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Browns coach Mike Pettine: Johnny Manziel has improved but isn't ahead of Brian Hoyer in QB derby

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 10, 2014

Browns coach Mike Pettine insists rookie Johnny Manziel has not surpassed veteran Brian Hoyer in the race to become the team's starting quarterback.

ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported a team source told him Manziel is ahead in the quarterback derby in the aftermath of the Browns' 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions on Saturday night in the preseason opener. But Pettine refuted the report.

"It's untrue," Pettine said Sunday during a conference call. "I'm not sure who his team source would be, but to me, the people most involved in the decision are myself and [quarterbacks coach] Dowell Loggains and [offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan. So it's something that I'm not going to pay a lot of attention to because I don't like being in the business of anonymous sources."

So is one of quarterbacks ahead or is the competition a dead heat right now?

"No, we put Brian out there with the ones [Saturday] and that was for a reason because he was ahead because of his edge in experience and the lead he had with the playbook," Pettine said. "He's done nothing to have that taken away from him, but Johnny has made some improvement, a lot of improvement. With the things where he was behind in the spring, I think he's gotten a pretty firm grasp on. And as we said before, it was him versus the playbook, and he's handling it well. It was his first live game situation of an active play clock and having to get the call and repeat it and get everybody lined up and the motions executed, which we do a lot of. He's really gone from extreme to the other, and I think he's handled it well. Brian, on the other hand, has been solid."

The coaches have not decided which quarterback will start in the second exhibition game Aug. 18 at Washington, Pettine said. He expects both of them to work with the first-team offense during practices this week.

Pettine said Hoyer and Manziel were both solid against the Lions. Neither is clearly ahead of the other.

"If there was a clear-cut favorite at this point, it would probably mean that one of them wasn't playing very well," Pettine said. "It's a good problem to have, having two guys that we think are both capable of being NFL starters."

Pettine said he still wants to name a starting quarterback before the third preseason game Aug. 23 against St. Louis, but he that deadline is not "1,000 percent etched in stone." He also said he still believes it's not ideal to start a rookie quarterback in the NFL, though he knows some have succeeded out of the gate.

When Pettine, Loggains and Shanahan make the final call on which quarterback will start the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh, they'll try to pick the player they believe is the best man for the job this year.

"When we sit down and look at the big picture, it's who gives us the best chance to win," Pettine said. "That's the bottom line."

Below are other highlights from Pettine's conference call.

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