The hometown kid is getting the starting nod. One day after saying the decision had not yet been made, Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski announced that their starting quarterback this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings will be one Brian Hoyer. On the cover, a thumb injury sustained by Brandon Weeden a week earlier paved the way for Hoyer to get the nod. Peel back the onion a bit and it becomes a bit more evident that the Browns, currently sitting winless two weeks into the NFL season, were looking to shake things up and this was merely seamless way to do so.
“I have the utmost confidence in all three of our guys, each one brings something different to the table,” said Chudzinski of his quarterback triumvirate. “Based on where we are offensively, we feel that Brian’s strengths are the best fit for this week and he gives us the best chance to win.”
The narrative of this decision writes itself for the nostalgic and optimistic at heart. A former Browns front office member becomes the general manager years down the road. His new head coach was a dog bone-eating Browns fan while he was growing up a few miles west of the lakefront town. The two men sign a kid from Lakewood, Ohio who attended Cleveland’s St. Ignatius who just happened to sit behind New England’s Tom Brady, the same Tom Brady who sat behind Drew Bledsoe before shocking the world and becoming a model-marrying, Super Bowl-winning, Ugg boot-wearing A-List celebrity just a few years after being a doughy sixth-round draft pick.
In contrast, the decision could simply result in the perpetual embarrassment that Browns fans have been forced to endure for the last two weeks. Where the Browns are offensively, as Chudzinski stated, is essentially quicksand. Scoring just one touchdown in two weeks places the Browns second-last in the NFL in scoring. They’re among the league’s worst in yards per game (275.0); garbage time has allowed their passing yardage (219.0 per game) to be ranked considerably better when compared to peers.
“We’re 0-2 right now,” said Chudzinski. “We’re looking to shake things up. We hope this will give us the spark that we need.”
Hoyer, a fifth-year pro, has started one career game in his NFL career, a loss to NFC-winning San Francisco 49ers at the tail end of last season. It was a respectable outing which featured a 53-yard pass to then-rookie Michael Floyd. He was released by the Cardinals late this past offseason and was promptly scooped up by the Browns on a two-year deal. His transition from free agent to starting quarterback was one that featured sweatpants as Hoyer was listed as inactive one week earlier.
Blame the pass protection, blame the suspensions, blame the dropped balls. What speaks volumes is that Chudzinski stated that there was not a lot of “separation” between his three quarterbacks. Hoyer has a few more years of experience on Weeden and was touted multiple times for being “smart” and “efficient” under center. Though boasting a 40-yard dash time in the 5-second range, Hoyer does provide some shiftiness that can create some uncertainty for opposing defenses. But in the same, Hoyer did not excel at any level of his playing career and was released by a team who also had incredible issues at the quarterback position.
Back in May, WFNY’s Craig Lyndall surmised that Hoyer would not be a factor for the Browns save for an injury or a complete failure. Given that Brandon Weeden amassed just one touchdown over the course of the first two weeks and then slammed his thumb into the helmet of a likely-too-close-for-comfort offensive lineman, it could be argued that both “injury” and “failure” have check marks firmly inked in their respective boxes.
While Chudzinski stated that Weeden’s thumb is not a long-term issue, there were several times on Wednesday morning where the head coach stated that the second-year quarterback will see a hand specialist and that a prognosis is still up for debate. Also up for debate is the future of the Browns’ quarterback position if and when Weeden can return. Certainly, this week will buy the Browns coaching staff and front office some time—the bar for Hoyer has to be incredibly low given the team’s first two weeks and the fact that his experience with the first team offense has, to this point, been limited to 7-on-7 drills.
One week into the 2007 season, Rob Chudizinski was handed a raw and unproven arm by the way of Derek Anderson. Anderson was dreadful in spot duty a season earlier, but took his starting gig and turned a down-field offense into a 10-win team that was an Indianapolis Colts loss shy of making the postseason. In 2010, Colt McCoy took over for an injured Jake Delhomme (and Seneca Wallace) and shocked the world to not only stand strong against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but later triumph over the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. He would later be replaced by Weeden.
“We’re going to leave the options open,” said Chudzinski of the future. “We’ll see how things are going—how Brandon’s doing from a health standpoint and put the guy out there who gives us the best chance to win. We’ll see who that is.”
When discussing the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation, the term “fluid” is an understatement. Hoyer will be the 19th starting quarterback to take the field for the Browns since their return in 1999, encompassing just under 200 games. How the hometown kid does this week may provide a fun story with plenty of local lineage, but it will undoubtedly be fleeting as it’s becoming more and more obvious with each day, each game and each press conference that the future at the quarterback position is not currently on the team’s roster.
When Anderson took over for Charlie Frye in 2007, the Arkon product was jettisoned shortly thereafter. If Brandon Weeden is deemed to no longer be the answer at the position, he could very well be next, 17 games into his NFL career.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas referred to a quarterback going from a sweatpants-wearing inactive clipboard holder to starter over the No. 2 man as “unusual.” Then again, there isn’t much that this Browns team does which could be considered commonplace.
Image via WFNY/Rick Grayshock