When just as important as if Browns switch quarterbacks
This time last week the Cleveland Browns were high on everyone’s radar after a convincing beating of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the debate was on about how quickly the team should sign starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to a new contract.
Fast forward one week, and one horrible performance by the team and Hoyer against the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars and the narrative has changed dramatically.
The Browns are now facing questions about whether or not the team that looked so bad against the Jaguars is the real version of this year’s squad, as opposed to the one that beat Pittsburgh and New Orleans, and staged the biggest road comeback in NFL history against Tennessee.
The microscope is focused most tightly on Hoyer, who had his worst showing in a Cleveland uniform against the Jaguars. The Jacksonville game continued a downward trend as Hoyer has seen his completion percentage drop from 76 percent against Baltimore to 39 percent against the Jaguars.
“There’s overreaction when you win and overreaction when you lose, especially at the quarterback position,” Hoyer said. “When you win, you’re the hero. When you lose, you’re the goat. I think that’s just the way it goes. That’s the way this league has become.” – quarterback Brian Hoyer
On the positive side, anyone anyone can have a bad game, as Hoyer was quick to point out this week.
“Three weeks ago everyone was saying Tom Brady was done with,” Hoyer said in published reports. “He’s the greatest quarterback of all time. He had one bad game, and people are throwing him under the bus. I think when you see that even the great ones have bad games you know you’re going to have a few. Yeah, it sucks. You don’t want to go out there and not perform well. Obviously, we prepare our butts off all week to go out there and execute and play the best of our ability, but sometimes you have a situation where you don’t play great, and the other team plays well.”
And it’s not Hoyer’s fault that the team lost center Alex Mack, possibly the most important player on the offense, to a season-ending injury; or that John Greco snapped the ball on fourth down against the Jaguars despite the Browns not having a play called; or that the defense can’t stop anyone when they are running the ball.
The Browns also won two of the past three games even with Hoyer struggling, which for a team that hasn’t won more than five games in an entire season since 2007 is a pretty important stat.
But Hoyer’s struggles have still been enough to make some Browns fans wonder if it is time to turn the team over to rookie Johnny Manziel.
“You take the good with the bad, and all the positive noise that was around us after our wins was great, but it was still something we had to handle, just as the noise now.” – Head coach Mike Pettine
The answer to that question is a resounding no – at least for now.
The Browns have played the quarterback situation exactly right ever since resisting national media pressure to name Manziel the starter for Week 1. We’ve passed the first natural point for the team to make a switch – the bye week – but we could soon be approaching the next opportunity.
It says here that Hoyer has (at least) three more games to show that the Jacksonville game was a fluke and that the Browns should be comfortable riding with him as the starter for the remainder of the season.
The team has already committed to Hoyer for this Sunday’s game against Oakland. If Hoyer plays well against the winless Raiders and their 22nd-ranked defense, everything will be OK for a few more weeks.
But if the Browns lose for the second consecutive week to a winless team and Hoyer plays poorly? Then the Browns will be facing a big decision.
“Brian is still firmly our starter.” – Head coach Mike Pettine
If the Browns don’t make a quarterback switch heading into the Nov. 2 game against Tampa Bay, there is no way they should make a move after – not with a road game against Cincinnati just four days later. Throwing Manziel into his first start on the road with just four days of preparation has disaster written all over it.
If Hoyer and and the Browns can get through the next two weeks in good shape and carry a 5-3 record into that Thursday night game against the Bengals, then Hoyer should have the opportunity to finish out the season no matter what happens that night in Cincinnati. While there is value in the argument that the Browns should see what they have in Manziel this year – especially holding two No. 1 picks in a draft that should include quarterback Marcus Mariota – there is just as much value in letting Hoyer finish what he started.
The Browns have played this situation right from the very start.
Here’s hoping that Hoyer doesn’t give them any more reason to start doubting that decision.
(Photos courtesy of jaguars.com and The Associated Press)