Cleveland went into Sunday's contest against the Colts with a big opportunity to keep their playoff hopes alive. While losing to Indianapolis didn't kill their playoff chances (yet), it certainly makes the mountain a good bit higher to climb.
Add in the fact that Brian Hoyer had yet another off week, and the Browns are trending the wrong direction late in the year. With a potential move at quarterback looming, the national media's stance on the Browns isn't changing, they still don't think all that much of them.
The middle of the pack is all sixes and sevens
The Chiefs, Texans, Dolphins, Rams, Bills, 49ers, and Browns all have somewhat similar identities. All these teams feature ball control offenses and, with the exception of probably the Dolphins, feature either struggling or sub-par quarterbacks, buoyed by tough, physical, punch-you-in-the-mouth defenses.
Having a good-to-great defense is often not enough, though. It's been a full year since a receiver on the Chiefs caught a touchdown. The Texans are again relying on veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick after a brief stint under Ryan Mallett was cut short by an injury. The Rams, Bills, and Browns are also doing the veteran journeyman thing with Shaun Hill, Kyle Orton, and Brian Hoyer, respectively, and we have all heard about Colin Kaepernick's struggles of late.
"It was the right choice to give Brian Hoyer another start last week. It was clearly the wrong choice to stick with Hoyer the entire game after it was clear he didn't have it. And now the only feasible decision is to let Johnny Manziel start the last three games."
"It should be Johnny Manziel time in Cleveland. They are playing for next year."
"When Marvin Lewis called Johnny Manziel a midget, maybe he wasn’t referring to Manziel’s height."
"While I really wanted Brian Hoyer to succeed, it would be beyond difficult to blame Mike Pettine for making a change this week. The quarterback has thrown zero touchdown passes against seven picks in his past three games, with an aggregate passer rating of 45.6. Ugh."
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Most of the above snippets about the Browns have the same tone, "Johnny Manziel." And rightfully so. Brian Hoyer simply wasn't good last week, or the handful of weeks before, for that matter. So I do agree it's time to make a switch at quarterback.
I don't necessarily agree that the Browns "are playing for next year," though. Call me naive, or overly optimistic, whatever you want to call it. But I believe it ain't over until the fat lady sings. Sure, do the Browns have a small chance at making the playoffs? Of course. But it's not crazy to think it can be done.
Ultimately, playing Manziel doesn't necessarily mean you're playing for next year. Brian Hoyer has been ineffective to the point where he's costing you games. We don't know what we have in Manziel yet, but that doesn't mean he'll come in and be worse. We've seen a glimmer of what he can do against the Bills. So giving him another chance to see what he can do isn't phoning it in.
The rankings are fair this week, in my opinion. About the same as last week, if only a little slide.
What do you all think?