I have stood by Brian Hoyer all year long. Even as his play has become highly erratic, I still felt like he should remain the starter for two major reasons. First, he had played well enough to get the Browns into playoff contention for the first time in years. Despite his multiple poor performances, he was the leader of this team and we had seen him play well. Secondly, we had no idea what to expect from Johnny Manziel. Putting a rookie in at such a crucial point in the season is extremely precarious. He could come on and hurt the team’s playoff chances with his inexperience or even worse, it could potentially stunt his own growth if he were to struggle. The start to Manziel’s career would have come at the start of next season, not during highly significant games in December.
If Mike Pettine planned on sticking with Hoyer, then he never should have even put Manziel in a game. What did it accomplish, really? How valuable was the evaluation they drew from the two drives Manziel played? It may have given Johnny a confidence boost and probably applied some pressure to Hoyer. However, that confidence gained is irrelevant if Pettine isn’t at least primed to play him again. Just as any pressure applied to Hoyer is completely counter productive if he wasn’t willing to pull him if he failed. All it did was make Hoyer second guess his decisions and play tight. The result was an atrocious performance that rendered Hoyer incapable of moving the offense at all. Pettine had to be prepared for this outcome and willing to make a change, otherwise it was all for naught. He wasn’t and it cost the Browns the biggest game of the season. So what was accomplished by stirring up controversy with his move to Manziel the week prior? Nothing, it only could have hurt the team. The only way that move serves any purpose is if Manziel became an option for him, which clearly was not the case.
Coach Pettine was asked in his post-game presser if he considered making the change to Manziel during today’s gut wrenching 25-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Pettine responded by saying, “No, I did not. Did not consider a change during the game.” Why not? The offense was anemic all day long and Hoyer was awful. As bad as he has looked in the past few games he still had moments in which he was effective in driving the ball down the field in the passing game. He was completely inept today, throwing off his heels without any decisiveness. He missed multiple opportunities to give the Browns a commanding lead. It was evident after the first few possessions that he was not going to be able to get it going. So as the Head Coach, you have to make the change. By not recognizing the blatant incompetence of Hoyer today and changing to Manziel, he made the last week of chaos a pointless exercise. The controversy already exists, you have already wavered on Hoyer so it does your team no harm to run the kid out there. Especially, when it would have been prohibitive for the rookie to be any worse than Hoyer was. Things could have only improved with Manziel in the game. The worst part is that with the defense’s prodigious performance, it would not have taken much to have won the game. Just a couple of average throws from the Browns quarterback and they would be 8-5. Pettine has been good for Browns football but in the last two weeks, he has dreadfully mismanaged his quarterback situation. So badly, that it may have cost them an attainable playoff birth.
By: Brad Ward
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