A week ago, I penned a column where I enthusiastically shared my hope for the Cleveland Browns to emerge as the AFC North champions.
However, the team’s recent 26-10 defeat in Buffalo, coupled with the decision to replace quarterback Brian Hoyer with rookie Johnny Manziel during the fourth quarter, has left me feeling far less optimistic.
Despite Sunday’s loss, Cleveland hasn’t fallen completely out of contention for the division’s top position.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh also suffered defeats during the previous weekend, with all three teams now standing at 7-5, while Cincinnati, narrowly victorious over Tampa Bay with a score of 14-13, maintains a slight advantage at 8-3-1.
In light of these developments, let’s explore the arguments for both Hoyer and Manziel as potential starting quarterbacks for the Browns moving forward.
With a record of 10-5 as the starting quarterback, an achievement that’s undeniably impressive in the NFL, especially in the challenging landscape of Cleveland, Brian Hoyer has brought a sense of calm and confidence to the team.
Although his statistics may not be eye-popping (3,056 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 56 percent completion rate), Hoyer has managed to secure a few crucial fourth-quarter victories and consistently kept his team in the competition.
Given his upcoming free agency, it’s imperative for Cleveland to fully evaluate what they have in him before potentially parting ways.
Making a quarterback change at this stage in the season necessitates adjustments on offense, and the Browns can’t afford to cede any ground in their division.
Hoyer’s experience stands as a valuable asset to aid Cleveland’s playoff push. While Johnny Manziel may inject a jolt of energy into the offense, it doesn’t guarantee sustained success or eliminate the potential for new concerns.
A telling incident occurred during his second series last Sunday when Manziel mishandled a shotgun snap, ultimately leading to a bizarre play where the ball bounced off his hip and into the end zone, initially ruling a Bills’ touchdown before a replay review corrected the call.
This peculiar mishap raised questions, especially considering that most teams seldom use more than a double-leg lift for their silent cadence, casting doubt on whether Manziel had indeed called a silent 3.
For spread quarterbacks like Manziel, progressing through reads can be a challenge. When their primary option isn’t open, they often resort to running before reaching their secondary reads.
This tendency was apparent in Manziel’s preseason performance and was again highlighted last weekend. Outside of bootlegs and play-action passes, Manziel dropped back to pass only twice.
One instance concluded with a completion short of the first down, and the other resulted in a minimal gain from a scramble.
To establish himself as an effective NFL quarterback, Manziel must develop the ability to work through each read with confidence.
The most notable distinction between Manziel and Hoyer lies in their comprehension of the game. Hoyer exhibits an adept understanding, smoothly progressing through his reads, anticipating the unfolding action, and maintaining control on the field.
As he’s affectionately known, Johnny Football introduces a distinct set of skills to the quarterback position.
His remarkable athleticism poses challenges for opposing defenses, instantly injecting momentum into the game against the Bills as he concluded an 80-yard drive with a dazzling 10-yard touchdown run.
Defenses find themselves compelled to consider his capacity for running and his ability to elude pressure outside the pocket.
Despite his relatively diminutive stature, Manziel compensates with an unwavering self-assuredness that can be downright infectious.
His distinctive quality lies in his ignorance of limitations, which allows him to play with unbridled freedom and creativity.
In the realm of rookies, there’s often an element of risk-taking, as they’ve yet to accumulate the hard-earned lessons of the veterans.
While Brian Hoyer faced a slump in his recent performances, marked by five interceptions and no touchdowns over the past two games, the Browns could make a persuasive argument that the seasoned pro has reached the peak of his potential.
In contrast, Manziel’s extraordinary athletic prowess offers a tantalizing upside.
The necessity for pocket mobility has become increasingly apparent, especially following the loss of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, and Manziel’s knack for navigating challenges with his feet furnishes the Browns with a greater chance of success.
It’s worth noting that if Cleveland had full confidence in Hoyer as their long-term starter, they wouldn’t have drafted Manziel in the first place.
While starting Manziel may not guarantee immediate playoff contention this year, it is an essential building block for the franchise’s future.
The arguments for both candidates are robust, making the organizational decision formidable.
Coach Mike Pettine could opt to withhold his planned announcement until Wednesday to force the Indianapolis Colts to prepare for both possibilities.
However, given the substantial public interest in this matter, news of the decision is likely to seep out regardless.
Lastly, it’s important to acknowledge that once the Browns commit to Johnny Football as their starter, there’s no turning back.
It would be counterproductive to start him now, only to bench him later in the season. This is precisely why I advocate for Hoyer to take the reins this week.
He has demonstrated resilience in the face of challenges in the past, and I firmly believe he can do so again if given the opportunity.
Offer Hoyer one more chance, enabling him to showcase his skills alongside Josh Gordon, who has missed 10 games this season due to a suspension.
While Manziel remains under contract for the upcoming year, Hoyer’s future with the Browns is uncertain. It’s prudent to evaluate Hoyer’s potential before making any decisions about his departure.
Johnny Manziel’s time will undoubtedly come, and in the interim, affording him the opportunity to mature and learn can only serve to benefit both him and the Browns in the long run.