Quarterbacking in Cleveland?
As this year's mid-season surprise team, the Cleveland Browns[with a 6-3 record] are tied for the 3rd best winning percentage in the AFC. Impressive to say the least, but how has team emerged from years of laughable play. Defense has not been a problem in recent seasons, but inconsistency from the quarterback position has been a glaring fault...Well not this year. Former Tom Brady backup, Brian Hoyer has been facilitating for his team and they just keep on winning. Didn't the Browns draft a quarterback in the first round this year? Oh, that's right “Johnny Football,” the former Heisman trophy winner, O'Brien award winner, player of the year, all-American, and the Cleveland Browns' 22nd pick in the draft has been watching from the sidelines all season. A brow raiser indeed-so what does the future hold for Mr. Football?
What has Hoyer done? Honestly, not much. Cleveland is 30th in completion percentage, that's not good considering that more than half of the league throws the ball more than them; 23rd in passing touchdowns and 17th in passing yards per game, right behind Tony Romo, who Hoyer has something in common with this season...the run game. We all know how brilliant Demarco Murray has been for Dallas, but Cleveland is 10th in rushing yards and 1st in rushing touchdowns, none of which coming from Hoyer. The running game has carried this offense despite Hoyer's pedestrian numbers. The O-Line has been no slouch either with the rushing production and allowing the 5th least sacks in the league. We could attribute Hoyer's low numbers to the lack of weapons. Jordan Cameron, Andrew Hawkins, and Josh Gordon, Hoyer's top three targets, have all missed several games, but they should be back on the field soon. So, we will see if aerial production picks up in Cleveland.
That Browns defense has been no slouch this season with two players with top five interception numbers on the year in Tashaun Gipson(6) and Buster Skrine(4). Only 20th in yards allowed per game, but 6th in points per game, people have simply had a hard time scoring on this team. Also, 3rd down percentage with the 8th most attempts, they get teams off the field with the talent they have. Joe Haden is arguably one of this best cornerbacks in the league, he forces opponents to throw to the other side to Buster Skrine who's 5th in passes defensed and 5th in inerceptions. Donte Whitner is 6th among defensive backs in tackles, he's been great run support and alongside him, Tashaun Gipson is leading the league in interceptions. Up front, Paul Kruger is 14th in sacks and Karlos Dansby is among the top 20 in tackles, Desmond Bryant is a man, he's got three sacks, and the youg Barkevious Mingo has shown that he can play. This defense is solid all-around.
Despite the lack of statistical production, Hoyer has not been bad. Something Hoyer HAS done well is protect the ball. He has thrown only four interceptions, tha's less than Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, and Ben Roethlisberger, five names that are having very successful seasons. Hoyer has also led this Browns team to being 3rd in turnover diffrential. Hoyer and the Browns have the third least fumbles in the league. And, being a Cleveland native, Hoyer has the full support of Cleveland fans who have dubbed him “Hoyer the Destroyer.”
Having said all of that, the question that's still there is do the Browns let Manziel go? This situation is similar to the 2005 Packers drafting of Aaron Rodgers who played the backup role to Brett Favre for three years. Of course, Hoyer is 29 years old and Brett Favre was 36 at the time, but I believe that this situation can be handled similarly. Obviously Manziel is not Aaron Rodgers, who is arguably the best quarterback in the league, the situation he is in is similar because he is more talented then the current starter and there are question marks about how long the starter can keep their team in contention playing the way that they do. Regardless of what has been said about Manziel, the kid can play, he is a prime example of a gunslinger, he has succeeded on all levels till now and I believe he will continue to do that against the odds. Hoyer has not been impressive and Manziel was drafted for a reason, not to hold a clipboard forever.
D.K. Spikes II