The Johnny Manziel era in Cleveland is not beginning just yet.
The Browns are sticking with Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback for Sunday’s home game against Indianapolis. The team confirmed the decision in an announcement Wednesday.
The decision was based on several factors. According to sources, there is widespread locker-room support among Browns players for Hoyer, who has a 10-5 overall record as a Browns starter despite his recent struggles. There also is a belief among the coaching staff that Hoyer gives Cleveland the best chance to win down the stretch as the Browns (7-5) compete for a playoff spot.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear to both quarterbacks that this is Hoyer’s job, FOX Sports has learned.
The Browns still may get Manziel involved with some offensive packages specifically designed for his skill set. However, that approach isn’t any different than the one Cleveland has taken toward getting Manziel some game experience throughout his rookie season.
The Browns benched Hoyer in favor of Manziel during the second half of last Sunday’s 26-10 loss to Buffalo. In the past three games, Hoyer has completed only 50.8 percent of his passes for 844 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions. The Browns are 1-2 in that span, although Hoyer did lead a late game-winning drive to help Cleveland defeat Atlanta in Week 12.
Manziel was 5 of 8 passing for 63 yards against the Bills on Sunday. He also scored on a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that cut Buffalo’s lead to 20-10. Manziel wasn’t as sharp on the subsequent possession, almost losing a botched shotgun snap and failing to convert on a fourth-and-6 that marked Cleveland’s last chance to win the game.
"It’s back to business as usual," Hoyer said after the announcement, adding the past 48 hours have been difficult. "They weren’t the easiest days of my life. I’ve been through a lot. It’s just one more thing to handle some adversity and it only makes you stronger."
Pettine described the decision as "close" and "difficult" because of Hoyer’s recent issues, but in the end the Browns coaching staff put more value on his experience and success this season.
"It wasn’t perfect and he’s made his share of mistakes, but he’s gotten the lion’s share of reps in practice and virtually all of them in games and has us in the thick of a playoff hunt," Pettine said. "That, to me, was probably the biggest determining factor."
Pettine said the decision was reached on Tuesday morning. There was some "lively" discussion with his coaching staff, which finally agreed that staying with Hoyer gave the Browns the best chance to win against the Colts. Pettine said Hoyer will not be on a "short leash" and he’s confident the five-year veteran — and Cleveland’s entire offense — can bounce back after a rough stretch of games.
"We need to play better across the board in order for us to get to where we want to be," he said.
Manziel wasn’t sure which way the decision would go, and he wishes it had gone differently.
"Just being competitive, there’s a little bit of disappointment," he said. "But at the same time I completely trust Coach Pettine with this team and I believe he’s put us in the right situation going forward consistently and in his mind that’s what he did this week. I trust coach Pettine and I’m back to doing my job the way I’ve been doing it the past 14 weeks."
Pettine said Manziel’s performance prompted some discussion about using a package of plays for him "If it calls for it in game."