Browns' struggles in Seattle provide few insights into Johnny Manziel's future

Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

The immediate thought about the Cleveland Browns evaluating Johnny Manziel following another dismal loss?

Good luck.

Good luck with the most important duty left in this mess of a 3-11 season.
 Good luck evaluating a young quarterback who threw for 161 yards -- total -- on a day when the team scored 13 points.

Good luck evaluating a quarterback when the defense for the team did nothing to stop the opposition and gave the young quarterback no margin for error.

And finally, good luck evaluating the quarterback when the receivers dropped at least five passes and the playmakers on the field were all on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Evaluating the quarterback in that kind of situation and environment is kind of like evaluating the roof during a hurricane. It may stay on, but it might not look pretty when it's all said and done.

Even the words used by coach Mike Pettine were more or less perfunctory.

Manziel has done a much better job of taking what is there ... got flushed a little bit more than we wanted him to ... did a good job of getting out of the pocket and not forcing a pass ... kept his eyes down the field.

All true.

But also all elements of Quarterbacking 101.

The Browns and Manziel started the game with an excellent drive, then did so little after that, that with the Browns down 27-10 and the ball at Seattle's 10 with 9:51 to go, Pettine pondered going for it on fourth down.

He said he didn't know if the offense would get back to that position again. Which certainly isn't a ringing endorsement of a group and a quarterback.

Sunday's game had a weird feel to it. The good opening drive bred the feeling that Manziel and the offense were playing well. Manziel kept some plays alive with his feet, but after the opening drive the Browns were outscored 30-6.

The offense got five first downs in the opening drive, 10 the rest of the game. Early it appeared that the Browns had some quick-hitting plays that would be effective. They were -- for the initial script. But once Seattle saw what was coming and set its mind to things, there was little competition.

Manziel had no help around him. There were dropped passes and the experience difference between Manziel and Russell Wilson was cavernous.

The game ended with the score out of reach and Manziel fumbling and then throwing an interception on the final drive. If every rep counts, those were not pluses.

The argument could be made that Manziel has won twice in five starts, and this is just his seventh start. That's fair and accurate.

But the two wins came against teams that have three wins (Tennessee) and four wins (San Francisco). Against better competition, Manziel has scored 10, 9 and 13 points.

In fairness, this game should not bury Manziel, but neither should it endorse him.

He has two more to play, and even he looked dour in his postgame news conference. A guy used to being the show in college is finding the better teams in the NFL don't let many shows go on.

Young quarterbacks grow and need time. Manziel hasn't had much.

But the Browns need to go into the offseason with a better idea what they have in him. Either they commit to him or they find another guy, either in the draft or via free agency.

Manziel has the chance to make the decision easy, and obvious. But trying to assess him based on a game like this is nearly impossible.

Unfortunately, the two games ahead in Kansas City and against Pittsburgh figure to play out the same way as the game in Seattle -- on paper, at least. Which means, heading into the offseason, the Manziel situation is likely to remain as cloudy as ever.