The Cleveland Browns ended their dead-end quarterback competition on Wednesday morning, using the team website to announce that Brian Hoyer is the pick as the team’s starter for the Sept. 7 season opener.
Based on what Browns coach Mike Pettine said as part of the announcement and has been saying since before training camp started, the Browns made their decision now because Pettine felt they had to.
Hoyer won a training camp competition because first-round pick Johnny Manziel didn’t. For all that’s been said and dissected over the last three-plus weeks, one quote essentially sealed it. That was last weekend, when Manziel said, "I’m not ready for Pittsburgh. I’m not."
In two preseason games, Hoyer is 6-of-22 passing. The Browns have converted 0-of-7 tries on third down with Hoyer in the game and have no touchdowns despite starting three series in opposing territory.
He’s the starter because the Browns have two full practices this week and clearly really need them. He’s the starter because he’s stayed a step ahead of Manziel in most areas through all the missed throws, dropped throws and mediocrity. The offense has been a mess, with neither quarterback getting much help or helping himself.
Over those three-plus weeks, Manziel has shown what he said – that he’s not yet ready. Pettine was ready to end the competition and had to take Manziel for his word despite how bad Hoyer, who won three starts last year before tearing his ACL, has been.
"(Hoyer) was the clear leader from the beginning," Pettine said. "We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room."
Pettine said on Tuesday the Browns weren’t pressing any kind of panic button, and we’ll have to take his word for it. He chose to press the stop button on the competition because Monday’s game showed that what the Browns have done so far with a complicated offense, Manziel in a partial time-share situation and a subpar receiving corps has not worked.
"It’s hard for a quarterback to look good when the guys around him aren’t playing well," Pettine said Tuesday.
In Wednesday’s announcement, Pettine said of Manziel: "We are pleased with where he is, and he has shown that he has come a long way in his ability to pick up the playbook, be coachable and lead an offense."
If the Browns were even close to pleased with where Manziel is, they’d at least extend the competition another week. The job was given to Hoyer because Manziel didn’t pass him, not because anybody involved can feel good about what’s happening next.
The Browns have 10 or so practices until that opener. Hoyer has time to improve, but not much.
After three games, the Browns have a bye week and a natural transition point.
Fifteen years of futility have shown that a Browns quarterback competition is never really over.