Why the Browns Stuck with Hoyer, Not Manziel
Back on Thursday, May 8, 2014, the Cleveland Browns traded the No. 26 overall selection and a third-round pick (No. 83) to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Browns then proceeded to select former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, as the franchise presumably had finally found its answer at the position for the first time in decades.
Entering Week 14 of his rookie season, Manziel has thrown all of nine passes and was recently spurned once again in favor of Brian Hoyer, despite replacing a struggling Hoyer late into the team’s loss against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13.
Still, in face of being sent back to the bench Manziel is considered the heir to the reigns of the Browns offense. Although, not everyone neither was nor is completely sold on the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
While the strong play of Hoyer prior to his injury during the 2012 season gave Cleveland a formidable option to start under center moving forward, throughout the draft process the Browns were still considered a likely candidate to select Manziel or any of the other top quarterback prospects with the fourth-overall pick in the draft. However, despite the colloquial assumption that the Browns were going to at least consider Manziel with the fourth pick well in advance of May 2014, of the 60 player interviews allotted to Cleveland at the NFL Combine, not one included a meeting with Manziel. Moreover, during the draft it was Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains who were the ones that Manziel clearly had more appeal to, which was made more apparent when Pettine explicitly told Manziel that he was the backup and Hoyer was the starter just after drafting Manziel.
While I’m not opposed to it, in today’s NFL quarterbacks aren’t too often taken in the first round to simply ride the pine. Even when teams proclaim their intention is for them to sit, we’ve seen them thrown into the lineup when the other option(s) proves to be too ineffective.
The very thing just happened in Cleveland, but instead of rolling with Manziel, Cleveland is sticking with Hoyer and, for most, questionably so. Of course, there’s context that needs to be distinguished in discussing why this decision was made.
Usually, when teams turn to a rookie quarterback they had originally not intended to start, it’s because the team doesn’t expect anything of fruition to come from the season. In Cleveland, the Browns have found themselves in the thick of a playoff race with only four weeks remaining.
Manziel didn’t get the Browns to this point; Brian Hoyer did. That fact alone serves as the key premise for justifying their decision.
With a 7-5 record, four games remaining, and considering they’re in the most competitive division race in the league, let’s take time to put this into perspective.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the Browns remaining schedule:
– vs Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
– vs Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1)
– @ Carolina Panthers (3-8)
– @ Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
Regardless of whoever had been starting under center, it’s difficult to realistically see Cleveland even coming away 2-2 during this stretch considering their current form in comparison to that of their opponents.
Secondly, should the Browns have turned to Manziel with just four games remaining and he struggled, it would have misguidedly led a wave of uncertainty to swirl around his ability, and leave an opportunity for blame to be placed on him for not getting a team to the playoffs that he would only have quarterbacked for a quarter of the season.
Ultimately, it makes more sense to stick with Hoyer through the rest of the season.
While Pettine’s decision to stick with Hoyer may have seemed to make sense for now, Johnny Manziel still remains to be the quarterback of the future for the Cleveland Browns franchise. For good reason, too.
Yes, Hoyer has proven that he is a capable starting quarterback, disregarding his most recent stretch. No, Hoyer is not the franchise quarterback the Browns have been searching decades for, even though he’s posted a 10-5 record as the Browns starter through 15 games.
Pettine’s decision to sit Manziel in favor of Hoyer also simply implies that similarly to the beginning of the year, his belief is that Manziel isn’t ready to start yet. If anything, the struggling Hoyer—who’s thrown one touchdown against six interceptions in his last four games—needed this sort of kick-start to get back to performing at the level he had been earlier in the season.
Of course, it all remains skepticism from the outside. In the meantime though, one thing remains to be certain:
Johnny Manziel’s time is coming soon.
It may not be this week, the next, or at any point during this season, but by next season there’s no reason to believe that Johnny Football won’t be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns within the next calendar year. Unfortunately, it merely wouldn’t make sense to throw him in just yet.