Quarterback answer not an easy one

This should be a piece of cake for Browns fans by now.

For them, waiting for the head coach to announce the starting quarterback for the season opener would seem to be as routine as taking a daily vitamin. It’s just a matter of bracing for the lengthy process and all the conjecture that flows freely before the final call.

Why is it then that the latest quarterback competition seems so doggone painstaking? Get on with it already!

The decision facing coach Mike Pettine appears to have become more difficult as rookie Johnny Manziel continues to close the gap with Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the better of the two in the first week of practices, but Manziel began to make strides with a decent showing in an intrasquad scrimmage nine days ago. He continued to make gains in practices last week, leading up to his play in the Browns’ 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions last Saturday.

Pettine continues his plan to make a call prior to the third preseason game, at home against the St. Louis Rams. The fact Pettine hasn’t announced the starter by now is a positive in his thinking.

“If there was a clear cut favorite at this point, it would mean that one isn’t playing well,” Pettine said Sunday during a conference call. “It’s a good problem to have two guys capable of being NFL starters.”

Pettine faces a dilemma entering the third week of training camp. His gut reaction is probably telling him to avoid starting a rookie and sticking with Hoyer, a six-year veteran with four career starts. Common sense says that the probable suspension of receiver Josh Gordon for several games to possibly the entire season means a playmaker is needed to fill the gap. When Pettine looks around, the only true playmaker capable of lifting up his teammates he sees is Manziel.

You could see Manziel’s playmaking skills in slightly more than one quarter of play against the Lions. He extended drives with his quick legs (six carries for a team-leading 27 yards). He also exhibited a strong throwing arm as he completed 7-of-11 passes for 63 yards.

Hoyer doesn’t move poorly, but he’s not in Manziel’s class when it comes to creating on the fly. Without Gordon, the offense, at times, will need to find unconventional ways to move the chains, and who’s more unconventional than Manziel?

For all the hoopla about Manziel’s free-spirited lifestyle away from football, he’s been nothing but professional and hard-working when at work. He’s not about to make waves with claims of wanting to be the starter.

“For me, it’s all about getting better,” Manziel said. “If I’m the guy that puts us in the best position to win, then we’ll see what happens. At the end of the day I want what’s best for the Cleveland Browns, whichever quarterback that is.”

Bob Holtzman of ESPN reported Sunday that Manziel moved ahead of Hoyer after the game in Detroit. Hoyer admittedly missed some opportunities in starting and playing a little more than one quarter.

“That’s untrue,” Pettine said. “I’m not sure who the team source would be. The only people involved in the decision are (quarterbacks coach) Dowell (Loggains), (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) and myself. It’s something I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to because I don’t like being in the business of anonymous sources.”

Hoyer was 6-of-14 for 92 yards. He benefitted from sound protection from the first-team line (he said afterwards that he was never hit). One of Hoyer’s passes should have been caught by Gordon deep in the end zone, although the play would have been nullified by a penalty on tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

“I’m concerned about being the best quarterback I can be when I play,” Hoyer said. “The only thing I can control is the way I play, so obviously there were some plays I would like to have back, but there were some things we did well.

“This was our first time in real game action. The offensive linemen did a great job; we ran the well. We mixed it up with some play action and bootlegs. Let it sink in and watch some film and keep improving.”

Time is running out for one of the two quarterbacks.