Still no decision yet on Johnny Football's royal ascension
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) carries the ball to score a touchdown during 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)
As Johnny Football Fever predictably swept Northeastern Ohio Monday, it's still not known whether the money-rubber is the new starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
"(We're) not ready to make a decision on that at this point," Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Monday, a day after benching season-long starter Brian Hoyer late in a 26-10 loss at Buffalo, and inserting celebrated hotshot rookie Johnny Manziel.
Manziel promptly led Cleveland on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, before meekly succumbing to the mighty Bills pass rush on his second drive.
Earlier, Hoyer threw two bad interceptions, took untimely sacks and mustered only three points through three quarters, this on the heels of a few other spotty November performances.
"I'm not leaning one way or the other," Pettine said. "There's a lot to consider."
A decision should come by Wednesday, he said in reiterating what he'd announced after Sunday's game.
"We will get together as a staff first. Then we get together as coordinators. (GM) Ray (Farmer) is a part of that meeting. We discuss it position by position what potential moves need to be made, if any."
A clearly upset but admirably defiant Hoyer told reporters Sunday he was shocked by the benching, and he still considered the starting job his.
Because he hasn't been demoted, it was Hoyer's turn Monday as starting quarterback to face the Cleveland press.
Does he still believe the job is his?
"Yeah, I don't have any doubt in myself. I never have throughout this entire process, going back to last year.
"We're 7-5. We still have a chance to attain all of our goals. It's still there in front of us. That decision's not up to me, though, and I'll be ready."
Backup quarterbacks don't meet the press on Mondays, so Manziel didn't add to the humble comments he offered Sunday.
"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."
Stay tuned for more fun.
COUGHLIN'S RUN DONE?
Tom Coughlin's New York Giants can't buy a break, but neither can they make a play when it counts at the end of ball games.
The Giants have lost seven in a row, after losing six in a row last year at one point. Sunday's epic collapse in Jacksonville was the nadir: the Giants blew a 21-point lead to the 1-10 Jaguars and lost 25-24.
Coughlin said his message to players Monday was, "Don't worry about me. I'm worried about you. I want you to be together and be strong and I want dignity in everything that we do. And I want to see strength."
How does he feel about the state of his team?
"Miserable. What else can I say? Miserable. But I'm not going to let it get me down."
Quarterback Eli Manning, who of course contributed to the collapse with a disastrous turnover (a fumble-six), said of Coughlin: "It's not his fault that we don't finish games."
JIM HARBAUGH UPDATE
At his first news conference since Thursday, after Seattle smacked his 49ers around, San Fran head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked a bunch of questions about his job status, his future and his relationship with club CEO Jed York. Harbaugh wasn't going there.
Finally asked if he wants to return in 2015 to fulfil the final year of his five-year, $25-million contract in San Fran, Harbaugh said. "What I want is to attack this week and get it right."
Hmmmm. So often, it's what they don't say when given the opportunity that's most telling.
There continue to be reports that the Niners might trade Harbaugh (yup, it can be done) to another NFL club in the off-season, such as to Oakland or the New York Jets. Don't bet on it. They'd need Harbaugh's permission. And those are cluster-firetruck franchises.
Meantime, the University of Michigan is expected to fire head coach Brady Hoke as early as Tuesday morning. Good luck finding a single fan of the Maize and Blue who doesn't ache for Harbaugh to "come home" and rescue his alma mater from nearly a decade of sub-standard mediocrity.
The Michigan sports news site TheWolverine.com, which falls under the Rivals.com umbrella, on Monday cited insider sources in reporting that the odds Harbaugh will succeed Hoke at Michigan are a "solid 50-50."
Harbaugh was an All-American quarterback at Michigan in 1986. Before that, he spent seven years of his youth in Ann Arbor as a diehard Michigan fan while his dad coached Wolverine defensive backs under Bo Schembechler.
This almost certainly would be Harbaugh's last chance to coach his alma mater. He considered it long and hard in 2011 before finally taking the Niners job, reports have said.
COLT IT IS
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden sure doesn't sound as though he's second-guessing his decision to start Colt McCoy over RG3 at Indianapolis, even though the Colts (not Colt) won 49-27: "Overall I thought (McCoy) did a nice job in the pocket. He threw for almost 400 yards or right around that, but the start was not very good ... I was impressed with his performance as a whole ... He did some good things."
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said his wounded-winged QB, Nick Foles, had a checkup Friday. "His clavicle is healing but he hasn't been cleared to play," Kelly said. "The bone isn't healed yet." So expect Mark Sanchez to start against Seattle on Sunday ... Bills WR Sammy Watkins hurt a hip against the Browns. Head coach Doug Marrone offered no other information. DT Marcell Dareus appeared to suffer a groin injury (he grabbed there right after it occurred), and the press box even announced he suffered a groin injury, but the team now says it is a hip injury. That's a real kick in the hip ... Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles bruised a knee Sunday night against Denver but should play this week, head coach Andy Reid said ... Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said he didn't have to give a speech to his team about their awful play in a loss at Atlanta: "The tape is so bad it speaks for itself."
FIVE STORIES TO WATCH
1. Johnny Football Fever
Whether you want it or not, it’s coming. That is unless Browns head coach Mike Pettine pulls a Gandalf and screams, “You shall not pass!” to the millions of Johnny Manziel advocates. Given all the momentum, and Brian Hoyer’s poor play, it’s inconceivable that Pettine won’t promote Mr. Money-Rubbing Nightlife.
2. Adrian Peterson’s appeal
On Tuesday, appeals officer Harold Henderson will begin hearing arguments regarding the NFL’s suspension through at least April 15 of the Vikings running back. This, after Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour reckless assault charge for excessive corporal punishment of his four-year-old boy.
3. Rams “hands up, don’t shoot” controversy
Before Sunday’s win over Oakland, four St. Louis players in unison performed the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture -- in sympathy with protestors in Ferguson, Mo., where an apparently unarmed young African-American man was shot dead by police in the summer. Local police are livid at those players, the Rams and the NFL.
4. Senate hearing on domestic violence
One of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s right-hand men, VP of football operations Troy Vincent, is scheduled to testify Tuesday before a U.S. Senate hearing on domestic violence in professional sports. It’s probably just for political show, but it’s another reason Ray Rice and AP are going to be back in mainstream news this week.
5. On the field! … Seahawks at Eagles
Oh right. Actual football. This week’s big game features the suddenly fast-rising-again Seahawks visiting the Eagles, who rebounded from their embarrassing loss in Green Bay to crunch the Cowboys in Texas. Seattle’s only a game behind Arizona now in the NFC West. Philly needs to win to keep holding off Dallas.
A month ago, after that shutout loss in Miami, QB Phil Rivers and the San Diego attack looked as beaten and lost as any in the league. But since their bye week, the Chargers have gradually regained their September mojo -- winners of three straight, including a 34-33 comeback at Baltimore, whose defence has been pretty good.
They’re better than they’ve been in several years. At least it seemed.
But since their 6-1 start they’ve lost three of five. In November their (to-that-point) much improved defence started looking a lot like last year’s NFL-worst unit. Which means it’s all on Tony Romo and the offence again. In December. Uh-oh.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh.
It’s insane that this is the case, but it’s apparently true after San Fran fell to 7-5, now unlikely to make the playoffs. Harbaugh is the only NFL coach to lead his team to conference title games in his first three years, but 49ers owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke apparently despise Harbaugh and want him out. Michigan will say thank-you.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons.
As Atlanta’s fortunes have sunk since their 2012 playoff run, and after he missed most of last season with a wounded foot, we don’t hear much about Jones anymore. But, man, he proved Sunday why he’s for sure still a Top 5 receiver -- repeatedly schooling one of the game’s best cover corners: Patrick Peterson, fer’gawsh’sake.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Browns.
If he indeed is elevated to start over Brian Hoyer, would he be an improvement? Probably. Hoyer has been downright terrible in recent weeks; it wouldn’t take much to be better. And Manziel had a couple of pretty completions in Buffalo, especially a post to Josh Gordon. But bear in mind, he authored only one of his positive plays from the pocket. Can’t do that for 60 minutes, game after game.
The Patriots got uncharacteristically conservative on their doomed last drive at Green Bay. Starting with about five minutes left, down 26-21, Tom Brady completed a pass to Gronk for 14 yards. As the Pats slowly moved down the field, though, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel kept calling first-down runs. I woulda let Brady throw on almost every down. Three of the four runs were wasted downs.
More Johnny Football here. Before scoring on a 10-yard run to end his first drive, Manziel threw one ball that should have been picked off, but Buffalo safety Da’Norris Searcy mistimed it. On Manziel’s second possession, he froze in the pocket, got popped and coughed up the ball for a defensive TD, but a review inexplicably ruled it an incompletion. Shoulda been two drives, two turnovers.
As poorly as they’ve played this year, the Panthers coulda remained a half-game behind Atlanta and Carolina (both 5-7) in the NFC South if they’d just knocked off Minnesota to get to 4-7-1. But they couldn’t come close to doing it, losing 31-13. They’re probably done now.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
The Bucs’ 12th man. Somebody screwed up big-time on Tampa Bay, either a player or an offensive coach. The Bucs had 12 men on the field when they completed a pass that would have moved them into game-winning field-goal range against Cincinnati. Thanks to some creative help from Bengals coach Marv Lewis, the replay official finally noticed. Play negated. Bengals won.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Texans. After nuclear Armageddon, Keith Richards and the cockroaches will spend their leisure time watching Fitz quarterback the first reformed NFL team. Not only does the guy refuse to go away, at job after job, but in his first restart with the Texans he threw for 358 yards and six TD passes.
ZERO OF THE WEEK
About a 70-way tie, shared among the players and coaches of the Oakland Raiders. After posting their first win a week ago Thursday, they flew to St. Louis and stunk it up about as badly as an NFL team can in losing 52-0.