Hoyer beats injury, Manziel to win Browns starting quarterback job
Berea, Ohio • Brian Hoyer defied long odds — and stiff-armed Johnny Football — to keep his dream job.
Through sweat and tears, he fought his way back from a serious knee injury only to be faced with the Browns drafting Johnny Manziel, college football’s dynamic quarterback with the cult-like following.
Hoyer, though, persevered. He endured grueling rehab to get back on the field sooner than expected, stayed focused as Manzielmania consumed the Browns, and ignored trade rumors. It will be Hoyer who will lead the Browns, his hometown team, onto the field for the Sept. 7 opener against the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers.
For a Cleveland kid cut by three NFL teams and waiting for his chance, it doesn’t get any better.
"Obviously it’s very special for me," Hoyer said. "Did I believe this could happen after I got hurt? There was no doubt in my mind, but there were days when rehab [stunk] and I hated what I was doing. It’s amazing how you appreciate the game when it’s taken away from you."
Needing to fix his offense quickly, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine chose Hoyer as his starter Wednesday over Manziel, who wasn’t able to do enough during training camp or two preseason games to convince Cleveland’s coaching staff he deserved the job.
Manziel is 0-1 as a pro.
"It’s obviously disappointing," Manziel said. "I feel like if I would have come out and played better it would have been a different outcome. I don’t think I played terrible, but I didn’t do anything to jump off the page. I made strides and got better throughout training camp, and that’s what I wanted to do."
Despite a 40 percent completion percentage, 57.9 rating and seeming to buckle under the pressure this month, Hoyer will start the season. However, in Cleveland that usually only guarantees one game. After all, the Browns have had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. Hoyer is the 12th QB to start the opener, a damning indictment toward a franchise that only has made the playoffs once in its expansion era.
The first major decision of Pettine’s coaching career wasn’t easy. He chose Hoyer’s experience over Manziel’s potential and he may have to make another switch. Pettine knows the best plans can change in an instant.
"Give me a crystal ball, and I’ll tell you," he said when asked if Manziel will play this season. "The NFL season is so long, so much can happen. We don’t want Brian looking over his shoulder thinking one bad throw and I’m out. But over time, if you feel you have to make a change, time will only tell.
"You could foresee a scenario where he doesn’t play this year and there are other scenarios that are absolutely possible as well. It’s hard to tell."
Pettine brushed aside the notion Hoyer is on a short leash.
"This is Brian’s job," he said. "I never think of it whether it’s a leash or we want a guy to be a game manager. We want him to be confident and go out and play."