Inside Blitz: The Brian Hoyer / Johnny Manziel Contract Dilemma

By Jason McIntyre
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The idea for a sports/media/gambling column was hatched this summer and you can look for it every Wednesday. If you want to yell at me about something that appeared here – because let’s face it, on the internet, it’s outrage or nothing: Jmcintyre at thebiglead dot com.

The non-Dallas Cowboys narrative in the NFL this week: How about those Cleveland Browns!

The much-maligned Browns, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, are 3-2! And both losses are by a combined five points on field goals in the final minute. And their next three games are against Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa, who are a combined 1-16 this season. And those teams rank 32, 31 and 29 in point differential.

So … Cleveland,6-2? And then a couple weeks after that the Browns get really good news –  their best weapon, Josh Gordon, returns from suspension!

Underlying everything: QB Brian Hoyer, who many thought would have lost the starting job to rookie Johnny Manziel by now, is a free agent after the season. Hoyer has been a more-than-serviceable game manager this season, ranking 4th in yards-per-attempt (8.22) and throwing just one interception. He’s ridden a powerful running game (expected) and overcome a bad defense (not expected: 25th in yards per play; 30th in rushing yards per game) to look like … a guy they’re going to have to pay to keep.

Much has been made over the years of the Browns bungling QB situations, and the Hoyer/Manziel situation will be much-discussed for the rest of the season. Some have referred to this as Derek Anderson – Brady Quinn Part II – Anderson inherited the job from Charlie Frye in 2007, played well, and Cleveland finished 10-6; the team paid him and the following year he was a disaster – and if Hoyer keeps up the above average play, and the Browns keep winning, they’ll have no choice but to pay to keep him, regardless what those in the front office might think of Manziel.

Then what becomes of Manziel, the 1st round pick who has yet to start a game, while fellow rookies Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr all have?

The eternal optimist in me wants to chalk this up as a redshirt year for Manziel, like his first year at Texas A&M. He only turns 22 in December. Hoyer just turned 29. The biggest question is how Manziel will handle this situation if Hoyer is inked to a multi-year deal. Will he tote a clipboard with a smile on his face the way Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay? Hoyer isn’t Brett Favre, and it still feels like he could implode at any minute. But is Manziel cool with being an understudy for a couple years in Cleveland?

LOCK OF THE WEEK

Rough week. Only went 1-3 with North Carolina hitting against Notre Dame. Auburn never got out of a 21-0 hole, Texas A&M was exposed as a fraud against perhaps the best defense in the country, and Baylor amazingly won after trailing by 21 points with 11 minutes, but the Bears didn’t cover. So for the season we’re 7-8.

Notre Dame +11.5 at Florida State. Irish have been good to me two weeks in a row, and I think this is a tremendous spot for them to pull an upset on the road. (Please don’t read anything into the trap game last week vs. UNC.) FSU’s offensive line was whipped by Clemson, and Notre Dame has a strong front seven. If Everett Golson is over his fumblitis, the Irish should be in it until the 4th.

Oklahoma State +8.5 at TCU. The Horned Frogs suffered a brutal loss at Baylor, 61-58, a game they led 58-37 with 12 minutes left. They’ve looked outstanding two weeks in a row (beat Oklahoma at home), but there’s an obvious come-down mentally (and perhaps physically) after two draining weeks. TCU may be the better team, but love the Cowboys in this spot.

Oregon -19.5 vs. Washington. The Ducks pummeled UCLA Saturday, while Washington appeared impressive winning at lowly Cal. You beat Oregon by running the football, and Washington hasn’t been able to do that in-conference after romping a few non-conference foes. The Huskies have some very impressive future NFL players on that defense, and it isn’t always wise to bet against Chris Petersen, but I’ll take the Ducks.

Q&A

A first for the column! A Q&A with a writer. As the Jets flounder at 1-5, I thought it might be a good idea to talk with someone who covers the team for mainstream media. But not just anyone – a former blogger: Dom Cosentino, who left Deadspin two years ago to work for NJ Advance Media, which feeds the Star Ledger & NJ.com.

1) Why leave the fun and freedom of blogging about whatever you want to the stressful life of a beat writer, where you’re competing with lots of major newspaper and chasing down rumors?

I always wanted to work a pro beat. Simple as that. I had worked at newspapers in suburban Philly for many years, mostly covering high school sports, with some straight news and criminal courts dashed in here and there. Deadspin was actually the unusual part of my career path, and I wouldn’t have traded working there for anything. But for as much freedom as I had at Deadspin, it could sometimes be paralyzing: Like, what’s my next big story going to be when it can be about anything? I like having one topic (in this case, the Jets) to zero in on.

2) I can’t think of many writers who left Deadspin or any other sports websites who then go into a life of full-time reporting in the mainstream media. In a way, you’re the most impressive Deadspin/sports blogging alum. Have the Jets treated you as “that sports blogger”? How have things gone with other writers on the Jets beat, which is one notorious for in-fighting and squabbles?

I appreciate the sentiment, but there are a number of Deadspin alums doing full-time reporting work. Honestly, the Jets have treated me like anyone else. That goes for the players and coaches, the PR staff, and most of the rest of the beat crew. My writing might sometimes be a little different from everyone else’s, but I approach the job like any other reporter. It’s not like I’m in the locker room trying to pants Bob Glauber just so I can blog about it, though that’s probably not a bad idea (hi, Bob!).

3) The beauty of the way NJ.com covers the beat is that you don’t have to chase down every rumor or jump on every morsel of breaking news. It seems that you guys aim for more unique stuff – not following the herd in the locker room, avoiding what everyone else is doing. Would you say that’s an accurate job description?

We—and by we, I include Darryl Slater, who shares the NJ.com beat duties with me, and who does great work—do get after quite a bit of the breaking news. We put out a crap-ton of content every day, mostly because we can. But as far as not chasing everything, free agency and the draft are great examples. There are so many smokescreens and bullshit rumors put out there by agents and team execs that it sometimes is better to wait it out. Now, have we fallen into the trap at times of chasing morsels that are about to be announced by the team anyway? Sure. But that’s just because the Jets beat is so competitive: In the 10 months I’ve been doing this, every outlet has managed to get something the others didn’t, and we’re all hyper-aware of the fact that the others might be working on getting something we’re not getting. So you pick your spots.

4) It’s one thing for Jets fans (such as myself) to pop off on twitter about benching Geno and how the cornerbacks are abysmal and the offensive play-calling leaves a lot to be desired, but do you find yourself dialing it back on social media because the team/players/agents may see it and react to you in a certain way? Or does that sort of thing not even enter your mind?

Doesn’t even enter my mind. I’ve lampooned Rex, Marty, Geno, and especially Woody Johnson, and I’ve ripped many of the Jets for poor play or poor decisions, too. But, come to think of it, your question now makes me wonder whether anyone’s actually reading my stuff. (I’m kidding about that last part. Especially if my boss is reading this.)

5) How excited are you for the prospect of a coaching/GM search for the Jets this offseason? Or do you think neither happens?

I think it’s more likely Rex goes, rather than Idzik. Idzik’s made some mistakes, but his plan needs more time to take shape. Rex was sort of given a bum hand this year, but it’s alarming to see the Jets making a lot of the same mistakes, particularly with pre-snap penalties. I think it might be time for the team to move on. But a big part of me would hate to see it, because Rex is so damn fun: He’s honestly the same guy when the cameras are off as he is when they’re on. He’s completely unafraid to be exactly who he is at all times, and that’s so refreshing to see in today’s NFL, where every interaction feels like it’s scripted and double-checked by an army of PR staffers before anyone can even think about replying to a question. Rex has learned to bite his tongue a bit, but you can tell he doesn’t give a fuck. He never did get to a Super Bowl in New York, but his willingness to be an NFL head coach while behaving like an actual human being will always be his legacy here.

Odds and Ends:

A strong contender for media rant of the year goes to Tabby Soignier of the News Star, who vented in a column after sitting in a press box at the University of Kentucky over the weekend … Lou Holder leaves Comcast, joins the Back 9 Network … always fun to see the DC media come down hard on an overpaid, under-performing athleteESPN hired Baxter Holmes from the Boston Globe to cover the Clippers and the NBA … Phil Mushnick, hater of everything, has not been a fan of the TBS coverage of the ALCS … your “baseball is too slow” column of the week belongs to Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer: “In New York, Major League Baseball has appointed a committee to study why baseball games now take longer than trips to the moon. Even for those who delight in the inside moves of the game, yet another Buck Showalter pitching change is reason for catatonia” … ESPN’s Jemele Hill can’t fly coach! … After 48 years, the San Francisco Bay Guardian is closing … there are no sports TV deals on the horizon for awhile, except for the Cricket World Cup.

 

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