Coach: Manziel 'always an option'

ByPat McManamon via ESPN logo
Thursday, September 18, 2014
ESPN

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns always will have a set of plays ready for Johnny Manziel to run, but whether they play him is decided during the game itself.

That's the word from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who said of using Manziel for a few plays in a game the way the Browns did in Sunday's win over New Orleans: "It's something that's always an option."

The Browns talked about playing Manziel before the Pittsburghgame, then did not use him.

They talked about him not playing before the New Orleans game, then played him.

He took three snaps against the Saints, running the read-option and twice handing off to Isaiah Crowell, who gained 3 yards, then lost 3 yards. Manziel then ran play-action, scrambled and threw to fullback Ray Agnew. The completion was broken up with a big hit by Jairus Byrd.

"It was the right read," Shanahan said. "He hesitated a little bit. You'd like to get it there a little bit quicker so the guy didn't have a chance to break it up, but that was where the ball needed to go."

Shanahan and coach Mike Pettine both sounded pleased that they have now given opposing defensive coordinators another element to ponder as they prepare to face the Browns.

"You weigh the pros and the cons when you do something like that," Pettine said. "We're forcing an opponent [to spend] extra time to prepare for that. Now they have to worry about a zone-read element of a game plan, which opens up a whole box of issues defensively.

"But you have to weigh that against how does that affect the starter, and to me. you can get the best of both worlds if the starter can handle it and you can prove, like [Sunday], that he can."

Hoyer responded to Manziel's second appearance by converting a third-and-13 and leading a touchdown drive, then the winning field goal drive.

Pettine quipped that with the way Hoyer responded, the team might put Manziel in for the first play.

Shanahan shared a different barb.

"I told [Hoyer] he did so well when he came back in he almost encouraged us to do it more," Shanahan said. "I don't know if he liked that, but he did a good job coming in."

Shanahan then explained the strategy and what the Browns gain by using Manziel.

"It makes them think about other stuff," Shanahan said. "It makes people have to work other stuff. We definitely got some different fronts and different coverages when he was in there. So they definitely had to plan for that, so it was good to see that.

"I thought it was good just to get Johnny in there, also. Guys are amped up, you never know how they're gonna do when they get their first reps. I thought it was good for Johnny to get in there and be a part of the win.

"I also thought it was good for Brian because he had to go through it. He responded very well."

The Baltimore Ravens, Sunday's opponent,already have admitted they are preparing for Manziel to be in the game at some point.

"It's something you go with your gut feeling," Shanahan said. "It has a lot to [do] with the fronts we're getting, the coverage we're getting. If I think we need to do it, I think it's something that's capable of changing defenses a little bit. And it's not a big difference for the rest of our team."

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