Quarterback competitions are fun for fans and interesting fodder for media. They create storylines and tend to deflect attention away from the other problems that plague the team. For the Cleveland Browns, it was also extremely unimpressive.
Brian Hoyer won the starting job because, well, Johnny Manziel just wasn’t ready to take the job. Hoyer’s numbers show a guy who backed into the job and will now have to prove that he is closer to the 2013 version than the 2014 preseason edition.
Taking a look at his game-by-game numbers you can see that not only was Hoyer unimpressive, he also was ineffective.
NFL.com Box Scores
The most troubling part of his performances this preseason is the completion percentage. A starting quarterback who only completes 55 percent of his passes cannot survive in the league. In 2013, that percentage would put him in the same company as Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum and Geno Smith.
In other words, that would have him ranked at the bottom of the NFL. Comparatively speaking, Hoyer completed 60 percent of his passes last season and was much more efficient with the football.
I bet Kenny Hill could beat out Brian Hoyer right now.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) August 28, 2014
So what was the issue with Hoyer this preseason?
Most likely it is a combination of a few things. First, Hoyer is recovering from a torn ACL. That is the same injury which Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III rushed back from and struggled with all last season. It is also the same injury that changed the course of Carson Palmer’s career.
Palmer has had three seasons of at least 20 interceptions since the injury. Griffin III had a fantastic rookie campaign until he tore his ACL. He then seemed to rush back too quickly and had a miserable 2013 season.
He threw 20 touchdowns, five interceptions and won nine games his rookie year. After coming back from the injury he threw 16 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and won just three games. The Browns have to be seriously concerned that their starting quarterback could follow the same path.
Another issue with Hoyer this preseason has been the fact he is learning a new offensive system. This is difficult for any player no matter if he is a second-year guy or a six-year veteran. It should be a little easier for Brian since he has played for three different teams (four if you include his preseason time with Pittsburgh), and each of those came with a new system to learn.
Those are not the only things that have plagued Hoyer, however.
His preseason has been riddled with shaky mechanics, poor vision and questionable decision-making. Those are the things that the Browns thought they would not have to deal with if Hoyer was the starter. Those are the qualities of a rookie quarterback learning the speed of the NFL, not the guy who almost saved the Browns’ season in a little more than two games last year.
While there was also some quality quarterback play from Hoyer this preseason, it was few and far between. The Browns need him to shore up his play and do it fast—otherwise the beginning of their season could be very tough.
Let’s take a look at some examples from this preseason.
Here is a perfect example of Hoyer rushing a pass and losing the solid mechanics that has given him a very successful career as a backup. This play was against the Bears in the preseason finale last Thursday.
Remember, this play is against the Bears’ backups. The Browns are within striking distance of the end zone and will be running patterns to try to score a touchdown.
Hoyer rolls out to his left and will need to stop and turn his body to deliver a quality pass. Downfield he has tight end Jordan Cameron open and crossing toward the front corner of the end zone. Despite the fact that he has no pressure, a blocker and plenty of time, Hoyer rushes the throw and tosses off of his back foot.
Because he did not square before delivering the football, the pass sails out of bounds, giving Cameron zero chance to make the catch.
This play was against the St. Louis Rams in what was supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the starting offense. Unfortunately, it was a disaster, and this was the worst part of Hoyer’s performance.
On first down and with the offense about to cross midfield, Hoyer completely misreads the defense. As he snaps the ball, both Rams linebackers drop back into a zone in the middle of the field. Hoyer, who is facing zero pressure and has plenty of time to deliver the football, tries to force the ball to his crossing route.
Somehow, he did not see Alec Ogletree and threw the ball directly to him. It was the type of poor decision you do not expect from a veteran of the NFL.
The one thing that has been very consistent throughout Hoyer’s career is that he will not put the ball in harm’s way. He may be a little too cautions at times, but he always seems to take the yards and live to play another day. Here is an example of Hoyer trying to do a little too much this preseason.
Against the Lions in the preseason opener, he had the offense in the red zone and on the verge of scoring. This was the 3rd-and-goal play which froze the drive in its tracks.
Hoyer has running back Terrance West open on a crossing route with no defender in front of him. Instead of taking the safe route, which would put his player in a position to make a play, he tried to do it all himself.
Hoyer opted to force a ball to wide receiver Josh Gordon in the back of the end zone. The coverage was tight, and it would have had to be a perfect throw and difficult catch to put six points on the board. For once Hoyer did not take the safe play, and the offense had to settle for three points.
Just because Hoyer struggled in the preseason does not mean he cannot turn things around when the games count. Looking back at last season, Hoyer struggled mightily during training camp and the preseason and was able to make things happen for the team during the regular season.
His track record from last season is the main reason for optimism this year. Hopefully he can turn it around sooner rather than later because the Browns cannot afford to have another rough start to a season. If they do, it could be another four-win season in the cards for the Browns.