In an effort to try and spark his team’s offense, Browns head coach Mike Pettine pulled starting quarterback Brian Hoyer in favor of star rookie Johnny Manziel. Unfortunately, that effort came up short as the Browns fell 26-10 to the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday.
In addition to a disappointing loss, a newfound quarterback controversy has been stirred up between Hoyer and Manziel. Is Hoyer’s time as the starting quarterback at an end in Cleveland? Is it time to see if “Johnny Football” has what it takes to make it in the pros?
Hoyer vs. Manziel
As I pointed out last week, Hoyer’s recent performance has raised some red flags and cast doubts on his future as the Browns’ starting quarterback. He has not thrown a touchdown pass in three weeks and has only thrown three in his last five games versus eight interceptions in that span, including two on Sunday. It’s becoming glaringly apparent that Hoyer’s positive production is no longer outweighing the negative.
That doesn’t take away from Hoyer’s accomplishments to this point. He has stepped up for a team in a time of uncertainty and helped establish a new, winning culture. Under the guidance of Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Hoyer has also helped put an offensive system in place and turn a seemingly ragtag group of rookie and veteran receivers (minus Josh Gordon) into a sound corps that has only gotten stronger since Gordon’s return.
The problem, unfortunately, arises with Gordon’s return and the revival of the deep-pass game, which has proven to be Hoyer’s biggest weak spot. Without that arm strength, Hoyer’s game becomes more one-dimensional as he also has limited mobility.
That’s where Manziel comes in. While he only orchestrated a couple of drives at the end of Sunday’s game, he was 5-for-8 throwing the ball for 63 yards while also running for 13 yards and a touchdown on two carries. His multidimensional formula of attack may now fit in better with the offensive system now established and some NFL experience both on the field and on the sidelines under his belt.
Pettine and the Browns are making their decision at quarterback on a week-by-week basis, but now that the switch has been made, it’s hard to see them reversing it.
Injuries continue to pile up for the Browns as they lost three more key players on Sunday in center Nick McDonald, tight end Gary Barnidge and wide receiver Miles Austin. Fortunately, McDonald’s ailment was temporary and was cleared to resume football activity following the game. The other two weren’t so lucky.
Barnidge left the game in the first half after suffering a rib injury and was listed as questionable for the remainder of the game. Miles Austin was rushed to a hospital after the game and remains there for precautionary reasons due to a kidney injury. Both injuries were regarded as serious by Mike Pettine in his postgame press conference.
The Browns depth chart has become noticeably thin as second string and even third string players have been called upon to fill roles vacated due to battered starters. With the wounded continuing to accumulate, one begins to wonder if this is all just a coincidence or if something is wrong with the training or conditioning programs in place under the new regime.
Football is a brutal game and certainly susceptible to those who partake getting hurt, but I don’t recall seeing this kind of misfortune on any single team in any single season.
Up Next: Browns (7-5) vs. Colts (8-4) @ FirstEnergy Stadium. Kickoff at 1:00 pm ET (Sunday).