If Johnny Manziel is going to redefine quarterback play in Cleveland, he's going to have to wait a while to do it. On Wednesday morning, the Browns announced that head coach Mike Pettine has named Brian Hoyer the team's starter at the position for the foreseeable future.
“He was the clear leader from the beginning,” Pettine said of Hoyer in a team-released statement. “We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”
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Hoyer completed just 2-of-6 passes for 16 yards in the Browns' 24-23 Monday night preseason loss to the Redskins, a contest in which neither Hoyer nor Manziel distinguished himself. Manziel finished his night completing 7-of-16 passes for 65 yards, and both quarterbacks had trouble diagnosing blitzes and hitting their receivers in stride. Hoyer, who does have the advantage of NFL experience, missed receiver Andrew Hawkins on two key third-down plays, and failed to drive the team at any point. But given a clear opening to find advantage, Manziel did nothing to set himself apart. Pettine, a first-year head coach with a defensive mindset, was most likely going to choose the veteran over the rookie if all things were even.
“He’s certainly made great strides,” Pettine said of Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 draft. “We are pleased with where he is, and he has shown that he has come a long way in his ability to pick up the playbook, be coachable and lead an offense. We are confident that Johnny is going to have a great future, but we just felt that Brian still had a decided edge on him.”
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Hoyer, an undrafted player from Michigan State, spent 2009 through '11 with the Patriots, and was released during final cuts in the '12 preseason. He bounced around with the Steelers and Cardinals before signing with the Browns in May 2013. Hoyer completed 57-of-96 passes for 615 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions before a torn ACL ended his 2013 season in October. Hoyer wasn't always impressive last season, but the Browns did win the three games he started.
“I think a lot of people discount that,” Pettine said of Hoyer's return from that injury. “Here’s a guy coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Really, these are his first, essentially, 20-25 plays of live work back from it, and he’s only going to get better.”
Hoyer will get his next shot to impress against the Rams this Saturday. The Browns open their regular season at the Steelers on Sept. 7.