Brian Hoyer lived every Cleveland boy's dream for two years. Now, the time has come for the North Olmsted native to follow his dreams elsewhere.
On Thursday, the 29-year-old quarterback acknowledged that his quest to become a long-term starting quarterback will not be accomplished in Cleveland, revealing his feelings to USA TODAY Sports. His time as a Brown done, Hoyer will hit the free agent market on Tuesday.
The Browns' signing of Josh McCown to a three-year, $14 million deal last Friday signaled the end of Hoyer's two-year stint in Cleveland. The club essentially replaced Hoyer with McCown as both a mentor and competitor for Johnny Manziel.
Hoyer admitted as much on Thursday during an interview with Jim Corbitt of USA TODAY Sports. The 6'3, 215 pound quarterback said:
"It's good for both sides to get a fresh start and go our separate ways. Being from here, I'll always root for the Browns. I know I'm going to be continuing my football career somewhere."
While free agency officially begins with the new league year on Tuesday at 4 p.m., teams can start to extend offers to players on Saturday. According to Corbitt, Hoyer will be in Arizona this weekend at a charity event sponsored by former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.
"In between games Saturday, I'll be checking my phone to see if my agent has talked to anyone," Hoyer said. "It's an exciting time, my first time as a free agent."
Hoyer's tenure in Cleveland coincided with tumultuous times in Berea. A total regime change, Textgate, and the Manziel mess all occurred during the two-year span.
The Saint Ignatius High School product began the 2013 season as the backup quarterback, but was soon thrust into a starting role. Hoyer started three games before suffering an ACL injury against the Bills, missing the rest of the season.
Hoyer recovered from the injury and beat out Manziel for the starting job during training camp last August. Hoyer led the Browns to a 6-3 record, including big wins over the Steelers and the Bengals. Then, the offense came crashing down, and Hoyer along with it. Missing Alex Mack, the ground game faltered, and the pass attack followed suit. Hoyer threw one touchdown and eight interceptions in the next four games, ushering in the Manziel era.
The rookie faltered and eventually entered rehab in late January. Even still, Hoyer praised Manziel on Thursday, showing no hard feelings for the troubled quarterback.
"I texted Johnny when he went into rehab, haven't heard back. But I'm sure when you go into rehab they don't allow you to use your phone," Hoyer said. "It takes a big person to check yourself into rehab. There was no reason for me to have any animosity towards Johnny. He didn't choose to be drafted by Cleveland. We got along great. I hope the best for him. He definitely has the talent to have a great career. They don't just hand out the Heisman Trophy to anybody.''
Jon Gruden, ESPN Monday Night Football analyst and former NFL head coach, spoke similarly highly of Hoyer, claiming that he can be successful with another team.
"Brian Hoyer has proven he can win games for you," Gruden said. "I was in Green Bay and we cut Kurt Warner. We didn't think he had a chance. He went to the Arena [Football League]. And he's going to the Hall of Fame. It's all about the coach, the organization building their team around the quarterback and doing everything they can to make him successful."
Hoyer remains the only Browns quarterback since 1999 to accrue a winning record, logging a 10-6 mark as a starter.
Several destinations would make sense for Hoyer, namely the Jets, Titans, Texans, Rams, Bears, and Eagles. Hoyer wants the chance to be a starter, and all of the above destinations could offer him an opportunity.
Geno Smith is currently the starter in New York, but with Michael Vick set to test free agency, new head coach Todd Bowles will likely be searching for a veteran to push Smith.
Zach Mettenberger tops the depth chart in Tennessee, but the LSU product compiled an 0-6 record in six starts and has not received a public vote of approval from the organization.
Houston head coach Bill O'Brien has close ties with Hoyer. O'Brien was New England's offensive coordinator during Hoyer's time as a Patriot, and once brought another former mentee, Ryan Mallett, to the Texans. The team currently has Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the Harvard grad experienced a so-so 2014 campaign.
Sam Bradford is unquestionably the starter in St. Louis, but his health is anything but certain. The Rams could use a veteran capable of stepping in for Bradford.
New Bears head coach John Fox has showed little confidence in turnover-prone Jay Cutler, leaving a glaring hole at quarterback in Chicago. Fox has also enjoyed success with 30-something quarterbacks in the past, namely Jake Delhomme and Peyton Manning.
The Eagles are more of a stretch, given Chip Kelly's love for Marcus Mariota, but Philly is still a possibility. Nick Foles has not convinced anyone that he is the team's franchise quarterback, and the Eagles have looked to veterans (such as Michael Vick) to solve the problem in the past.
Whatever his destination, Hoyer will likely command big money for a player of his type. The rest of the free agent class is lackluster to say the least, and the upcoming draft class is historically weak at quarterback.
Hoyer's time in Cleveland will be remembered for a long time by both Hoyer himself and Browns fans. Despite all of the upheaval during Hoyer's tenure, the beloved Cleveland kid gave fans a chance to cheer instead of boo. For a fleeting moment, Hoyer gave the city something sacred and rarely seen in First Energy Stadium: a winner.