Pete Prisco: ‘Start Manziel, Let Him Learn’

Pete Prisco understands why the Cleveland Browns are starting Brian Hoyer over Johnny Manziel.

He doesn’t agree with it, but understands it.

“I was at the first preseason game when (they) played against Detroit two weeks ago and thought Manziel was clearly the better player that day,” the CBS NFL analyst said on The MoJo Show. “They were both awful on Monday (against Washington), but I get why they’re (starting Hoyer). I wouldn’t do it. I just play the kid. If you draft the kid in the first round, you throw him in there and you let him play – and I mean that all across the league, by the way. I think all you do when you (sit a rookie in favor of a veteran) is you stunt the potential growth down the road. The Browns aren’t going to be that good this year (no matter) who plays quarterback, so you might as well get the kid in, let him learn, take his lumps and then in 2015 you’ll be ready to play and compete for a playoff spot.”

There are many people who agree with Prisco, but there are also many people who don’t. They argue that playing a quarterback before he’s ready can ruin him, and they cite David Carr and Blaine Gabbert as examples.

Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, had five mediocre seasons with the Texans and then bounced around the league for five more, ending his career with more interceptions (71) than touchdowns (65). Gabbert, meanwhile, was a top-10 pick in 2011 and has been, in a word, awful. He had one touchdown and seven interceptions in three games for the Jaguars last season and is now a back-up in San Francisco.

While it’s easy to cite these examples as cautionary tails, Prisco disagrees with one basic premise. The problem Carr and Gabbert had wasn’t playing too soon; rather, it was simply not being good enough.

“The bottom line is, those guys could have waited for Year 3 to play and they still wouldn’t have been any good,” Prisco said. “And I’ll be honest with you. I live in Jacksonville. I used to go to practices. Blaine Gabbert looked like he was going to be a star on the practice field, and (then) he got in the games and he didn’t perform and he didn’t love it. I don’t think he loved the game like (a) quarterback (should). He didn’t reek quarterback. Johnny Manziel might not reek quarterback because he doesn’t look like the prototypical quarterback, but I know in Jacksonville (that) Blake Bortles reeks quarterback. Play him. You do nothing by playing Chad Henne. You do nothing in Minnesota by playing Matt Cassel. You do nothing in Oakland by playing Matt Schaub. Let the young kid play, and two years from now if they stink, then you go get another one.”

“Let’s not forget that Bortles, Manziel and Bridgewater were all first-round draft picks. If a team selected a quarterback that high, it’s because that team believes that quarterback can play. So play him. And whatever you do, don’t worry about his psyche. If he’s not mentally tough enough to go through the downs, he sure as heck won’t be around for the ups,” said Prisco.

“If you put that guy in there and he has a bad game or a bad series of games and his psyche gets messed up, then you drafted the wrong guy.”

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