Falling in love can be dangerous
It is so easy to fall in love with Brian Hoyer.
After all, the Cleveland kid has quarterbacked the Browns to a 6-3 record and first place in the AFC North. And he has an 8-3 record in games he has started and finished.
What’s not to like?
Heady stuff for the former St. Ignatius High School quarterback. So much so that fans are anxious to know how far the Browns will go to make certain he remains the team’s leader.
Hoyer becomes a free agent at the end of this season. And considering the manner in which he has led the Browns thus far, many of those fans will be upset if he does not continue to wear the Seal Brown and Orange.
The thought of seeing him in another team’s uniform next season angers the fan base. “Pay the man,” many of them have declared. “Look what he’s done. The Browns are relevant for the first time in a long time. So pay the man.”
Others proclaim he’s the best homegrown product since Bernie Kosar a generation ago. “Don’t let him get away,” comes the cry.
There are even a few who have tried to make comparisons between Hoyer and Tom Brady. Don’t go there. Just because Hoyer spent three seasons as Brady’s backup in New England does not put him on the same level as the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Not for a second. Not for a moment. Not for a season. And most likely not for a career. The only connection here is osmosis. He sat in the same quarterbacks room with Brady. That’s it.
Hoyer’s strong showing this season presents a conundrum the Browns are not willing to deal with at the present time. There is a season to complete first and any outside distraction will not be tolerated.
Then there is the Johnny Manziel factor.
The Browns didn’t select him in the first round of the National Football League college draft earlier this season to sit on the bench. Hoyer has spoiled whatever plans they had to work him into the starting lineup.
The thought of the Browns signing Hoyer to a long-term contract now flies in the face of those plans. Thus the conundrum.
Who is the quarterback of the future? Hoyer or Manziel? And can they coexist beyond this season when Manziel’s patience is certain to be tested?
The Browns certainly won’t do what the Green Bay Packers did with Aaron Rodgers, another first-round pick, sitting him for three seasons before finally cutting ties with Brett Favre following the 2007 season.
That won’t happen in Cleveland.
First of all, Rodgers did not win the Heisman Trophy. And Hoyer is no Brett Favre.
The timing in Green Bay couldn’t have been any more perfect. The Packers nurtured Rodgers until he was ready. The Browns cannot be that patient. There is no reason to believe Hoyer will sustain his success that long.
At the beginning of this season, when the Browns played five straight solid games on offense to open the schedule, fans caught up in the euphoria clamored for the team to take care of Hoyer now.
He averaged 284.5 passing yards in those five games with seven touchdown passes and just one interception. He completed a career-high 61% of his throws working with a receiving corps that was, at best, ordinary.
Jumping onto the bandwagon became the order of the day.
Then Hoyer inexplicably cooled off during a portion of the schedule that featured the three worst teams in the NFL. His completion percentage dropped to 54.4, his per-game yardage to 263 and he offset his three touchdowns passes with three interceptions.
He became ordinary, although the Browns won two of those games. Talk of a new contract all but disappeared.
But now that talk is back and louder than ever following the Browns’ impressive 24-3 victory last Thursday night in Cincinnati. “Pay the man,” again come the cries.
Never mind what happens in the final seven games of the season. Never mind that Hoyer’s greatest fault is his inconsistency. And never mind that he will be 30 years old next season.
Which Brian Hoyer will we see in the next seven games? The one who played as he did in the first five games and is looking for a big payday? Or the one who played as he did in the games against Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay and doesn’t deserve that big payday?
Be careful what you fall in love with, Browns fans. Don’t let the record fool you, at least not yet.
Falling in and out of love with Hoyer before seeing the complete picture is a very easy trap to fall into. His body of work for this season won’t be finished until Dec. 28 in Baltimore.
That’s the time to fairly judge whether he should be pursued or it’s time to see what Manziel can do. Not now.