clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Johnny Manziel has opportunity to become latest rookie to be destroyed by Dick LeBeau's defense

Cleveland rookie quarterback is walking step-for-step down the path Brady Quinn did in 2007. Manziel could overtake Quinn's legacy by earning the start in Week 1 against the Steelers, a team not easily beaten by rookie quarterbacks.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you've heard this one.

A highly-touted college quarterback freefalls in the draft, and becomes the second of two first-round picks by the Cleveland Browns, taken somewhere in the 20s.

People rush to remind everyone Aaron Rodgers fell through the draft as well, obviously indicating every quarterback taken in the 20s will have a career like Rodgers.

Hype begins to build on whether that quarterback will make his first career start in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

To this point, you don't know whether I'm talking about Cleveland's most recent addition to their long list of contracted quarterbacks, Johnny Manziel, or the much-maligned Brady Quinn, the team's first-round pick in 2007.

Different times, different players but similar results. Cleveland started Charlie Frye at quarterback in that Week 1 game against Pittsburgh, and he was slaughtered to the point Derek Anderson relieved him at halftime. The Steelers combined for six sacks on the game and two interceptions - one each for Frye and Anderson - and Pittsburgh won 34-7.

Odds appear much better now the Browns will give Manziel an opportunity to start between trips to Vegas in Week 1. All he needs to do is beat out incumbent Brian Hoyer, an ex-Steeler who held a clipboard for a bit in 2012 after Ben Roethlisberger was injured.

While Quinn didn't start a game that year - Cleveland's best season of its re-branded history - Anderson and his Scud missile arm nearly led the Browns to a playoff berth that year. Before that, though, left in the aftermath of the infamous game where Steelers outside linebacker (now defensive assistant coach) Joey Porter suggested Browns tight end Kellen Winslow is soft (by comparing him to a homosexual man), the Steelers routed the Browns in what looked like a winless season in Cleveland.

To their credit, the rebounded well from the Week 1 beatdown and rattled off a 10-6 season. None of that was under Quinn, though, and the ex-Notre Dame star is 4-16 in 20 starts with the Browns and Chiefs, and is now on his fifth NFL team (Browns, Broncos, Chiefs, Rams and Jets).

Of course, hopes are higher for Manziel. Time will tell whether those hopes are legitimate or just simply the byproduct of the global hype machine of Johnny Football, but his first pro game could be against a defense that rarely loses to rookie quarterbacks and is beaten handily by them once a generation.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, with the only two losses not being legitimate examples of defeats - Baltimore's Troy Smith beat Pittsburgh in 2007 with most of Pittsburgh's starters watching from the bench, and Browns' Brandon Weeden (who was released and likely will hold that win as his career highlight) bested LeBeau with the gift of eight takeaways from his defense. Cleveland had 228 yards of offense in the game, Pittsburgh scored seven of its 14 points off an interception return by Lawrence Timmons.

Pittsburgh defeated both rookies it saw last season, the Jets' Geno Smith and Buffalo's E.J. Manuel.

Manziel will be the fan favorite for the starting nod in Week 1 this year, and his improvisational ability may create something of a challenge, particularly without any pro tape of him to study. Still, there's plenty of reason for Steelers fans to join Browns fans in wanting Manziel to start.

LeBeau isn't known for his warm welcome of rookies going against him.