One of the hottest positional battles in the NFL came to an end Wednesday, and it sparked a great deal of debate among football fans and observers on social media.
BREAKING: Brian Hoyer to lead Browns, named starting quarterback. pic.twitter.com/EGKWJ5t2pZ— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 20, 2014
Who most deserved to be named the Browns' starting QB?
Head coach Mike Pettine ultimately decided that even though Manziel had outplayed Hoyer statistically in the first two preseason games, Hoyer was the better choice to start the regular season under center due to his experience, according to Vic Carucci of ClevelandBrowns.com.
Pettine said: "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."
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com isn't particularly satisfied with the evaluation process due to the lack of emphasis placed on game performance:
So Hoyer wins on job he's done in meeting rooms and his leadership. OK. Manziel didn't play well, but did Hoyer?— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) August 20, 2014
The common theme among media members seems to be that Hoyer is only a temporary answer until Manziel is prepared to step in, which is precisely what Ross Tucker of NBC Sports Network intimated:
Should say "Johnny not ready" MT: @Browns: BREAKING: Brian Hoyer named starting quarterback— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) August 20, 2014
Michael Giardi of CSNNE.com is glad to see Hoyer getting an opportunity regardless of how short-lived it might ultimately be:
Probably just keeping the seat warm but happy for BH RT @AdamSchefter: Brian Hoyer has been named the Cleveland Browns’ starting QB— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) August 20, 2014
Perhaps Hoyer has earned the respect of his teammates and established himself as a leader, but his performances in the preseason have left plenty to be desired. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk points out that not even poor production could knock Hoyer from his perch:
Brian Hoyer is 8-for-20 for 108 yards through two preseason games but Johnny Manziel couldn't beat him out.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) August 20, 2014
Since Pettine and Co. obviously took more under consideration than just preseason numbers, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com is of the belief that Manziel's sometimes immature antics worked against him:
Johnny Manziel started losing this job right after the draft when he partied his brains out. Continued losing it right through middle finger— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 20, 2014
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com also weighed in on Manziel's adjustment to the pro level:
Browns soon found how much of a learning curve a college spread QB like Manziel has. Play calls were tough. Snaps under center. Protections.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 20, 2014
The statistics suggest that Manziel is either already, or soon will be, a better option than Hoyer. Even so, ESPN's Andrew Brandt views Hoyer as the right choice for now:
As a first-round pick, Manziel will be (better be) the starter for the Browns at some point. Now, though, is not the time.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) August 20, 2014
With that said, naming a starter now ties Pettine's hands to some degree. The third preseason game is viewed as the dress rehearsal, and Tom Pelissero of USA Today envisions some potential backlash from the fans if Hoyer has another poor outing in that game:
If Hoyer is horrible again Saturday and Manziel lights it up in front of the home crowd, things may get a little awkward.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 20, 2014
Tucker doesn't believe it will be long before Manziel is the guy in Cleveland. In fact, he sees Manziel taking over in the Browns' fourth game of the regular season:
95% chance Johnny Manziel's first start at Tennessee on Oct. 5th after bye week— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) August 20, 2014
With Cleveland facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens prior to its Week 4 bye, NFL.com's Judy Battista agrees that Hoyer may be nothing more than a three-week stopgap:
Browns sked will help them: three tough games for Hoyer, then a bye. If they are going to make the switch to Manziel, natural time.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) August 20, 2014
Rotoworld's Evan Silva is on that bandwagon as well. He is of the belief that Hoyer will prove incapable of handling the starting job during the nightmarish start to Cleveland's 2014 slate:
Guess here all along has been that Hoyer starts first 3 games, shows he's an NFL backup, #Browns have Week 4 bye, and then it's Johnny time.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 20, 2014
More so than believing in Hoyer as the Browns starter, putting him in this position is quite possibly a means of protecting Manziel from some ferocious defenses early in the season. Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman feels as though that is an admirable approach by the Browns organization:
To me, the Browns going with Hoyer means org culture changing for the better. Old Browns would have thrown Manziel to wolves.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) August 20, 2014
I can also say with certainty majority of Browns locker room wanted Hoyer.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) August 20, 2014
Conversely, Bob Labriola of Steelers.com is adamant that Hoyer is the right choice to start the season since he gives the Browns a better chance to win than Manziel:
Mike Pettine's decision to start Brian Hoyer at QB vs @Steelers on Sept 7 gives his team best chance to win. I was hoping for Manziel— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) August 20, 2014
Going with the veteran over the more talented rookie is standard operating procedure for some teams, but Rotoworld's Adam Levitan doesn't believe it bodes particularly well for Johnny Football moving forward:
Johnny Manziel couldn't beat out a 28-year-old journeyman 10 months removed from an ACL tear. Not a good sign. http://t.co/sHXNk0W3Pg— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 20, 2014
With LeBron James back playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he and Manziel are viewed as the city's two sports icons. Now that Hoyer has won the starting job, however, Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer jokes that he has supplanted Manziel in terms of notoriety as well:
Brian Hoyer and LeBron James are the new power duo of Cleveland sports— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) August 20, 2014
When push came to shove, Pettine decided to take the safe route. Considering how difficult Cleveland's early season schedule looks on paper, it is difficult to blame him.
At the same time, Johnny Football has looked better than Hoyer on the field and may give the Browns a better chance to win from Week 1 onward. If Hoyer falters at any point, though, the Heisman Trophy winner will be waiting in the wings.
Eyebrows were going to be raised regardless of what Pettine did, but this decision gives him more flexibility early in the season, and it gives him the opportunity to make a change without much controversy.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.