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Johnny Football fever about to engulf Cleveland

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov 30, 2014 in Orchard Park, NY, USA. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov 30, 2014 in Orchard Park, NY, USA. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It looks like the Johnny Football era in Cleveland officially began on Sunday.

Early in the fourth quarter of a miserable 26-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills -- a gut-kick to the Browns’ playoff hopes -- head coach Mike Pettine benched starting quarterback Brian Hoyer.

And told Johnny Manziel -- the celebrity, nightlife-loving, attention-seeking rookie backup -- he was going in.

Off went Manziel’s weather cape, off went his tuque and out went his earbuds. He hurriedly started warming up.

After the Bills kicked another field goal to go up 20-3, Manziel entered.

He ran right for three yards.

He hit wideout Miles Austin for 12 -- for his first pro pass completion.

Then he hit Josh Gordon for 18, and tight end Jim Dray for 24.

From the Bills’ 10, Manziel dropped to throw, noticed a big hole then darted through it for a touchdown. Eighty yards in eight impressive plays.

By Monday morning, Johnny Football Fever likely will have Cleveland in its grips. Is the starting job his now, with the playoffs still a possibility?

In his postgame news conference, Pettine refused to back Hoyer -- who has started all 12 Browns games.

“We’re not going to overreact,” Pettine said. “We’ll get out of here and get back to a less emotional environment … watch the tape, make an evaluation and we’ll have more on Wednesday as far as what we’re going to do.”

Hoyer appeared understandably unhappy afterward. Was he shocked by the benching?

“Yeah, no doubt,” Hoyer said. “This is my team, and I’ve always felt that way. We’ll see what happens.”

Manziel, who predictably hot-dogged after scoring his TD with his now famous money-rubbing hands gesture, was humble afterward.

“I think that it’s obviously up to coach Pettine and some higher people than me in this organization,” Manziel said. “But if … my name is called, then I definitely will be ready.”


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