5 Questions in 5 Days: Hoyer vs. Manziel – Part 2
The answer to which of the two will be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns is one that head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan simply have to get right if they are to be part of the regime that finally turns this franchise around.
Manziel is one of the most-dynamic college players we’ve seen in a long time. We watched his games last fall at Texas A&M and were consistently entertained. But at the same time we couldn’t help but worry that we wouldn’t be able to take watching him play 16 times a year for the Browns.
That all changed in May when the Browns selected Manziel in the first round of the NFL Draft. Now he’s part of Cleveland – for better or worse.
If Manziel can translate his college game to the NFL level he has the talent, competitiveness and presence to lead this team from the NFL wilderness back to a level we haven’t seen since the late 1980s.
The decision facing Pettine and Shanahan is not a question of if Manziel will be the starting quarterback, but a question of when. If this was Minnesota the answer would be a simple one. With a roster that includes Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel at quarterback, there is little reason for the Vikings to not turn the team over to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Which brings us to Brian Hoyer.
Even though he barely played 10 quarters of football last season, Hoyer showed enough to warrant being given a real chance to earn the starting position this year. After throwing three interceptions in the first three quarters of his first game as a starter, Hoyer did not turn the ball over during the final seven quarters he played before being injured. He is the kind of quarterback who may not win a game by himself, but he also won’t make the kind of mistakes that will lose the game.
But that could also be the biggest mark against Hoyer. While he is the kind of quarterback that is valuable for a team to have on its roster, we can’t help but think he’s also the kind of quarterback that will turn in a solid run of 8-8 seasons and nothing more.
Having said that, Hoyer is a great insurance policy for the Browns to have, one that means they won’t have to rush the decision on Manziel if they don’t feel he is ready. It’s important to remember that the Browns did not draft Manziel for just the Sept. 7 opener in Pittsburgh; they drafted him for (hopefully) the next 10 to 12 years.
That’s why unless Manziel absolutely lights it up in the preseason – a possibility as we suspect he is a better game player than a practice player – the Browns should open the season with Hoyer as the starting quarterback.
From there, let the season play out and see what happens. If Hoyer plays well, it’s not the end of the world to let Manziel sit on the bench. If Hoyer struggles, the Browns can make the switch.
The important thing is, if that switch comes at some point during the season, it has to be permanent. Barring an injury, once the Browns turn to Manziel they have to be all in, as the worst thing they can do is bounce back and forth between Hoyer and Manziel.
The Browns find themselves in a potential strong position of strength when it comes to the quarterback position. Now it’s up to them to not mess it up.
That brings us to the final question in our series: Hoyer or Manziel; who you going with as the starter?
Once more unto the breach we ride with Ryan Alton from Draft Browns, Mike Burgermeister from jimkanicki.com, Dave Kolonich, Murray Alexander from East of Ehlo, Jeff Rich from More Than A Fan – Cleveland, Rick Grayshock from Waiting for Next Year, and Mike Krupka from Dawgs by Nature.
Ryan: Hoyer is the man … for now. He has the support of the coaches and, more importantly, the locker room. I’ve had players tell me directly they have full confidence in Hoyer. They want him to get his shot after being ignored by the previous staff and then the unfortunate injury that derailed the 2013 season. The only way the trust erodes is if he starts to do things on the field that costs the team games. REAL games. I think those first three games are going to be the real litmus test for Hoyer and his career. If he comes out of there looking good, it’ll be Johnny Bench. As long as the team is winning, no one will care. But if he struggles and the losses begin to mount, I think the change is made at the bye week. One thing I know for sure is that Mike Pettine won’t cave to fan pressure or let jersey sales determine his starter. And call me naïve, but I feel safe assuming Jimmy Haslam, despite his reputation, will not pull rank and force anything on this staff. I trust he will leave the football decisions to the football guys.
I have liked almost every move Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine have made so far (possible quibble on cutting Quentin Groves). Accordingly I expect Farmer to get Hoyer’s extension done before the season starts. Every week he waits costs him money.
Dave: I love the idea of Brian Hoyer – NE Ohio guy, worker, journeyman. But the reality is he’s played barely 10 quarters of football in Cleveland. It’s a leap to project such a small amount of experience into a full competitive, productive season. It would be the greatest Browns’ story in decades if he became a legitimate starting quarterback. However, the Browns are currently building an offense designed for Johnny Manziel’s abilities – not Hoyer’s. Also, just wait until Jimmy Haslam’s inner Jerry Jones bursts out. If Manziel is selling the most jerseys in the league, it won’t be long before he’s the starter.
Murray: I feel pretty certain that it’s going to be Brian Hoyer. I do think that Johnny Manziel is going to push Hoyer all the way through camp, purely with his ability for the spectacular, but the start of the season is such a grind that I don’t think they want Manziel in there unless he absolutely blows away the competition. It gets a lot softer after the week 4 bye, though …
Jeff: I’ve got Brian Hoyer, not forever, but I say he’s the man in Pittsburgh to start the year. I like the wins, but I’m a Hoyer supporter who doesn’t think he played particularly well in his time last year, which essentially amounted to a rookie season when you consider how much he’s bounced around the league. He’s got tendencies that I like in the pocket, and as long as he isn’t shaken by the knee mentally, he is going to be more comfortable with this offense, which features a running game that’s going to set up some good matchups for his receivers. That said, I see his leash being very short and, if he struggles, it won’t be fan pressure that pushes Mike Pettine to go with the rookie.
Rick: Brian Hoyer will start from Week 1. The timeline is too tight. The learning curve too steep for Johnny Manziel.
Mike K.: For those that don’t know, I’m a big Johnny Manziel fan, yet at the same time I’ve been consistent in saying that I want the best quarterback to start for the Browns. The quarterback that gives us the best chance to win football games. Manziel is by far the most gifted quarterback we have on the roster and I believe that once his mind catches up to this physical ability, we’re going to have a special quarterback in Cleveland. That being said, so much remains to be seen in his game, and his approach at the NFL level, that it’s hard for me to see head coach Mike Pettine starting a rookie quarterback vs. Pittsburgh. Not just because he’s a rookie, but because I don’t think it gives us the best chance to win in Week 1.
Conversely, I think Hoyer gives us the best chance to win early in the season because he’s more cerebral at the moment and knows where he’s going with the ball early. He tends to make the right reads and throws and has shown good timing. He’ll keep us in games and perhaps sustain some drives and make some plays. That being said, I still haven’t seen enough from Hoyer to truly believe he’s “the guy” but I do think he is more prepared for the Steelers, Saints and Ravens.
Johnny was drafted in the first round for a reason: he’s a playmaker, and so it’s only a matter of time before he’s brought out of the stables. I think it’s rather interesting that Pettine mentioned that Manziel might be used in packaged plays: red zone or the Wildcat. This is similar to how Colin Kaepernick was brought along, and I feel it’s worth noting because this gives Manziel an opportunity to get some plays under his belt while also showing the coaches that they can trust him to prepare and execute.
(Photos courtesy of clevelandbrowns.com)