Hoyer through at least four games. If the offense remains as anemic as it has been to date, then go with Manziel.

Using two quarterbacks would probably be okay with Manziel. After being humbled in losing the competition, he’d simply be happy to get on the field when the season begins.

“I feel like any way I can kind of contribute to this team, whether it’s looking at something during the game or getting into the game and having a certain package, is all I really want to do,” Manziel said.

There’s no way that Pettine can conceal what is painfully obvious to the fan base. He’s been critical of Hoyer, but at the same time he’s pointed out that it’s a collective problem. There’s no question that the receivers have been out of sync with both quarterbacks, and it’s not easy moving an offense when receivers struggle to get open and drop too many passes.

“There’s no sugarcoating it,” Pettine said. “We didn’t play well (against the Rams). Some individual performances stood out, but overall we were very inconsistent. The thing that was the biggest disappointment was the inconsistency on third down on both sides of the ball.”

Those inconsistencies will mean more work than is normal for a preseason finale when the Browns host the Chicago Bears Thursday night. Most starters are usually rested the entire game, but Pettine plans to play them for an undetermined amount of time.

“We’re all just trying to come along together,” Hoyer said. “As an offense you have to be on the same page. There are five or six plays out there where you can tell it hasn’t come, but it’s going to come. We will get better; I don’t doubt that. We have flashes here and there and then pull ourselves back.”

Manziel’s numbers last Saturday were similar to what Hoyer put up 10-of-15 for 85 yards. He ran 7 yards for a touchdown.

Manziel admitted that he was more comfortable than he was in the first two games.

“I don’t know if it was being more Johnny than going out and cutting it loose and forget whatever happens,” Manziel said. “I feel I did a better job of that.”

You have wonder at what point in the season we will see more of Manziel.