Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (left) and quarterback Brian Hoyer (right) before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns: Starting QB is doomed regardless

As we’ve all seen: Brian Hoyer is in for the Browns. Johnny Manziel is out. Apparently. Why the decision was already made? I could not tell you.

My feelings on it were made relatively clear in this tweet.

Not to mention this post from last week when I pointed out that regardless of what criteria the Browns are/were using to establish a starting quarterback, Johnny Football should have been the answer - but I’m past it at this point. I’ve moved on to a more realistic point of view: it does not matter who Coach Mike Pettine throws out there week one against the Steelers (which again, is Hoyer), they are destined to fail anyway.

Is it a slightly selfish and bitter conclusion because I may have been drinking the Manziel Kool-aid? Sure. But, it’s accurate. Vegas had rough lines for the Browns over/under wins on the season set at 6.5 with Manziel as the starter and 5.5 with Hoyer. Boy, if I’m a Browns fan I just don’t know how excited I am to wake up and watch my team lose 10 or 11 games.

Pettine said that the end decision was made because Hoyer was a better locker room leader (as of now), and also had much more experience. I guess it is not concerning to Pettine why the Cardinals (if you can’t beat out John Skelton…), Steelers and Patriots all felt that Hoyer was incredibly expendable. In his defense, he did go 3-0 with the Browns before a knee injury last season.

Jul 26, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) and quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) practice during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 26, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) and quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) practice during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, the staff is “pleased with where Manziel is right now” and looks forward to his future, but for now the Hoyer-era is underway.

From a number’s perspective, start Connor Shaw. The rookie was 8-of-9 for 129 yards last Monday against the Redskins. He performed better than Hoyer and Manziel combined.

That said, numbers aren’t a reasonable factor of which to conclude a decision on – because neither Hoyer or Manziel has had over the top stats in the preseason. Hoyer has been massively underwhelming  with 8 completed passes, no touchdowns…. you see where this is going.

Manziel hasn’t been much better though. He has made plays on his feet, thrown a touchdown – albeit a screen – and lead a few scoring drives, but not significantly better than Shaw Hoyer. Hoyer is more experienced. There’s no denying that, but it isn’t like he has experience with this offensive unit. New running backs, new wideouts, new coach, HE’S GOT A NEW RIGHT GUARD IN JOEL BITONIO FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Okay, that was me just going a bit overboard, because the line is actually stable sans Bitonio.

The Browns, as far as pass-catcher’s go are putting a lot of eggs into the “Miles Austin is going to have a comeback year” basket, and that could really just flop either way. Not to mention there is just no telling if Nate Burleson is going to come back healthy, even though he is listed as the third receiver on the team’s official depth chart online. Apart from that, there isn’t much clarity. Obviously, the best playmaker on the roster is Josh Gordon, and who knows what his standing will be with the NFL; the odds are he won’t be around much of the season.

As far as other pass-catcher’s go, there aren’t many other viable options as of now. Despite having a breakout season last year, third ranked among his position, TE Jordan Cameron is flying under the radar. He reeled in seven touchdowns passes last season, and could improve that number this year; he is quite the big target. That said, the depth at that spot isn’t impressive.

Speaking of lacking depth: Ben Tate is a great asset to bring in at RB. That said, does he have what it takes to be the workhorse tailback in Cleveland? The Browns didn’t have anyone rush for over 400 yards last season (that ended the year on the roster… RIP Trent Richardson), so it can only get better – and Tate has been solid in his Texan years, but this is certainly a different role. His backup is likely to be rookie Terrance West from Towson State in Maryland, who again: hasn’t shown much in preseason. Is veteran Ben Tate a reliable option for the entirety of a season?

Donald Wood of Bleacher Report thinks that Hoyer calling plays will help both Cameron and Tate in the eyes of fantasy production, which almost always doesn’t really have an outcome on the win loss category at all.

The Browns are a piece or two a way offensively from being a serious contender in the AFC, but no quarterback on the roster right now is going to finish the puzzle that the star-studded defense is laying out on the table. The Joe Haden’s, Karlos Dansby’s and Paul Kruger’s of the the world aren’t going to put points up on the board, even though they may be the best defense in the AFC North for the first time in a long time.

Management has been confusing from the second they didn’t address the need for a WR in the draft to how they are handling this quarterback situation, and here is my final and only plea to rethink the situation. If you think Hoyer has played better than Manziel, or is more talented either way – play him. Conversely, with a new coaching staff, a new package, new personnel all around, a new rebranding of Cleveland, a newfound attention to people caring about the Browns, (I could keep this going), It would only make sense to go with a new Quarterback. Sorry, I’m straying a bit. Let me bring it home.

Unless Pettine’s theory, and I know it’s not because the job security in Cleveland isn’t enough, is to save Manziel for when those pieces start to fall together, it’s certainly an interesting move to declare a starter in week 3 of the preseason. Maybe he knows that whoever the team trots out under-center week 1 against Pittsburgh and Dick Lebeau’s defense is probably dammed either way.





Tags: Brian Hoyer Cleveland Browns Connor Shaw Johnny Manziel Mike Pettine NFL

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