He has been a career backup as a pro. He is coming off a season cut short by a torn ACL, and he is competing against a former Heisman Trophy winner for the starting job. Yes, Cleveland Browns fans have a number of reasons to write off quarterback Brian Hoyer as the 2014 season approaches.
While rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel has been busy playing to the media and landing endorsement deals, Hoyer has been working to recover from his knee injury and to build off of last season's brief stretch of success.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer, Hoyer should be 100 percent healthy by the start of the regular season and will not let anything stand in his way of claiming the starting job.
"He took off only five days all offseason and has worked tirelessly on his game and the new offense," Cabot recently wrote. "What's more, he's been working out at the Browns facility developing timing with some of the receivers coming off injuries."
Hoyer has shown the type of offseason dedication that should excite Browns fans, who have been hungry for consistency under center for what seems like a generation. Of course, hard work and determination aren't always enough to produce a winner.
With a mere four NFL starts in his five-year career, Hoyer's body of work is limited. However, he has shown some glimpses that suggest he has the on-field skills to justify keeping former SEC superstar Manziel on the bench, at least for the coming season.
Three of Hoyer's four starts came last season with the Browns. Cleveland won all three games, though he suffered the ACL injury early in the third contest.
In his two complete games with the Browns, Hoyer produced a come-from-behind victory against the Minnesota Vikings and a dominating 17-6 win over the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. He passed for 590 yards and five scores combined in the two games.
As a passer, Hoyer was ranked 21st overall among all quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) for the 2013 season. This certainly does not put him in the category of the elite, but Hoyer was ranked ahead of former Pro Bowlers like Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III.
While it should probably go without saying, Hoyer also performed better than the other Browns quarterbacks to take the field last season.
|Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in 2013|
|TD||INT||Comp %||Passer Rating||W-L|
The real question, of course, is which quarterback gives the Browns the best chance to win games this season.
Hoyer has the advantage in terms of size (6'2" vs. 6'0" for Manziel) and experience. However, Manziel brings an impressive collegiate resume to the table and the hype of being a first-round selection.
According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Manziel's skill set makes him a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense. Yet Manziel's inexperience means that he may not be ready to live up to expectations right out of the gate.
With little recent success from the quarterback position, however, Browns fans are used to living off of expectations. If he were competing against any other quarterback than Hoyer, the fan pressure to start Manziel as a rookie might be too great for Cleveland's decision-makers to ignore.
Even with the intriguing rookie looking over his shoulder, Hoyer is likely to maintain the support of many fans because he is a hometown kid (he was a high school star at St. Ignatius) who truly understands what football success would mean to the city of Cleveland.
Hoyer said earlier this offseason, via NewsNet5.com:
I knew, even going back to last summer, that this was the place that I wanted to be, and it ended up working out and I got back here, and then I got a chance to play. This is my hometown. This is where my family's from. This is where I want to make a difference.
If you have ever talked to a Cleveland football fan, you probably have a good idea of just how passionate Browns fans are. Put that passion into the mind of an NFL quarterback, and you probably get an idea of what drives Hoyer to want to be great.
Is Hoyer driven enough, and talented enough, to keep Johnny Football on the back burner for the 2014 season? We will likely get an answer in the coming weeks as training camp and the preseason unfold.
The Browns moved up in the draft to take Manziel because he knows how to win. Writing off Hoyer at this point in the offseason would be unwise because he knows how much work it takes to win in Cleveland.