Brian Hoyer gets one more week to prove himself, as the Browns announced the veteran will start under center over rookie Johnny Manziel. "We feel Hoyer gives us the best chance to win," head coach Mike Pettine said. Was this the right move for the team? Around The NFL's Conor Orr and Chris Wesseling debate the decision:
Conor Orr: From a football perspective, I fundamentally disagreed with the Johnny Manziel selection in the first place, which may be coloring my decision to agree with Mike Pettine here. Of course, Manziel has more raw talent and has a different skill set than Brian Hoyer, but if he was truly ready in terms of playbook knowledge and comfort with progressions, and if he was truly interested in eliminating some of the riskier on-field maneuvers that won't work outside of college, wouldn't this have been a simple decision? After seeing reports trickle in from Browns players hinting that the call was a "no brainer," I've heard all I needed to in terms of the why.
Chris Wesseling: That last point is the best one. The Browns have a 10 percent chance to make the playoffs, per Football Outsiders. There's no part of me that believes their season will extend into January, but I'm not in the locker room. Mike Pettine doesn't have to deal with my reaction. He does have to convince his players that the final four games are meaningful.
Orr: Which is why I don't think there's any harm in waiting another week to make this call. Like the Jets found out this year, you can bench the rookie but you cannot go back. I think the Browns are nuts if they don't get Manziel some significant field time this season, but I don't think there's any harm in seeing if the decision emotionally galvanizes the Browns' locker room -- and Hoyer -- into playing lights-out against Indianapolis and scoring an upset. That would at least keep your razor-thin playoff hopes alive for another week and give the fans something to grab on to.
Hoyer's early-season success was propped up by Kyle Shanahan's play-action/boot-action scheme that led to receivers roaming free throughout opposing secondaries. Defenses have adjusted of late, though, showing less respect for an inconsistent Browns' ground attack. Hoyer has a strong argument as the NFL's least effective quarterback over the past month, completing less than 56 percent of his passes with six interceptions and just one touchdown.
Manziel's running ability could be just the threat Shanahan needs to start stressing defenses again.
Orr: I love the thought of what Shanahan might be able to do. And you're right, maybe the spark would truly come from transforming the Browns' offense a bit. But I feel like Pettine polled way more than his general manager and coaching staff before making this call. If the vets really rallied around Manziel, this wouldn't be a question. I think you can get just as much of a spark leaning on Hoyer, who now knows that his last legitimate chance of being viewed as an everyday NFL starter is on Sunday.