The Johnny Football era in Cleveland will have to wait.
On Wednesday, Browns head coach Mike Pettine named Brian Hoyer his starting quarterback for Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the veteran was able to stave off Manziel throughout the preseason.
Vic Carucci of Browns.com reported the news:
Brian Hoyer has been named the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback, coach Mike Pettine announced this morning. ...
... Ultimately, Hoyer’s biggest advantages are that he has played in the NFL for five years and the leadership qualities he has displayed.
Pettine added, per Carucci:
He was the clear leader from the beginning. We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room. ...
... I think Brian’s been very poised. I think he’s handled the situation well. He’s had a lot of things going on. ...
... I think a lot of people discount that [ACL injury from Oct. 3]. Here’s a guy coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Really, these are his first, essentially, 20-25 plays of live work back from it, and he’s only going to get better.
Hoyer also commented on the news with Jim Corbett of USA Today:
The announcement was mostly expected.
Hoyer was publicly declared the starter multiple times by the organization (albeit with caveats) and had seen his first-team snaps increase as camp progressed. While the pair's stats weren't overly different in the preseason, the team has decided to trust the early season to the veteran signal-caller.
Hoyer came into camp with an advantage for purposes of skill and narrative. He gave the Browns their first look at competent quarterback play in years last season, throwing for 615 yards and five touchdowns against three interceptions in three appearances (all wins). An ACL tear in Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills prevented Hoyer from solidifying his grip on the job.
The Browns then selected Manziel with the No. 22 pick in May's NFL draft, putting what seemed to be a ticking clock over Hoyer's head. Manziel became the first freshman Heisman Trophy winner in history and was one of the most electric college football players in recent memory in his two years at Texas A&M.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today notes that if Hoyer doesn't outplay Manziel in the final two preseason games, things could get interesting for Cleveland:
Because of his national fame, the 21-year-old entered camp with off-the-chart expectations. He led the NFL in jersey sales from April 1 to July 17 on NFLShop.com, the media flocked to Northeast Ohio to see him practice and even agnostic football fans took an interest in his progress.
The Cleveland coaching staff attempted to quell the hype all summer, in part by propping up Hoyer. Pettine began telling reporters early in the process that Hoyer was at the top of his depth chart, and even owner Jimmy Haslam threw some shade at Manziel while hyping up the veteran.
"We were very frank with him that 'You're the backup quarterback. This is a hardworking, blue-collar town. This isn't Hollywood,'" Haslam told reporters. "We want you to come in here, work hard and work as hard as anybody on the team. He's not the starter. Brian Hoyer is our starting quarterback. Johnny is the backup."
Although little has changed in terms of the long-term planning, Hoyer acquitted himself well enough to hold the lead going into the season. His veteran status paid dividends when it came to understanding the playbook and commanding the huddle with his understanding of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense.
"I think at this point, right now, it's more Johnny versus the playbook than it is versus Brian," Pettine told reporters coming into camp. "I think he's got to make sure that continues. He's well along the path, but that needs to continue. That's a big part for him, to be able to know the play, execute the play, start the right guy in motion at the right time."
Manziel has, for his part, done everything he can to help himself win the job. The splashy headlines featuring Manziel's name were kept to a minimum, his weekend conquests were largely nonexistent and he became a part of the football team rather than the entire narrative.
After an eventful summer in which his face was coming up on tabloid magazines and across social media, it was a pleasant reprieve for all involved, even with his middle-finger gesture versus Washington.
And Manziel's efforts are far from over.
The question is not "if" Hoyer will be overtaken but "when." Manziel is still the future. Pettine won't have many qualms about having a short leash with a 28-year-old career backup who was brought in by a previous regime.
The Browns have a Week 4 bye. It's safe to say those first three games will be critical in determining Hoyer's grip on the starting gig.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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