Johnny Manziel will make mistakes but offers hope

CLEVELAND -- Look past the inevitable rookie mistakes, that possible interception around the corner, and the Browns will find something else.


That's what Johnny Manziel offers, what the Browns are desperate for, what Cleveland needs in Week 15 of a trying yet rewarding season.

Raw ability. Making something happen on a broken play. An injection of hope into a lifeless offense.

Fingers, meet thumbs, flash to crowd. Rinse, repeat.

The Browns need a lift worse than Uber customers. That's why Manziel enters a pressure-filled-yet-advantageous spot as a supersub for one last playoff push, testing defenses that have minimal game video of him at the NFL level.

Make no mistake: This is the move the Browns didn't want to make. The "Battlefield Earth" cast of inept Browns quarterbacks the last quarter of a century accentuated Brian Hoyer's early success this season. Mike Pettine stumped for the veteran, giving him every chance.

Hoyer had the classic silence-the-critics chance Sunday against Indianapolis and instead conceded the job to Manziel less than four months after beating him out.

Over a 16-game season -- even after eight games -- Manziel will hit the proverbial rookie wall as defenses adjust. But this three-game stretch can help him -- like it helped Hoyer early in the year -- because of that trusty element of surprise.

Look at quarterbacks with similar skill sets to Manziel's over their first three NFL starts in Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. They amassed more than 2,200 total offensive yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions.

If the running game shows up, Manziel will help the Browns in play-action because he's a threat to run. Expect offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to pepper Manziel with screen passes and play-action looks while setting up the pass with the run.

Manziel believes he can hit on the deep balls that the Browns have missed in recent weeks. The move should invigorate Josh Gordon, who is struggling to regain his 2013 form.

The real test for Manziel will be handling the nuances of the offense, checking into the right plays, reading the defense and making accurate throws from the pocket. This is where Shanahan comes in. He can get Manziel comfortable early, giving him chances to find open spaces in which to operate.

Playing Manziel isn't about playing for the future. Playing him is about refusing to limp to the finish line, about taking a calculated risk that, if it pays off, will resonate from Berea to Boston.

It's about taking ownership of your draft day move to get a quarterback.

It's about hoping Manziel is right when he says the last three months have taught him how to be a pro, how to work from the shadows and run a pro-style offense.

It's about letting Manziel prove he's worth the money he flashes to the crowd.