The 2014 Cleveland Browns are off to a 3-3 start on the season, much better than some fans along with local national writers expected them to be through the first six games. Part of that is due to the success of quarterback Brian Hoyer, but after Sunday’s poor performance in the 24-6 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars, many are beginning or continuing the push for first round pick Johnny Manziel to take over as the starting quarterback. Head coach Mike Pettine told reporters on Monday that Hoyer is still “firmly the starter” and nothing’s changed but Pettine did say that the coaches did consider putting Manziel in on Sunday.
Having strongly been an advocate for Hoyer after his performance in two starts last season before tearing his ACL, I was against the Browns drafting Manziel in May. My opinion was that Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr were better options and that Manziel’s style of quarterback play wouldn’t transfer from Texas A&M to the National Football League. Manziel’s play in training camp and preseason was said to be better than Hoyer but Manziel’s play calling struggles and inability to read defenses gave Hoyer the starting job to open the 2014 season.
Hoyer, up until the Jacksonville game this past Sunday was putting up good, not great statistics to not even considering going to Manziel. Through the first five games, he had completed 90 of 149 passes (60.4%) for 1,224 yards, 7 touchdowns and only 1 interception with a QB rating of 99.5. Then on Sunday, he looked like a completely different quarterback. He completed 16 of 41 passes (39%) for 215 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception and 1 fumble with a QB rating of 46.3. He was over or under throwing passes all day and looked uncomfortable in the pocket with the poor play from the offensive line.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine is doing the right thing by sticking with Brian Hoyer as the quarterback. One bad start doesn’t define a quarterback in the National Football League. The New England Patriots are prime example of that, Tom Brady had a tough start early in the season and then rumors started swirling that his time in New England was coming to an end. He avoided the rumors and has had three great starts. My belief is that Hoyer can bounce back this week against the struggling Oakland Raiders and prove that he is a good starting quarterback in the National Football League because he’s not only auditioning for the Browns to be their quarterback of the immediate future but he’s also auditioning for teams who could potentially need a quarterback when he hits the free agent market next spring.
As for Manziel, I think he has talent but he needs to continue to learn and develop behind Hoyer. He needs to watch how Hoyer prepares for opponents and learn to read defenses, checking down and reading through progressions before taking off and scrambling. I think he has the arm to be an elite quarterback but he needs to learn all of the mental tools before taking the reigns of the Cleveland Browns. If he indeed does take over at any point during the season, I expect him to struggle like the other rookies quarterbacks Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr currently are for their respective teams but with Hoyer’s guidance, I expect Manziel to be a better quarterback in the future and hopefully becomes the franchise quarterback the Browns have been longing for since the franchise’s return in 1999.