If not Brian Hoyer, then who?
At this time last year, Hoyer was working hard (a trait that is apparently a foreign concept to some quarterbacks on the roster) to rehabilitate from an injury to his ACL that stalled his 2013 season after just three starts.
As the calendar pages turned during 2014, Hoyer’s NFL future took more twists and turns than the famed Nürburgring in Germany.
The NFL Draft brought Johnny Manziel to town, with many mistakenly believing the Browns had to start the rookie from Texas A&M from day one.
Head coach Mike Pettine had other ideas, though, and named Hoyer the starter late in the preseason. Hoyer would reward his coach’s faith by leading the Browns to the top of the AFC North after 11 games. His play brought with it talk of a contract extension and the belief that the Browns had finally solved their quarterback quandary.
“We’ve got to get a quarterback and got to get it fixed.” – Owner Jimmy Haslam
But as the season went along, Hoyer’s play fell off as the offense struggled to overcome the season-ending injury to Alex Mack, rookie running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell struggled at times to remember the play, wide receiver Josh Gordon struggled to remember the proper pass route to run, and tight end Jordan Cameron struggled to remain healthy.
In short, it was a team effort on offense as the Browns fell from 7-4 and first place to 7-9 and last place in the division.
Hoyer had bet on himself entering the season, believing that once he had the opportunity he would show the NFL he was worthy of being a starting quarterback. But when the season came to a close, with an injured Hoyer watching from the sidelines, it seemed likely that the unrestricted free agent had seen his last days in a Browns uniform.
But as things stand right now, the Browns may need Hoyer as much (if not a little bit more) than Hoyer needs the Browns.
With 10 picks in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft, we fully expect general manager Ray Farmer to select a quarterback at some point. While it is fun to fantasize about Farmer making moves with his two first-round picks (Nos. 12 and 19) to find a way to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, that is probably not going to happen (and may not be the current best course, either).
“I would say our quarterback situation is muddy at best and when we allocate time to discussing each position, quarterback will be given the most. As far as getting that position right moving forward we’ll spend the most amount of time on it and we’ll leave no stone unturned.’” – Head coach Mike Pettine
Even if/when the Browns draft another quarterback, it is highly unlikely that they will turn the starting job over to a rookie. And with Manziel coming off a self-imposed redshirt year (that he conveniently forgot to tell the club about) and promising to start taking things seriously (just as soon as this last party ends), the Browns find themselves needing someone to line up behind Mack when the season kicks off in September.
So if not Hoyer, then who? Because the list of free-agent quarterbacks expected to be available are nothing more than a group of guys who can be labeled “someone not named Hoyer.”
One possibility that is being floated around is Mark Sanchez, who spent the past season with the Eagles. His name makes sense as he was with the Jets when Pettine and newly hired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo were on the coaching staff.
“I would tell you that we’re constantly in search for guys that we think improve our roster. They could be any number of stones that we overturn to try to find the right guy to bring in here to help improve our roster.” – General manager Ray Farmer
While Sanchez did help the Jets reach a pair of AFC Championship games, that was five years, a major shoulder injury and two teams ago. Sanchez has also thrown 47 interceptions over his last 40 games, so it’s hard to see where he would be an improvement.
The Browns could also take a look at former starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who spent the past season in Oakland with DeFilippo. Of course, the Houston Texans willingly chose Ryan Fitzpatrick (the fourth-worst quarterback in league history per winning percentage) as their starting quarterback over Schaub, who at one point in 2013 through a pick-six in an NFL-record four consecutive games (and five in a seven-game stretch).
If the plan here is to improve the play at the quarterback position, it’s hard to see how Schaub is the answer.
How about Michael Vick? Well, he’s only made it through a full 16-game schedule once in his career, and that was almost nine years ago. If Vick can’t be counted on to make it through a full season, then how does he help the situation?
Ryan Mallett? Didn’t the “sign Tom Brady’s former back-ups” train leave town with Mike Lombardi?
“We’re not sure if our starting quarterback’s in the building right now or not.” – Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo
Matt Moore or Jake Locker? Well, the biggest knock on Hoyer this year was his low completion percentage and interceptions. But in two years with the Browns, Hoyer has completed 56 percent of his passes while throwing 16 interceptions against 17 touchdowns. In their careers, Moore has completed 58.9 percent of his passes, while throwing 28 interceptions (and 33 touchdowns), while Locker has completed 57.5 percent of his throws, with 22 interceptions (and 27 touchdowns).
This isn’t to advocate for Hoyer as the long-term solution at quarterback for the Browns. We wrote before the season started that we saw Hoyer’s ceiling as a quarterback who could consistently post an eight- or nine-win season. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but the Browns need to aspire for something better.
But until that something better walks into the locker room, Hoyer may continue to be good enough.
After everything he’s been through, would it really be a surprise if Hoyer’s time in Cleveland have one more twist left?