The Cleveland Browns quarterback competition is officially over. Today, it was announced new coach Mike Pettine tabbed veteran Brian Hoyer as the team’s official starter, designating rookie Johnny Manziel as the backup.
It certainly wasn’t an easy choice for Pettine. Since camp opened, neither QB has ever appeared as a definitive leader during the contest. Preseason has been underwhelming for both Hoyer and Manziel, with the former looking particularly rough during this past Monday’s game against the Washington Redskins.
Because of this, there are some who are surprised Hoyer got the nod over the flashy rookie. But, even though Hoyer has hardly inspired so far, the Browns made the right call in choosing him to lead the team.
Hoyer’s limited experience definitely played a huge role in this decision. Yes, the “he technically won all three games he started last year” is tired and really doesn’t prove as much as some say. At the same time, there’s a huge difference between regular season defense and the half-speed of the preseason. Hoyer knows this, Manziel doesn’t. The ability to read and react to a defensive attack is so crucial when it comes to quarterbacking in the NFL, and in Hoyer Cleveland has someone who’s at least handled this task before.
The biggest reason for the Browns choosing Hoyer to lead the team, though, is even simpler than the aspect of experience. Point blank: Manziel isn’t ready. Not even close.
Yes, the decorated rookie has made big strides since camp started. But, if you’ve watched him during the preseason, you see potential, and that’s about it for now. He was skittish in the pocket for most of the game against Washington. He seemed to struggle reading the defense, leading to the obvious belief he’d do the same, if not at a worse level, against the Pittsburgh Steelers on opening day. Throwing him to the dogs in the first week despite his being unprepared would be a disaster.
Manziel definitely factors into the Browns’ future, and this means they need to bring him in at the right time. Words cannot describe how badly his development would be hurt if he started way too early and ended up getting battered at a weekly basis. His time will come, but only when he’s prepared.
As for Hoyer, he’ll now be able to take the field without having to look over his shoulder anymore. One hopes this means he’s more comfortable in the pocket. Hoyer will get plenty of snaps this Saturday against the St. Louis Rams in the team’s third preseason game, typically seen as the dress rehearsal for the real thing. This means he’ll finally get a chance to develop a rhythm with the starting offense, no longer switching out with Manziel every third series.
The Browns’ QB competition may not have ended the way everyone in the national media hoped, but in picking Hoyer, Cleveland made the right choice. Now, the vet can stop worrying about beating out Manziel and can instead focus on what seems to be a near-impossible task; going a full season as the Browns starting quarterback. It’s only been done once since 1999, but can Hoyer buck the trend?
We’re about to find out.