Especially since the guy has only been an NFL starter for six quarters. I’m sticking to that story though.
Say what you want, but the Cleveland Browns should seriously consider re-signing Brian Hoyer. No, I’ve not gone mad. And no, I’m not even saying that this a slam dunk maneuver that is guaranteed to pay off for the team.
However, on Sunday, Hoyer nearly brought the Browns back to beat the Carolina Panthers and clinch the franchise’s first non-losing season since 2007.
He wasn’t great. He wasn’t even really that good. But let’s consider some things for a moment.
In six quarters, Johnny Manziel has produced three points and five first downs. He remains undersized, and his delivery, footwork and arm strength is questionable.
Yes, it is true that no firm conclusion can be drawn after just six quarters. However, do you feel confident heading into next season with Manziel as the starting quarterback? Does that sound like a team capable of winning the grueling AFC North?
While we cannot write him off completely yet, we also can say that the team would be wise to consider some alterative options for next season.
Can you believe that the Browns’ now have a losing record (7-8) after the team started the season 7-4? What the hell happened? It seems like years ago, but there was a time when this season was actually quite fun.
A big reason for that fun? Brian Hoyer.
He’s been up and down, but overall, he has thrown for 3,326 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing just over 55 percent of his passes. It’s not even close to what would be considered a good quarterback season, but it’s still arguably the best season a Browns quarterback has had since Tim Couch.
Okay, that isn’t saying much. But remember these three things: Hoyer is just 29 years old, this was his first full season as a starter and he wants to be in Cleveland provided he’s the starter. Don’t we at least owe it to ourselves to explore that possibility?
The backlash from this type of column might be harsh. After all, how can anyone write off a quarterback after just six quarters of play?
I take the opposite view though. If a player’s performance is that futile, how can you not write him off after six quarters of play?
Overall, Manziel was 3-of-8 on Sunday for 32 yards. This comes after last week’s performance in which he was 10-of-18 for 80 yards and two interceptions.
In September, ESPN analyst Merril Hoge said the following about Manziel during a radio interview with Pittsburgh radio station WDVE-FM:
“When I was doing the draft and I was going through and studying him, I actually got done and it was the first time other than Tim Tebow came out and I was like, ‘God, there is nothing — nothing that he does — that transitions to the National Football League.’”
There is nothing I like about Hoge. I’ve never enjoyed his bravado. I loathe that he is so quick to judge players. I get irked that his personality suggests he was something more than a second-rate running back who amassed just over 3,000 rushing yards in eight NFL seasons.
But guess what? I agree with him.
I did not know where I stood with the Manziel-debate until Sunday when the former Heisman Trophy winner left the game with a hamstring injury.
Hoyer breathed new life into the game the moment that he entered the contest. Suddenly, the offense resembled a unit capable of moving the ball. Everything from the route running to the blocking looked so much more crisp and fluid.
Trust your eyes and do not over think this. The team clearly looked much better with Hoyer under center. Hoyer has been bad at times this season — even brutal — but his performances are better than anything we have seen from Manziel.
It’s haphazard to write any quarterback off after six quarters of play. However, it’s also haphazard to go into next season with Manziel immediately penciled in as your starting quarterback.
Look at the talent that is on this club right now and will still be a part of the Browns next season.
Joe Haden, Josh Gordon, Alex Mack, Joe Thomas, Isaiah Crowell, Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Paul Kruger, Andrew Hawkins, Phil Taylor, Taylor Gabriel, Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West, Joel Bitonio — all of these guys are very talented players and all of them will be under contract for the 2015 season. Aside from Jordan Cameron (unrestricted free agent) and Tashaun Gipson (restricted free agent), the core of this team should remain the same.
This is a group that has proven, especially this season, that they have what it takes to win. However, there is no chance that happens without at least average quarterback play, and from what we’ve seen, are we to believe that Manziel can provide that next year?
Maybe he can still develop in the years to come, but it’s clear that he is a long ways off from being anything close to a productive starter in the NFL. He is, after all, just 22-years-old, and he did run 99 percent of his plays out of the shotgun while at Texas A&M, so the NFL is going to be a big adjustment — a much bigger adjustment than many of us originally thought.
However, if he’s your starting quarterback in September 2015, then you might as well go head and chalk up another four, five or six (too generous?) win season. He clearly needs a lot more experience, and there’s no way to simulate live NFL action.
Hoyer, though, could provide a different level optimism for this club. Let’s be honest, he is not going to get big-time, free agent quarterback money. He’s not Drew Brees. He’s not even Jay Cutler. A return to Cleveland on a short-term deal might be mutually beneficial for the Browns and Hoyer.
For instance, the Browns could guarantee Hoyer the starting job, provided he’s healthy. He could then look to use the season to reestablish his value before testing the free agent market once more at the season’s conclusion. Hoyer would essentially be betting on himself, but he’s probably okay with it. After all, everyone has bet against him his entire life.
Plus, what would one full season of Hoyer and Gordon look like? Gordon’s effort has been lacking as of late, but that might have been a different story had the star receiver been a part of the Browns all year.
Also, while Hoyer may look the part of a backup quarterback, who is to say that he cannot continue to grow and become something more? It’s not like we’re talking about a player who is in his late 30s here, and it’s not like there’s a huge body of work to judge him on. The players and head coach Mike Pettine also love him.
The bottom line is that the theme for the 2015 season is the same theme we see every season for the Browns. If this team is going to have any kind of success next season, then it will need a quarterback. Right now, the only quarterback set to be under contract next season is Manziel, so this team might need to dip into free agency or the draft.
Given where the Browns will be picking, it seems highly unlikely that they’ll have any chance of getting either Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jamesis Winston. So, given that, it appears as if free agency is the best alternative.
The answer to what the Browns need to do is simple.
Yesterday’s game served as a reminder that the Hoyer-Browns story might not yet be over. Hoyer and the organization owe it to themselves to at least try to write one more chapter.