BEREA, Ohio– In my opinion, the phrase ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ sums up the quarterback "battle" that took place at Browns training camp over the past several weeks.
Mike Pettine’s hope all along was that Brian Hoyer would establish himself as the starter. His experience and leadership–albeit just four NFL starts–would allow him to take the opportunity and run with it.
However, Hoyer certainly hasn’t run with the opportunity to date, but now that he has been given the official title of ‘starting’ quarterback, maybe that will change.
It is clear that both Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel are struggling to completely grasp offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense. If Shanahan can scale back a set of plays that play to Hoyer’s strengths and let the offense master those before calling too many of those 18-word plays.
Logically speaking, it would make sense that Hoyer is the starter to open the season. The Browns are on the road against the rival Steelers, going up against fabled defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s disguised schemes.
Also, the schedule makers didn’t do the Browns any favors by not only having them open on the road in Pittsburgh, but returning the following week to open the home schedule with the high-powered offense of the New Orleans Saints. A follow date with the Baltimore Ravens at home gives the Browns a very rough opening three game slate.
After the first three games, the Browns get a very early bye. If Hoyer moves the team and the offense plays well, Hoyer keeps the job.If the offense sputters and the team starts 1-2 or 0-3 that would be a logical time to start working Manziel into the lineup when the Browns return after the bye to play the Tennessee Titans in Jimmy Haslam’s home state.
Assuming Manziel is much further along in being able to read defenses and having a firm grasp on the play book, it would make sense to start looking to the future, while also providing a spark and hope for the team coming off the slow start.
Ironically, that’s how Hoyer was given the opportunity last season after Brandon Weeden wasn’t able to seize the opportunity and he dinged his hand after the second game. Instead of going to backup Jason Campbell, then-coach Rob Chudzinski had Hoyer vault over Campbell into the starting lineup.
The Browns won three-straight games after Hoyer became the starter before he tore his ACL, which ended his season. Hoyer showed what just having efficient quarterback play could do for the team. This year’s defense has a good chance of being better than last year’s and if Hoyer can keep the Browns in games they have a chance to be successful.
If Pettine would’ve picked Manziel to start the season, he would’ve painted himself and the coaching staff into a corner. If the Browns start slow under Manziel, it would be tougher to go back to Hoyer. It could also retard Manziel’s development.
If Manziel would’ve been named the starter and the Browns lost their first three games, it would make sense to just let him play the whole season and learn on the fly since the season for all practical purposes is lost.
Another scenario that could play itself out would be if the Browns under Hoyer are playing competitively, but get eliminated from the playoffs, then turn to Manziel to finish the season to see what he can do.
Let’s also not forget that since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, Tim Couch is the only Browns quarterback to have played all 16 games in a season and that was back in 2001.
The Browns really need to come out of the 2014 season knowing if they have a franchise quarterback on their roster. If they deem they don’t then they have two No. 1 draft picks going into the 2015 NFL Draft. It would be much better to not have to use one of them on yet another quarterback.
The priority in Pettine’s first season as coach is to turn the team’s losing culture around, provide some stability and poise themselves for a realistic playoff run in 2015. Obviously, anything can happen in the NFL and the ball could bounce their way more often than not, but most fans would be happy if the Browns could end up close to .500 at 7-9, 8-8 or even 9-7.
Fans will remember in Bernie Kosar’s rookie season, the Browns won the division at 8-8 to get into the playoffs, but the feeling by the end of the season was optimistic that the Browns were truly heading in the right direction.
The goal in 2014 would be that the Browns are playing their best football by the end of the season, similar to the ’85 season and that they have their quarterback in place and are on the brink of a bright future.
If Hoyer is at the helm of a resurgent 9-7, 10-6 season and keeps Manziel on the bench, would that be a bad thing? If Manziel takes control and has the Browns going in the right direction, that would also be a positive,no?
Again, the announcement regarding Hoyer being the starter is not big news, it’s what happens from here on out that is the big news.