Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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.



  1. Rather than a Favre-Rodgers thing, where that team eventually chucked the older veteran who was clearly washed up in order to make room for the first-rounder, maybe we have a Brees-Rivers thing, where that team eventually chucked the older veteran who was clearly at the top of his game in order to make room for a first-rounder. Only time will tell how the Browns play it and how each QB turns out...

    Rich, I get the impression from Farmer that he would rather let Hoyer go than resign him, so it doesn't look like he blew a first-round pick (possibly due to being told by Haslam to take Manziel), and that with every week Hoyer looks good and the Browns keep winning, Farmer is that much more uncomfortable with the QB situation. Do you get that same sense from Farmer? I don't doubt his desire to win now, and overall I like his work so far and think we finally have the right guy in place (I LOVED taking Bitonio in the second round, Ray clearly knows the value of trench warfare to the sport), but to me he seems to come off very cool toward Hoyer any time he's asked. He could just be a real poker-face and is certainly smart enough to wait and see whether Hoyer can sustain the success before throwing a big wad of money at him, but he doesn't seem to give any supportive or encouraging words at all for Hoyer.

    One point you make above, saying there is no connection for Hoyer with Brady other than sitting in the same QB room for three years, would be true. However, from all I've seen and read, spending those three years in that room resulted in more than osmosis - Hoyer is exceptionally prepared and super-studious of every upcoming opponent, and I'd suggest that he picked up that winning behavior and focus from spending three years studying the well-known intense preparation habits of the best QB of this generation in that very QB room.

    Thanks as always, I still rate your posts as the best reads available on the Browns!


  2. Hi DW,

    First of all, thanx for the kind words. They are greatly appreciated. Now then . . .

    The Rodgers-Favre scenario is much more applicable than Brees-Rivers. And here's why.

    Brees got hurt at the tail end of his career in San Diego. Badly damaged his throwing shoulder. The Chargers offered him a five-year, $50 million contract that was heavily incentive-laden. He didn't like that.

    As a free agent, he went to the open market, shopped himself and chose New Orleans over Miami. The Chargers had no chance to sign him. Thats how Rivers, drafted a year earlier by the Chargers, got the starting job.

    Brees was not an old man (26 at the time) like Favre. And Rivers took over for Brees much more quickly than Rodgers did for Favre.

    As for Farmer, he does appear at times to be reluctant to focus on the Hoyer contract now. But who can blame him. There are still seven games left. If I'm the GM, I'm putting that on the back burner. First things first.

    Good point on the Brady-Hoyer situation. But when it comes to execution of those traits, there is a vast difference. First and most important of all, Brady has a much stronger arm. Still does. Probably always will.

    He also has a much better feel in the pocket and can extend plays. Hoyer has problems in that area. Brady is cunning enough and tough enough to throw daggers at the opposition in clutch situations. The jury is still out on Hoyer there.

    Its one thing to glom onto how much preparation a person puts into a game. It's quite another, as mentioned previously, making the most of that preparation with proper execution.

    Right now, Hoyer is light years away from Brady in many respects. By the time he took over for Favre, Rodgers was more than ready to become the quarterback he is today.

    There is no question Manziel is the X factor. We don't know what he can do as a professional. And if Hoyer plays well enough from here on out to warrant serious contract consideration from the Browns, we might never know.

  3. Thanks Rich, very thoughtful article. To me, it all comes down to this - "There is no reason to believe Hoyer will sustain his success that long." You are right. Farmer should sit back and watch and make his decisions after the season. As far as Farmer not acting like he's enamored with Hoyer - that's his job. He gets paid to play poker with these agents and players. I think Hoyer's been doing a pretty good job. But to pay him starters money in a multi-year contract? Based on what? 12 games? Now that's insane. By the way, I've commented here a few times and I cannot figure out how to sign it. Timpiker

  4. Hi Tim

    It's a bit complicated, but there is nothing I can do to simplify it. The following should help.

    Once you are done with your remarks, go down to comment as: and click on the drop-down. You have many choices from which to choose. Click on name/URL. Then hit publish. Your remarks will come up in the event you need to edit them. When you are ready to post, hit publish again. Then match the numbers in the graphic and hit publish a third time.. Your reply will then show up with your name. Then you no longer will be Anonymous.

    1. Ooops. Forgot one move.

      After you click on name/URL, put in your name. Then hit continue.

    2. Back on subject: Do you think Hoyer's lack of arm strength will lessen Josh Gordon's impact/threat when he's finally back on the field?

  5. Hi Southie,

    Hard to say because timing is such an important part of the passing game. But then you remember that when Hoyer took over last season in the third game against Minnesota, he targeted Gordon 19 times and connected on 10 for 146 yards and a touchdown. He hooked up with him four more times for 71 yards in the Cincinnati victory before getting hurt.

    Right now, Gordon's biggest challenge will be getting in game shape. Last season, he was for the brief time Hoyer was his quarterback.

    Among Gordon's greatest attributes is breaking tackles. That helps Hoyer, a good short to intermediate route thrower. I'm guessing Shanahan will not try to force feed the deep ball to Gordon because Hoyer doesn't have that kind of arm.

    Last season, Gordon thrived with Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, both of whom have strong arms. The Browns lost 10 of their last 11 games despite Gordon's accomplishments.

    I know that doesn't answer your question. My guess is it will take at least a couple of games before Gordon is ready to be the player he was last season.

    1. Ergo: Even after Gordon returns, we have no deep threat?

  6. There is no such thing as a deep threat with Hoyer as your quarterback. Gordon can go deep all he wants, but if the quarterback can't get him the ball on time, what good is it?

    As I said, Gordon's best shot at breaking a big play is catching a short to intermediate pass and making a play after catching it.

    If you check back on Hoyer's longest throws this season, the receiver had to slow down and in some cases adjust his route because the ball was thrown short and arrived late.

    This might not what you want to hear, and I don't know what your eyes tell you, but mine tell me Hoyer does not have the arm to really stretch the field.

    1. Agree, check my original question("Hoyer's lack of arm strength...") That was the basic premise of my question, no matter who lines up at WR we will have no deep threat. As I see it, Gordon's biggest assets are separation and strength. Hoyer is what he is, we can only hope his consistency improves.

  7. One more Gordon attribute: Great hands. He rarely drops a pass. That's when he's in game shape. He's been off for about three months now. I'll be surprised if he comes back and plays as though he hasn't missed a beat. It might take him a game or two to get his rhythm back.