The Cleveland Browns have made their decision, naming Brian Hoyer the starter at quarterback over Johnny Manziel. Does Hoyer give Cleveland the best chance to compete in the AFC North? How long before Manziel is under center in the NFL? Chris Burke and Doug Farrar examine the fallout.
1. Did Browns make the right decision choosing Hoyer over Manziel?
Chris Burke: They made the right decision in that neither Hoyer nor Manziel did anything (at least in the game action we saw) to win the gig, so the Browns deferred to their prearranged depth chart. All along, the Browns made clear that Manziel was going to need to take the starting job from Hoyer. He hasn't. Yet.
Doug Farrar: I don't think there's a "right" decision here; the Browns were caught between a veteran quarterback in Hoyer with a very defined ceiling and a rookie quarterback in Manziel who isn't nearly ready for prime time. Head coach Mike Pettine, as is generally the case with coaches who have defensive backgrounds, doesn't want to monkey around with this choice. Pettine has been pretty clear that he'd prefer to have a guy under center with some NFL experience, and I'm not entirely sure Pettine wanted the Browns to select Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. So, from the perspective that you want your head coach backing your quarterback, this is the right call.
In the long term, however, let's be real. The 2014 Browns are set up to have a great defense and a pretty unspectacular offense, and that's not going to get them into the postseason. So, starting Manziel now and letting him make his mistakes along the way seems just as feasible, unless those in the front office believe that he's so far from ready, it would actually hurt his development to start him. It's not the call I would have made, but I understand it.
2. Why not let the battle play into Week 3 of preseason?
Burke: The only thing I can think is that the Browns wanted to make sure their "starter" got a chance to work fully with the first-team offense. Splitting reps again this weekend would have limited the chance to develop some cohesiveness. Still, I think it's a mistake if they are as uncertain as it seemed.
Farrar: The Browns had to do it this way -- splitting reps between Hoyer and Manziel throughout the preseason would have led to more of the scattershot play we saw against the Redskins on Monday night. Neither player is far enough along in his development to jump into a new offense without serious work against the 1s in practice. Whichever way this went, the team -- from the coaches to the players -- needed clarity sooner than later. Now, they need to throw their support behind Hoyer, because he's going to need it.
3. How soon before Manziel enters the starting lineup?
Burke: Week 4 has long been the assumed cutoff date -- Cleveland opens with three tough games and then a bye. If they are 0-3 or Hoyer proves totally ineffective (maybe both), they'll make the switch unless Manziel responds very poorly to today's news.
Farrar: Hoyer's 2014 baptism by fire is a tough one -- he has the Steelers, Saints and Ravens to face in the first three weeks, and then there's a bye. That gives the Browns an extra week to analyze what Hoyer's done and give Manziel the starter's reps in preparation for the Titans in Week 5. Based on what I've seen from Hoyer, unless there are people in that building who really don't want Manziel to start under any circumstances, that's about when Manziel will get his first real shot.