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Johnny Manziel on Saturday morning fight: 'Blown out of proportion'

Nov 28, 2014 -- 3:05pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

By Tony Grossi

Extra Points …

No harm, no foul: Johnny Manziel disputed the facts of the reported “brawl” involving him, his roommate and an overzealous fan.

Chris Gonos, of Sandusky, told police that a member of Manziel’s “entourage” struck him “several times in the face” when he attempted to greet Manziel with a hug in the lobby of the Metropolitan at the 9 hotel-apartment complex at about 2:30 in the morning last Saturday.

Manziel said that as he waited for an elevator to his residence, he was approached by “a very intoxicated, very aggressive person … putting his hands on me, kind of toying with me.”

Manziel said that as Dana Kirk, Manziel’s childhood friend and roommate, attempted to “coax” Gonos to leave them alone, Gonos got “extremely aggressive” and hotel security intervened.

Manziel did not address Gonos’ claims, made to Cleveland Scene, that Manziel “sucker-punched” Gonos’ brother and that Manziel got “smashed, smashed, smashed” in the face.

“I think that’s just one of the many untruths that got blown around a little bit with this story,” Manziel said. “I’m not going to get into exact details of everything that happened. It was broken up really fast and at the time it was more towards my roommate than towards me, the initial offering.”

Manziel said he phoned Browns GM Ray Farmer with details of the incident the first thing when he woke up later in the morning.

Farmer later expressed concern about the time of the incident. Coach Mike Pettine said the incident, barring some unforeseen development, would not warrant discipline by the club.

“I feel since I’ve been here my lifestyle has changed dramatically,” Manziel said. “I’m usually in my home and not venturing out very much. The one night I did get a chance to go out and did stay out, I felt at the time it was OK. I know there’s other guys around the league and other guys in this locker room that do the same thing and enjoy their time when they’re out of the building.

“And I know that at night, when I go to bed, I need to make sure I’m ready and capable of going to work the next day and fulfilling my job to the duties that I have being in this building the next day.”

Manziel said the entire incident was blown out of proportion. He said he has not been interviewed by police, is “not in any trouble,” and would not press charges against Gonos.

Manziel said he tries to treat every fan who approaches him with respect. He blamed himself for “kind of let my guard down once I get to (his apartment building) and feel like I’m home. I kind of, I guess, on my own end messed up.”

Cameron questionable: Tight end Jordan Cameron practiced on a limited basis for the third day in a row and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in Orchard Park, NY, against Buffalo. Pettine said “Just see where he is tomorrow. We say ‘day to day.’ It’s truly day to day. He practiced all three days this week. He didn’t take a full slate. He’s truly limited. So, we’ll see.” Cameron has missed four consecutive games after suffering a concussion in the Oakland game on Oct. 26. ... Linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee), safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) and receiver/returner Marlon Moore (hamstring) were ruled out of the Buffalo game. Linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot) and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (back) are questionable.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Ten reasons for the Browns to be thankful

Nov 28, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Thanksgiving leftovers: With five games to go, everything the (7-4) Browns want to achieve is still obtainable – a winning season, a playoff berth, the division crown.

The only thing guaranteed is they won’t lose 10 or more games for the first time in seven years.

They have a lot of reasons to be thankful. On Tuesday’s #HeyTony show on ESPN 1540 KNR2, we listed the top five. We found five more to round out the Top Ten Reasons for the Browns to be Thankful.

10. Joe Banner’s legacy: He gets a lot of grief on Twitter, but the former CEO left the organization with $40 million in cap room and 10 picks in the 2014 draft, and also was the person who hired Ray Farmer originally as assistant GM and produced Mike Pettine out of a coaching search widely regarded as dysfunctional.

9. Guard Joel Bitonio: He has had the best first season of a Browns rookie since Joe Thomas, a future Hall of Famer. Bitonio fits in perfectly in a blue-collar football town  despite being from Long Beach, CA. In that respect, he reminds me of another native of southern California, Clay Matthews. Farmer nailed it with this second-round pick from University of Nevada.

8. The class of undrafted rookies: Five made the initial “final” roster coming out of training camp and, lo and behold, they’re still on the roster entering the home stretch. Where would this team be without running back Isaiah Crowell, cornerback K’Waun Williams and receiver Taylor Gabriel? The other two are fullback Ray Agnew, who was waived but re-signed after three weeks, and cornerback Robert Nelson.

7. RG3 and Dan Snyder: If these two buddies – the Redskins’ one-time franchise quarterback and enigmatic owner – had not conspired to fire the Shanahans after the 2013 season, Kyle Shanahan would not have been available to Pettine as offensive coordinator. Shanahan’s offensive system, considering all the obstacles encountered, has been a smashing success.

6. That Josh Gordon’s indefinite suspension was reduced to 10 games: Don’t get me started on the NFL’s inconsistent “policies” of discipline. At least the new drug policy tried to correct a serious wrong. Not only was Gordon reinstated for the final six games, he was allowed to rejoin the structure of the team environment during his suspension.

5. That they have a head coach who believes in his quarterback and a quarterback who believes in his head coach: This hasn’t always been the case. In fact, I’m not sure the Browns have had such a relationship of mutual trust since they’ve been back. A strong relationship between a head coach and quarterback is essential to sustained success.

4. That the team did not change its name when it was reborn in expansion: Some fans wanted a complete break from the team name Browns after Art Modell hijacked the old team to Baltimore. The name Cleveland Bulldogs was one thrown out there. It’s a good thing that wiser heads prevailed and the Browns name was kept. How would old Browns like Doug Dieken, Bernie Kosar, Kevin Mack, Dick Schafrath and all the other living alumni connect to a team with another name? Come to think of it, would Jimmy Haslam have paid $1.03 billion for the Cleveland Bulldogs? The value of the Browns is their history, tradition and fan support built from the franchise’s inception.

3. For veteran players like Joe Thomas, Ahtyba Rubin and Joe Haden: Three of the longest-tenured Browns who have been through so many losing seasons. They can appreciate a winning one like this year.

2. For Cleveland natives Brian Hoyer and Donte Whitner: Two respected leaders in the locker room who can explain to their teammates how much this team means to the city of Cleveland.

1. For the older fans who stayed with this franchise through decades of losing: It goes back to the dynasty built by Paul Brown. Those teams created legions of fans. If not for those grandparents and parents who passed on their stories of great Browns teams to their children and grandchildren, a whole generation – no, two generations – of new fans would not be there today for this franchise. And for that, the Browns should be thankful.

 

 

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Josh Gordon takes the Browns' offense to a different level

Nov 27, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Back in the flow: A week ago Mike Pettine spoke of keeping receiver Josh Gordon on a “pitch count” during the practice week, and Brian Hoyer warned of not pressuring Gordon to be “a savior.”

And then Gordon went out in his first game in 11 weeks – a veritable practice game for him – and had eight receptions for 120 yards in 53 snaps. He also made a simple throwaway on an aborted double reverse a highlight play.

So when I asked Pettine if it’s realistic now to expect much more from Gordon over the final five, meaningful games, he didn’t deny it.

“We just want Josh to do his job,” he said. “Get open, and if the opportunity presents itself and we can get the ball to him and make a play, that’s great. We don’t want to force it there, but we also know that this guy is a Pro Bowl caliber receiver. He’s a heck of a weapon.

“We think he helps the run game from a defensive standpoint, looking at how you take away an elite receiver and defend the run at the same time,” Pettine said. “That is a dilemma. We know it will help. There will be some hidden effects. He’s a playmaker. He’s showed that even something as simple as a pass from two yards behind the line of scrimmage, he can navigate his way on a wide receiver screen for 15, 20 yards. It’s certainly something we’re going to look to take advantage of, but without disrupting the rhythm of our offense. We’re not going to become just a pass-happy team and feature him just to get him the ball. It’s got to come within the flow of our offense.”

Room to grow: There are two areas where immediate improvement can be made. One involves the chemistry between Gordon and Hoyer. In Atlanta, it was off – to put it mildly. Pettine agreed that Hoyer seemed pressed to deliver the ball to Gordon.

“Yeah, I think there were a couple of throws were you could probably say that -- probably two or three where it was a force or where he was just anxious to get it to him and the throw wasn’t maybe as accurate as it could have been,” Pettine said. “I just think that will settle over time.”

“Yeah, it’s going to happen,” Hoyer said. “It happens with guys that you practice with every day. You can’t rep every play that you’re going to play in a game. There’s going to be times where you misfire or you think one thing and he thinks another and obviously with this being his first week back and having three practices there were more with Josh than there were with other guys. We continue to get better and improve and the more we practice together -- it’s not the same system that we played together in last year either.”

Pettine also would like to see Gordon fight for balls more.

“As good as Josh is, and he knows this, just the competitive part down the field to be able to go up and get a ball,” he said. “Just having been with Josh through the spring and through the training camp, if you have to look for a weakness, and there isn’t many, but this is one -- that aggressive part of it, kind of being that power forward when that balls up in the air and attacking it.”

The natural: Gordon is so smooth, so effortless in his gait, he sometimes gives off airs that he isn’t running hard enough. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“It’s an effortless look to me,” said cornerback Joe Haden. “He has a real long stride and it doesn’t take him long to get to his top speed. Nobody really that big have I seen run that smooth. He’s just gifted to be able to do that. Not a lot of people can.”

Left tackle Joe Thomas said he didn’t realize the numbers that Gordon posted in his first game back until his wife told him.

“It’s because he’s such a dynamic player and he’s so smooth when he gets out there, you don’t even realize the plays that he makes because he makes it look so effortless,” Thomas said. “I hope this weekend I really recognize that he makes some big plays because he’ll probably have 200 (yards).

“He has a tremendous impact in the run game and pass game because you have to account for him. You can’t just put one player over there to guard him and you can’t load up on trying to stop the run because we’ll make you pay in play-action throwing to Josh.”

The Browns are so much better with Gordon on the field, you get the feeling the offense is about to reach a different gear.

We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Gordon is only 23 years old. He’s still the seventh youngest player on the roster. Rookie running back Terrance West is actually a few months older than Gordon.

Did Cris Carter – and others -- actually say the Browns should have released Gordon after he was suspended?

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
 

 

Browns get first close-up comparison of Bills WR Sammy Watkins v. CB Justin Gilbert on Sunday

Nov 26, 2014 -- 4:57pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Extra Points …

Sammy’s waiting: Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium will mark the first NFL showdown between Bills receiver Sammy Watkins and Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert – the principals in the draft-day trade whose rookie seasons have taken different paths.

Watkins leads the Bills with 48 receptions for 684 yards and five touchdowns. In a banner season for rookie receivers, those numbers rank Watkins fourth in catches, third in yards and fourth in touchdowns.

Gilbert continues to appear only in certain sub defense packages. He has seven pass breakups, two in Atlanta last week, but is still looking for his first interception.

The emergence of undrafted free agent K’Waun Williams has further reduced Gilbert’s playing time.

“He’s made some plays for us,” coach Mike Pettine said of Gilbert. “It’s not for a lack of want to. He works hard on the practice field, he’s engaged … he’s trying to perfect his craft.

“I think it’s hard to compare rookie years. There isn’t a comparison. But we’re confident over the long haul, Justin’s going to be the football player we imagined him to be.”

On a conference call, Watkins said he expected to be taken fourth overall by the Browns.

“In the back of my mind, there were three or four teams, and they were among them,” Watkins said. “I met with the GM probably a week before the combine. In my head, I thought I was gonna get drafted there because Josh Gordon had gotten in trouble, so, yeah.

“Being the fourth pick and having someone come up and get you, that’s the best feeling ever, to trust you and come up and get you.”

The Browns have admitted that Watkins was the No. 1 player on their draft board. They agreed to pass on him when Buffalo offered the ninth overall pick in the draft, plus their first- and fourth-round picks in 2015.

The extra picks and the desire to add a starting-caliber cornerback later made Buffalo’s trade package irresistible to the Browns. But with the Bills a surprising 6-5, the net gain of the trade was less than expected. Still, the trade will look a lot better in April than it does now.

Cameron update: Jordan Cameron is hoping this will be the week he returns to action after missing four games with a concussion.

“That’s the plan. I’m hoping. I feel good, feel better than I have, that’s for sure,” he said.

Cameron did practice with the team on Wednesday and was listed as limited on the participation report. Per NFL protocol, he meets with a trainer first thing in the morning and reports any sign of symptoms from his time at home. If there are none through the practice week, he would meet with a neurologist before being cleared for Sunday’s game against Buffalo.

“Same old thing for the last month,” Cameron said. “It’s been one of the longest months of my life. Sucks not being out there with your teammates, but hopefully I will be soon.”

Dansby update: Pettine is going to proceed through the week without ruling out linebacker Karlos Dansby (MCL sprain) again.

“I’ve got to feel comfortable that I can go out and play 100 percent,” Dansby said. “I’m real close, real close. Real, real close.”

In 10 previous seasons, Dansby never missed more than two games.

“Down in Miami , 2012, I only missed three plays with a torn biceps in Week 6. Finished with (133) tackles with one arm. That’s pretty impressive. One sack, one interception. I dropped like five because I couldn’t reach across my body.

“That’s way worse than an MCL, but with an MCL, you gotta be able to run. The legs feed the wolves, so if you can’t run you can’t play. I can’t be at my best until (the knee) gets stronger. My body’s gonna tell me. You gotta listen to your body. If you can’t do certain things, you don’t go out there. I’d be doing a disservice to the team.

“About Sunday? We’re on track right now. I passed a lot of my tests today. So this was another step. Tomorrow we’ll get better and if I’m able to move in space like I want to and feel comfortable doing it, coaches will oversee me and I’ll move forward.”

Dansby missed his first game Sunday in Atlanta. It was a homecoming game for the native of Alabama. He made the trip and was able to have “my son got a chance to take a picture with Joe Haden, his favorite player. So that was pretty cool”

 Manziel update: Pettine said he had not seen a videotape of the reported brawl involving Johnny Manziel at Manziel’s apartment complex early on Saturday morning.

“I don’t have a comment on that. I’m assuming if (the tape is) available we’ll see it. I’m in the mode of getting these guys ready to play a football game,” Pettine said. “Based on the info we have … are we disappointed? We’ve expressed that … but to me, it doesn’t affect his play status.”

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Tony Grossi's Scouting Report: Buffalo Bills

Nov 26, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Browns v. Buffalo Bills

                        Sunday, 1 p.m., in Ralph Wilson Stadium; Orchard Park, NY

Record: 6-5.

Last game: Defeated N.Y. Jets, 38-3, Nov. 24, in Detroit.

Coach: Doug Marrone, 11-15, second year.

Series record: Browns lead, 12-7 (counting post-season).

Last meeting: Browns won, 37-24, Oct. 3, 2013, in Cleveland.

League rankings: Offense is 24th overall (23rd rushing, 20th passing), defense is 4th (4th rushing, 8th passing) and turnover differential is plus-8.

Offensive overview: They have struggled to adjust to a running game severely weakened by the loss of C.J. Spiller (broken collarbone) for the last four games and recurrent groin problems suffered by Fred Jackson. Anthony (Boobie) Dixon and Bryce Brown have been on-and-off replacements and production has suffered. Veteran quarterback Kyle Orton gave them a spark when he took over in Game 5. Overall, he is 4-3 since replacing ineffective E.J. Manuel. Orton’s experience has stabilized the position. He has protected the ball, doesn’t panic, avoids negative plays and can still sling the ball. Orton’s lack of mobility presents a problem against aggressive defenses. They generally compensate for the rush by adapting to a quick drop, short passing game, using the backs. When Orton has the time, he’ll try to get the ball to rookie playmaker Sammy Watkins. Lately, wideout Robert Woods has helped to take double coverage away from Watkins.

Defensive overview: Former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz replaced Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator and switched Pettine’s 3-4 defense into his traditional 4-3 format. Everything starts with the defensive front of Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes. They are physical and athletic and among the top five defensive lines in the NFL. Schwartz’ “wide 9” alignment applies all pass pressure from the defensive front and seeks to funnel the running game inside to be devoured by the tackles. Schwartz’ defense is on pace to break Pettine’s franchise record for sacks in a season set last year. Of the team’s 46 sacks, 35.5 have come from the front four. Schwartz doesn’t blitz, so he can leave seven in pass coverage. The secondary overall is good, but the loss of McKelvin put Corey Graham in a starting role at cornerback and he has been shaky.

Special teams overview: Kicker Dan Carpenter is 23 of 26 on field goals with a long of 58 yards. Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay ranks 13th with 33 touchbacks. Punter Colton Schmidt is 26th in gross average (44.0 yards) and 18th in net (39.4). The return game has been rendered negligible with the injuries to McKelvin (punt returner) and Spiller (kick returner). The coverage units are excellent. Anthony Dixon has two blocked punts.

Players to watch:

1. Defensive end Mario Williams: Feeling comfortable back as a traditional defensive end instead of a standup linebacker, he has sacks in three straight games, including 5.5 in the last two, for a season total of 12 – one behind the league lead.

2.Wide receiver Sammy Watkins: The Browns’ No. 1 player on their draft board who delivered two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick in trade leads the team with 48 receptions for 684 yards and five touchdowns. Among rookies, he is fourth in catches, third in yards and fourth in TDs.

3. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: The No. 3 overall pick of the 2011 draft has lived up to his billing, leading all defensive tackles with 28.5 sacks since he was drafted. In his fourth season, he leads all tackles with 10 sacks and has 12 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits and one forced fumble.

Injury report: CB Leodis McKelvin (ankle) and RB C.J. Spiller (collarbone) are out. WR Marquise Goodwin (rib) was inactive against the Jets. TE Chris Gragg (knee) left the game and did not return.

Small world: Defensvie coordinator Jim Schwartz was a Browns scout from 1993 to ‘95 … Tight end MarQueis Gray spent the 2013 season and ’14 training camp with the Browns … Defensive line coach Pepper Johnson played for the Browns in 1993-95 … Offensive line coach Pat Morris is a Cleveland native.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Brian Hoyer's storybook season gets more fascinating each week

Nov 25, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Stars and planets aligning: I have this theory about Brian Hoyer’s storybook season – and yes, when you’re the quarterback of a Browns team that is 7-4 and in the thick of the AFC North division race, then that qualifies as a storybook season.

My theory is that what happened to Hoyer last year was so cruel, unfortunate and unfair – you know, finally getting the opportunity to lead his hometown team and then having it ripped away with a self-inflicted knee injury after a 2-0 start -- that the football gods have decided to watch over him.

This is not to say that Hoyer hasn’t earned everything by working so diligently to come back from a torn ACL injury a year ago. Remember LeBron James’ essay: In Northeast Ohio nothing is given, everything is earned.

And nothing has come easy to Hoyer.

How about rehabbing extra hard from ACL surgery to prepare for his opportunity to lead a team from the start of a season for the first time in his career, only to watch his hometown team maneuver in the draft to select Johnny Football – the most exciting, talked-about, charismatic college quarterback in recent history?

So how else do you explain Hoyer’s season thus far? So many low points followed by high points. So many errant passes followed by pinpoint throws. So many interceptions dropped. So few of his passes to teammates dropped.

Huge deficits overcome. Self-inflicted wounds instantly healed. Respect earned.

“There’s no question about it, he’s the leader on offense,” receiver Andrew Hawkins said. “When you have confidence in your leader and he has confidence in himself and the rest of the team, the sky is really the limit on any given Sunday.”

Off the ledge: Hoyer’s game Sunday in Atlanta was a metaphor for his season. Perhaps unnerved by internal pressure to get the ball to Josh Gordon, Hoyer suffered what he called the worst game of his career. And then won it at the end.

Three “dumb” interceptions – two in the last five minutes – created a 24-23 deficit. But Atlanta coach Mike Smith’s egregious clock mismanagement setting up a go-ahead field goal gave Hoyer the ball with 44 seconds and two timeouts. Hoyer executed the winning drive to near-perfection – 4 of 5 completions before a spike to stop the clock and set up Billy Cundiff’s winning field goal from 37 yards as time expired.

After the game, Hoyer beat himself up over his performance. Conservatively, the Browns left 22 points on the field – even more when counting a dropped interception by Donte Whitner – against a weak Atlanta defense. Hoyer felt he let his team down and said the game would haunt him through the week.

On Monday, Hawkins and coach Mike Pettine rushed to Hoyer’s defense.

“Brian’s a competitor,” Hawkins said. “I won’t lose sleep about Brian being able to hop back. Brian knows that – not just me – the entire team has so much confidence in him. If that wavered when someone made mistakes, I think that’s an indication of not a very good football team or a close football team, and I think we are a close football team.

“I haven’t lost a bit of confidence in Brian.”

Pettine said, “Brian is very difficult on himself. He’s a competitor. He’s a perfectionist, and I just think in a sense he felt that he really felt like he was letting his teammates down with some of the plays that he had made. Sure, it obviously affected him, but I just think the way he handled it was outstanding --  the resolve. People said the look on his face when (Atlanta) made the field goal was, ‘Hey, it’s time to go out there and see if we can get this done.’ Again, it’s a testament to his mental toughness and the team’s mental toughness.

“I think the guys realized that we certainly wouldn’t be where we are right now without Brian, and that nobody’s perfect. When you see a guy that is that hard on himself and is that much of a perfectionist and it means a lot, they’re going to play hard for him.

“I just think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we are where we are. Guys care about each other, and they realize that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. I think that when you’re involved in a team sport and you have that, you have a chance to be special.”

The future: Pettine and Hoyer share a relationship of trust that was begun a year ago when Pettine, as Buffalo defensive coordinator, sent Hoyer a hand-written letter of admiration after the fateful knee injury in the Thursday night game against the Bills.

Pettine has been Hoyer’s biggest champion in what seems to be a passive tug of war between the football side and the business side in the Browns’ organization. At stake is the future of the Browns, Hoyer and Manziel.

Pettine has resisted all temptations to see what the franchise has in Manziel. Even on Hoyer’s worst day – Hoyer’s words – Pettine said he “never considered” putting in Manziel.

Every time Pettine expresses his faith in Hoyer, Hoyer rewards it with a win. The Browns haven’t lost two games in a row. In 20 years, they’ve only gone through a season like that twice – in 1994 and 2007.

Sunday was only the second time Hoyer threw more than one interception in a game this season. The first time, against Tampa Bay, Hoyer was booed by the hometown crowd … and the Browns won. The second time, Sunday in Atlanta, Hoyer threw together a textbook, 44-second drive to pull out another win. That made it five fourth-quarter comeback wins for Hoyer in 14 career starts with the Browns.

And by the end of the weekend, two other developments occurred that would appear to be fortuitous for Hoyer’s future – though he would never acknowledge them as such.

In Houston, Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett suffered a season-ending injury. Mallett’s contract is up after this season and the Texans are trying to gauge whether he can be their full-time starter. The Texans are considered the No. 1 interested team if Hoyer is not offered a new contract by the Browns and becomes a free agent.

And then, news surfaced of a brawl involving Manziel in the lobby of his apartment building at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Even Manziel’s staunchest proponents in the organization – of which there are many – had to be concerned about turning over the team in 2015 to a player who still is grappling with maturity issues.

Hoyer’s storybook year has a few chapters left to be written. The possibilities are fascinating.

 

 

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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