The Dawg Pound Debate: Johnny Cleveland or Brian Hoyer?

Bryan Hoyer

The question I would like to offer up to every Browns or NFL fan reading this piece, is do you think the Browns lack of top tier passers since returning to the NFL has allowed the fan base to view Hoyer at a higher level than he deserves? It’s a logic question, due to the fact that Cleveland hasn’t actually had a “franchise” quarterback since the team resurfaced in 1999. The fan base falls in love with every rookie quarterback, and is equally willing to give rookies at least three years to develop before writing them off, even if their performance after two years suggests the Browns would should go another direction.

Unfortunately, the latest curse plaguing this team has bled out to the point that a quarterback that led the Browns to a couple of victories last season is now being given the red carpet treatment by the same fan base. The fact remains that during those three games, Hoyer only averaged 203 yards a game, threw 5 TDs vs. 3 picks, completed fewer than 60% of his throws, and his longest toss during that span was a 47 yard pass to Josh Gordon. Amazing? Former Browns first rounder, and potential “franchise” quarterback Brandon Weeden hit Josh Gordon on a 95 yard strike last season. Food for thought.

No. I don’t base my reasoning for why Hoyer should start the 2014 season on the two wins the team had with him starting last season. To those in the fan base that say it was three wins, he went down very early in the third game due to his season ending ACL injury, he didn’t lead the offense down the field in that game.

No. I look at other factors as being far more cogent, such as learning under Tom Brady during his initial three years in the league. This type of leadership and mentoring should not be taken lightly, since Brady is a future Hall of Famer. Also, operating under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick certainly built a strong developmental characteristic around Boyer’s style.

Hoyer has taken in game snaps under center at the professional level, and once again, operating most of those snaps in New England prior to starting in Cleveland, which gives him an advantage over starting Manziel, who has operated only two years in a more schematic system at Texas A&M. Talent only goes so far, and while Hoyer is certainly talented, he has experience too, and that experience along with everything he learned during his time in New England gives him, in my opinion, a big advantage to start over Manziel.

Johnny Manziel

Yes. Who hasn’t fully felt the Johnny Football, er, Johnny Cleveland hype yet? The kid was huge during his two years as a starter at Texas A&M. He didn’t just talk the talk, but he walked the walk too. Well, this may make for a great show at the collegiate level, but the NFL is an entirely different beast, as Johnny Cleveland will soon find out.

That alone brings up my biggest concern with rushing him into the starting spot. Durability. The kid needs time in the gym to add some beef to his thin frame. He looked fast in college, but a 4.6 forty in the NFL isn’t that fast, and I dare say it’s not even average against most opposing defenses. The pace flows much faster in the NFL, and he is going to absorb his share of hard hits and with his current size, any of those could lay him up for an extended period of time.

Another problem is he needs time to better develop his game. In college, Manziel was allowed to operate at will and take off whenever it suited him, or soon as he felt the pressure closing in. Manziel will need to learn pocket mechanics, and moreover, he will need to learn to become more patient with the ball. Shanahan has learned from watching RG3 struggle through knee issues, enough to know that protecting Manziel is a major priority.

Manziel’s speed is certainly an advantage the Browns can capitalize on, in terms of avoiding pressure and escaping an over aggressive pass rush. But they will not want him looking to dart downfield to the degree he did at Texas A&M. They will want him to escape the rush, but to also to use his field vision, cannon arm, and excellent accuracy to locate and hit an open target down field, since opposing defenses will quickly react in response to the threat of him turning down field.

As of late, the top quarterbacks being drafted out of college have become a bit shorter in height and far more athletic than decades prior. However, in terms of an overall absolution, opposing defenses in the NFL have remained big and fast, which makes these athletic quarterbacks’ longevity in the NFL a concern unless they are better protected. Thus, allowing Manziel the 2014 season to learn while adding size would be the best case scenario for the future of the Cleveland Browns.

Overall, I’m very excited about eventually seeing Johnny Cleveland taking over, and likely becoming the first franchise quarterback the team has had since Bernie Kosar, or as such die hard fan like myself prefers, since Brian Sipe. But I’m not convinced that rushing him to start the season is in the best interests of the team next season. Hoyer has the leadership and experience, coupled with learning from a future Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the best coaching minds in the NFL. No, Hoyer’s two wins last season weren’t enough to win me over, but they were two impressive wins, and you don’t have to worry about him making any boneheaded rookie mistakes on the field. Anything short of Manziel having a very explosive preseason means Hoyer will be Cleveland’s starter next season.

You can find me on twitter @TheeSethJC

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