The Cleveland Browns have named Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback for the season opener, relegating Johnny Manziel to the bench. The Browns stuck to their timetable by naming a starter before the third game of the preseason, despite a Monday Night Football game against Washington in which neither quarterback separated himself from the other.
Hoyer went just 2-for-6 for 16 yards during his outing. Manziel was a mildly more successful 7-for-16 for 65 yards and a touchdown, though he was give more series and scored in the fourth quarter when Washington had largely substituted backups into the defense.
Across both games, the numbers are even muddier. Hoyer was 8-for-20 for 108 yards overall, while Manziel finished 14-for-27 for 128 yards and the aforementioned score. Manziel arguably stands out as the better quarterback by those simple metrics, but Browns fans seemingly agree with head coach Mike Pettine and Cleveland's brain trust that the veteran should handle the reigns for now. Via Dawgs by Nature:
The Browns tabbed Hoyer as the favorite to win the starting job just after Manziel was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Though Hoyer's numbers weren't sparking last season -- 57-for-96, 615 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions -- before he suffered a torn ACL, he started each of the Browns' three consecutive early-season wins. After losing Hoyer to injury, the team went 1-10.
Manziel likely didn't help his case by getting caught on camera giving the finger to the Washington sideline during Monday night's game. The gesture earned him a stern talking to from a member of the Browns' public relations staff. When weighed against Hoyer's experience, Manziel's finger may have helped cement the Browns' decision to let Hoyer take the first snaps against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 7.
Manziel will be expected to continue to compete for the starting role, especially if Hoyer struggles like he did in limited action against Washington. Manziel's has been the subject of intense media attention throughout the offseason, some of it brought on by himself, so expect that to continue as the Browns embark on what could be another tumultuous season.
Cleveland is coming off a 4-12 season during which their hopes crashed after a 3-2 start. The collapse led to a major overhaul, during which the franchise replaced its CEO, general manager and coaching staff. While the Browns' defense could be stout, the team could struggle again behind an offense that may be without wide receiver Josh Gordon due to suspension.