The Cleveland Browns named Brian Hoyer, not Johnny Manziel, the team's starting quarterback heading into this Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. The first person to report the news was FOX Sport's Jay Glazer, who offered some context into the decision:
Hoyer had widespread support inside the locker room. No brainer according to players in there— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) December 3, 2014
Browns have been trying to get Manziel more reps during week but they are so beat up they've had to cut back practices making it harder— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) December 3, 2014
When Mike Pettine talked about the decision, he said it was a difficult one to make, but that Hoyer still gave the Browns the best chance to win this Sunday. He admitted that Hoyer having the Browns in the middle of a playoff race played into the decision, one that was made early Tuesday.
Was it the right move? Here is what I think about the situation:
- I was somewhat surprised by the announcement, but that doesn't mean I disagree with it. I understand the case to be made for both sides. Hoyer's decision-making has not been nearly as sharp since after the Bengals game, a stretch in which Cleveland has gone 1-2. The interceptions have piled up and the team's red zone issues have forced Cleveland to settle for three points too often.
- On the surface, the Browns need a spark offensively...but do they really? Two weeks ago, the Browns had nearly 500 yards of offense against the Falcons. WR Josh Gordon is supposed to be an electric difference maker, and TE Jordan Cameron could be ready to come back. Given the team's offensive line struggles against Jacksonville and Houston, we knew they would face the same issues against Buffalo, and that's exactly what happened. The Browns don't face similar fronts (maybe Baltimore) in the final four games.
- Hoyer clearly needs to get his act together, but aside from his awful game against Atlanta, the issues on offense are widespread, not just on the quarterback. The turning point this past Sunday came when RB Terrance West put the ball on the ground. WR Josh Gordon had a few mistakes that killed drives. The offensive line, including LT Joe Thomas, couldn't hold up against 3 to 4 defensive linemen most of the afternoon.
- Manziel could certainly offer a spark on Sunday due to his mobility, and it would have been a lot of fun to see. He reportedly isn't fully ready with the playbook yet, though, and given how the other rookie quarterbacks have struggled in the NFL this season, it would be extremely optimistic to think he'd light up the league from Day 1.
With that said, I still think there is a good opportunity to utilize Manziel in the red zone. Manziel can focus on a specific subset of plays, and if something breaks down, he can take off much like he did against Buffalo. Pettine said that the "Johnny Package" has had increased discussion among the staff over the past two days.
Ultimately, it was a close decision. If this was the beginning of training camp and Hoyer had shown what he has so far, I think there is little doubt that Manziel would be the starter. Quarterback changes among teams in playoff contention are rare; the last one might have been Jay Cutler for Jake Plummer in Denver. For now, Pettine is staying the course. Was it the right decision at this point in time? Let us know in the comments section and in the poll below.