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Johnny Manziel Replaces Brian Hoyer as Browns' Starting QB

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 9, 2014

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The Cleveland Browns have named quarterback Johnny Manziel the starter over Brian Hoyer, who had been slumping after a hot start to begin the season.

Hoyer played an instrumental role in taking the Browns from an NFL bottom feeder to a playoff contender during the first half of this season. However, the Browns have lost three of their last four games to fall back in the playoff race. Hoyer threw eight interceptions and just one touchdown during that span, prompting head coach Mike Pettine and the Browns to make a change now. 

The Browns selected Manziel in the first round of the 2014 draft and expectations are high for the outspoken rookie quarterback. Despite their recent struggles, the 7-6 Browns remain well within striking distance of the 8-4-1 Bengals and Manziel will have an opportunity to make a late push to save the team's season.

Continue for Updates.


Browns Quarterbacks Informed Manziel Named Starter

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Fox Sports' Jay Glazer provides an update on the Browns' quarterback situation:

Jay Glazer @JayGlazer

Breaking: Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer have been informed that Manziel will in fact be the starter this week. #Scoopage

The Browns would later confirm the news.

ESPN Stats & Info adds an interesting note about the change:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Manziel to become Browns’ 21st starting QB since team’s return to NFL in 1999. Of previous 20, only Brian Hoyer (10-6) has winning record


Manziel, Pettine, Hoyer Comment on Decision

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Manziel talked about how he has prepared for this moment all season long via the Browns' official website:

I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that Coach Pettine and the coaching staff have given me to be the starter on Sunday. I’ve tried to spend my entire season learning what it takes to become a pro and it’s been great to watch Brian because he knows what it takes. I’ve prepared every week to be ready to help the team however possible and my focus has been on improving every day.  I’m very excited to get out on the field with my teammates on Sunday and to have the opportunity to make the Dawg Pound proud.

Coach Mike Pettine also commented on the decision:

This decision is really not about Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, it is about the Cleveland Browns. We are always going to make decisions that we feel are in the best interest of the team. Brian has done everything that has been asked of him and he has done so as a true professional. It’s never just any one position when a unit is not functioning at the level you’d like. We are trying to get the offense to perform at a higher level. Johnny has worked very hard to earn this opportunity and it will be very important for every member of the offense to elevate their play for us to obtain our desired result.

Hoyer briefly spoke about today's news: "Although I am disappointed by coach’s decision, I respect him and his choice and will be there to support Johnny. As always, I will do whatever I can to help this team win."


Manziel Reportedly Overtaking Hoyer as Starter

Monday, Dec. 8

It appeared Brian Hoyer would stop the Johnny "Football" Manziel hype train that defined the Cleveland Browns' eventful draft when he had the team in playoff contention through the first half of the season.

Now, after 13 starts for Hoyer this year, the keys to Cleveland's offense have been handed to Manziel. The rookie first-round pick has brought about as much excitement to the organization as we've seen since it re-entered the league in 1999, and now Manziel has his shot to prove himself on the field in live action.

The NFL on ESPN Twitter account cites a Chris Mortensen report on the landmark development, as the Browns and their fans hope Manziel is the long-awaited, long-term answer at the most important position:

NFL on ESPN @ESPNNFL

The Browns are likely starting Johnny Manziel on Sunday against Cincinnati -> http://t.co/nmzKZxWkQd http://t.co/gZp6q4Z4hN

Manziel replaced Hoyer in Week 13's game against the Buffalo Bills, and he promptly succeeded after Hoyer managed just three points, per ClevelandBrowns.com's Kevin Jones:

Kevin Jones @Mr_KevinJones

Manziel's first ever NFL drive: 8 plays, 80 yards, 3 mins 14 seconds. Manziel: 3/4, 54 yards in the air, 2 carries 13 yards.

The hometown Hoyer fended off Manziel in an intense training-camp battle, won his dream quarterback job and even led Cleveland to seven wins in its first 11 games.

However, Hoyer had begun to play himself into a backup role over the past month, capped by a frustrating 25-24 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14. Despite the Browns generating four takeaways and scoring twice on defense, Hoyer and his offense sputtered throughout the game.

Mike Greenberg of ESPN felt change was in order after Hoyer went 14-of-31 passing for 140 yards and two interceptions:

Mike Greenberg @Espngreeny

#Browns did right thing going with Hoyer today. But they'd be wrong next week. Time for Johnny.

NFL.com's Gil Brandt noted how rare it would have been for Manziel not to get the starting nod in his maiden season:

Gil Brandt @Gil_Brandt

Manziel could become just 10th 1st-round QB in last 25 yrs to not start game as rookie. 3 are current starters: > Rodgers > Rivers > Palmer

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com logged what Browns general manager Ray Farmer had to say about Manziel's future before Week 10's AFC North showdown with Cincinnati:

I want Johnny to play when Johnny's ready to play, and we're comfortable with where we're at and how we want to play him and what the total organization looks like around him...The result is for him to be successful for a long period of time and not just for a moment or for a flash, but for an extended period of time. We're going to put together the right group, and we're going to make sure everything is in place. He's going to be ready, and we're going to be ready when he does get that opportunity.

It's been mostly uphill for Hoyer to keep his spot under center. Narratives have shifted quickly from whether Hoyer, a free agent following the season, was worth a contract extension, to eager, sudden anticipation for the Manziel era to begin.

Between the six consecutive double-digit-loss seasons preceding 2014 and the immense popularity Manziel has enjoyed since winning the Heisman Trophy as a Texas A&M freshman, Hoyer had little hope of holding on as it was.

Manziel adds elements of mobility and improvisation that Hoyer simply doesn't bring to the table. With that may come rookie mistakes, but Manziel at least has the benefit of learning from play-caller Kyle Shanahan, who helped dual-threat Washington QB Robert Griffin III thrive as a rookie in 2012.

The Browns offense leans on Shanahan's trademark zone-blocking rushing attack, which features two capable rookie ball-carriers in Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Now, a new twist in the form of the read-option can be deployed with Manziel in the lineup.

Combine that with the return of Josh Gordon, and the circumstances may be ripe for Manziel to make a big splash early before opposing defenses catch up with his game tape. Whether it's enough to keep Cleveland competitive in the short term is uncertain, as the loss to Indy almost certainly ensures the Browns won't make the postseason.

What is true, however, is that the Browns committed to Manziel as the future by drafting him No. 22 overall.

The prior plan to let him sit and learn has been aborted, but Manziel may be getting the best of both worlds, having gone through weeks of preparation and Sunday mental reps before taking the reins in his starting debut.

No matter what happens with Manziel at the offensive controls, the Browns will be as fascinating to watch as they've been in recent memory, if not a raging success for the remainder of the season.

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