The Cleveland Browns have been linked with quarterbacks at the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, including in SB Nation's latest mock draft, but new head coach Mike Pettine indicated at his press conference Thursday that he believes the franchise can win with Brian Hoyer. Via Cleveland.com:
"I think he's a winner,'' said Pettine. "I think the intangibles with Brian are off the charts. I think he's a football junky and I think you can tell he loves the game. He came from a system where he learned from the best in the game and that showed on the field. A lot of people based on his background kind of fall asleep on him a little bit. I think he's a winning quarterback in this league.''
Pettine is very familiar with Hoyer, having studied his tape extensively in preparation to play the Browns last season as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. At that time, Hoyer was coming off two strong outings in place of an injured and ineffective Brandon Weeden. Hoyer went 25-for-38 passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns against a stout Cincinnati Bengals defense the week before playing the Bills.
Hoyer didn't last long against the Bills, throwing four passes before suffering a torn ACL and going on injured reserve. The Browns beat the Bills to improve to 3-2 on the season, all three wins coming on Hoyer's starts, and briefly look like a postseason contender before going on to win just one more game over the rest of the season.
Of course, the Browns may still be considering a quarterback with their first pick. Johnny Manziel, in particular, has been a popular name for Cleveland among draft prognosticators. Pettine was asked about Manziel directly, but balked at revealing his specific thoughts on the former Texas A&M star. Again, via Cleveland.com:
"I'm not taking him off the board,'' he said with a laugh. "But I'm definitely not saying it's been decided."
As for Hoyer, injury rehab is reportedly going well. He is preparing as if he will be the starting quarterback next season, and he hopes to take part in some of the Browns' offseason training activities. Hoyer gave Pettine his vote confidence following the hire.
"You listen to him talk, he talks about mental toughness, accountability, holding players to a high standard,'' said Hoyer. "Those are the little things that can make the difference in a close game. It's exciting to have a guy that comes in and talks about that."