Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hoyer Is The Starter, Not Manziel ... Okay?

Here's a thought — if you added Tim Tebow to the current Cleveland Browns quarterbacking mix who would you pick as the starter: Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, or Tebow?

Because the three have impressed few, you might defer to the most famous player. This would at least be in keeping with the adopted process of several NFL general managers in such a scenario. The potential to be an icon often outweighs the promise of accurate passing, after all.

Browns coach Mike Pettine recently said that he wants his players running scared a little bit, presumably to instil the idea that nobody’s job is safe. He called pro football a performance based business, which it obviously is and hardly needs spelling out. I’m certain the players don't need to hear it phrased like this either. It’s hardly motivating or inspiring to have your coach say you need to perform or you’re out on your keister. I mean come on, nobody's lifting their game with the skipper breathing stale coffee vapors down their neck. Consider the plunging fortunes of Matt Schaub.

Given Pettine’s approach, it’s easy to see why maybe his quarterbacks are struggling, Manziel included. Tentatively announced starter Hoyer isn’t exactly being touted as the team’s leader, which is clearly what’s needed here. But Pettine won't be that emphatic because the Browns want to sell Manziel t-shirts, which is why he's also hedging about a two-quarterback system.

Then there's the issue that Hoyer hasn't exactly lit the preseason up, and by contrast has actually kept the offense in a shadowy lull. But hey, it’s the preseason, folks. Even Eugene Tackleberry wasn’t the cop he later became until he completed basic training. It took a leader like Commandant Lassard to know he'd have many, many opportunities to thrive.

The point is the whole situation reminds me of when former Browns QB Bernie Kosar was undermined by Bill Belichick. At least Kosar had the benefit of being a Browns legend, throwing for 3,000 yards four times with the club. Hoyer’s doing it uphill. He's thrown more worrying glances than he has yards to this point. And still, he deserves a genuine shot, not a half-hearted vote of confidence.

Well despite all this, everybody’s mostly worried about Johnny Football. Is he ready for the big time? they ask. Is he mature enough? Can he flip it down field as well as he flips the bird? As you've likely guessed, I’m more interested in Brian Football right now. Sure, he doesn’t come with as much hype, nor does he stir TV’s talking heads into verbal diarrhea the way Manziel does. But he could be a very good quarterback in time. While Manziel was off betting on himself in Vegas this summer, or twerking with Bieber, or whatever he does in his spare time, Hoyer went about his business, studying the playbook, taking reps and signing footballs, ‘Browns starter.’

Okay, I made the last bit up. But he may as well have because anyone who cares about Cleveland football knew in their heart of hearts that Manziel wouldn’t be ready for week one. Except him. Presumably he felt his talents would win him the starting gig, not realizing that athleticism doesn’t help you read a defense, or learn a playbook, or act like a pro. College educations just aren’t what they used to be.

So you see, this is mostly about Hoyer, who gets buried in Browns media coverage like Bruce at a Kardashian pool party. It’s no fun being the smartresponsible, flat-reared one is it? Hoyer could throw six of seven balls in his next game and there’d still be those clamouring for Manziel to go in. Yes, this is the nature of pro football, especially in our age of short attention spans. Nothing helps a raw talent like Johnny Manziel to be perceived as more important than he is than passing glances, and that’s exactly how many people follow the NFL nowadays. Those who really watch the game, however, know it takes more than bravado to play behind center.

Let’s not dismiss the focus and poise it’ll take Hoyer to keep his starting job and applaud his injury comeback. This Cleveland gig isn't exactly his to lose but Manziel’s to win really, and that’s possibly the worst case scenario for any quarterback. If the Browns succeed, Hoyer will be spared. If they fail, he’ll be the obvious scapegoat, hung out to dry by media hounds and an increasingly impatient fan base. 

You know Manziel will step in at some point because like Tebow before him, the public inertia is too great. Not even Ricky Vaughn rose to stardom this quickly folks.

Burn on big river, burn on.

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