A glorified game manager.

A bridge for Johnny Manziel.

A hometown hero.

A winner.

Say what you want, but Brian Hoyer is one mysterious quarterback.

Rewind to October 12th. The plans for a Hoyer statue outside of First Energy Stadium are in full swing as the hometown kid just led the Browns to a 31-10 walloping of the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. As usual, Hoyer’s stats were nothing to put in a frame: 8/17, 217 yards and a touchdown.

But it wasn’t the stat sheet that sent Cleveland into a frenzy. Hoyer took command of his team and did everything necessary to get his team a victory. That’s good enough for us, right?

Back to the present. After two more weeks of football, the general confidence in Hoyer’s play has definitely taken a hit.

In one of the more disappointing losses in recent memory, Brian Hoyer looked like the journeyman quarterback he has been built up (or down, rather) to be. The St. Ignatius graduate threw for a dreadful 16 of 41, 215 yards and, most importantly, no touchdowns. If anything, this game proves that Hoyer is simply not “elite” enough to carry the team when the guys around him are playing poorly. This probably does not come as much of a surprise to people, but it does shift more interest towards his backup, someone who is known to take over a game by himself. It is at least somewhat distressing that Hoyer could not get something done against the (then) 0-6 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Luckily for Hoyer and the Browns, they got a perfect chance to redeem themselves against a cupcake Oakland Raiders team that might actually be worse than the Jaguars. Of course, the Browns pulled out the 23-13 win, but it was not without some scary sights on the offensive side of the football. Sure, the running game is in a pretty significant slump right now and that alone hurts Hoyer’s production, but the blame for Hoyer’s subpar play cannot simply be laid at the feet of the running backs. His stats were not anything to march on Berea about (19/28, 275 yards, 1 TD), but it was the way the offense looked as a whole that causes concern. If it weren’t for a strong defensive performance the Hoyer-led Cleveland Browns could very well have lost that game.

An NFL quarterback must be able to carry the offense in times of need, and that is one area that Hoyer has not yet earned my trust. Sure, he plays well when the people around him are doing the same, but the Browns cannot put the future of their franchise in this man’s hands quite yet. For me to be completely sold with Hoyer as a legitimate NFL quarterback, I need to see him truly take charge of this team during a rough patch. Until he can prove that he is capable of shouldering the load of this offense on a regular basis, the Browns would be smart to keep those contract extension papers filed away for a later date.

Conveniently for him, Brian Hoyer has a great chance to bounce back. With today’s game against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hoyer can use this as an opportunity to figure some things out as well as gain some momentum heading into to Thursday night’s marquee divisional matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

What I am looking for from Hoyer in these next few games goes beyond the stat sheet. I need to see him play the role of a productive quarterback that can take charge of a struggling offense. As we have learned in recent weeks, the running game will not always be as strong as it previously appeared to be. There will always be injuries to worry about and people can blame a poor group of wide receivers any day.

It’s time to stop making excuses for Hoyer.

If he wants to be the quarterback of the future, he has to prove it to the team, coaches and fan base, and an off-day from the running backs is not going to be a viable excuse in that discussion. It’s time for Hoyer to take the next step.

Until then, the “game-manager” nicknames that are tagged to Brian Hoyer’s resume will not be far from the truth.

 

By Jay Cannon

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