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Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer: Who's the Right Answer at QB for the Cleveland Browns?


The Browns have made their decision, going with Brian Hoyer at quarterback for another week at least. But was it the right call? Athlon editors debate the Cleveland quarterback dilemma. Who should take the reins for the Browns for the remainder of the season?

Johnny Manziel

Why did the Cleveland Browns trade up to draft Texas A&M rambler, scrambler, partier and needle-mover Johnny Manziel? To be the highest-profile bench-warmer in the league? Or be the electric personality to lead the Browns back to relevance on a national stage?

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Local boy “done good” Brian Hoyer is fine for a team that has no other options. But the Browns have an obvious option. Manziel’s name might as well be flashing in neon lights. It’s past time for the Browns to open their eyes — unless, of course, they’re already wearing a brown paper bag of shame, which has unfortunately become a Cleveland tradition.

Continuing to force Johnny Football to ride the pine is the most “new Browns” thing possible. It’s a loser move, made by a loser franchise that has fallen deep into a rut it may never escape without a dynamite explosion in the form of Manziel.

Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999 — following the original Browns moving to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens in 1996 (and subsequently and painfully winning two Super Bowls since then) — there has been no joy at the Dawg Pound.

Heading into this season, the “new Browns” had a combined 73–167 record, for a 30.4 winning percentage, over the 15 seasons from 1999–2013. That tenure included one 10-win season in 2007, when Cleveland failed to make the playoffs, and one nine-win year in 2002, when the Brownies did make the postseason before losing in the Wild Card Round.

One of the harsh realities of the NFL is that only one team can win the Super Bowl every year. That’s it. Just one team. But every team can sell tickets, sell jerseys, build a fan base and build positive momentum that may or may not eventually crest in the form of a Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February. It is every team’s responsibility to do so.

The Browns will eventually come to their senses. But it will be too late to capitalize on the energy they have built during their unexpected early- and mid-season run this year. Not starting Johnny Manziel is yet another mistake by the lake.

— Nathan Rush

Brian Hoyer

I think we’ve all reached a certain level of Johnny Football fatigue, Browns brass included. I don’t doubt that owner Jimmy Haslam has to fortify himself with a strong cup of morning joe before opening his daily Cleveland Plain Dealer to find out what PR nightmare awaits courtesy of Mr. Manziel.

It’s not as if Manziel is Broadway Joe Namath, able to maintain a party-boy lifestyle off the field while backing up bold guarantees on it. Manziel the pro has yet to show that he’s worth the considerable headache.

Hoyer, on the other hand, is the consummate pro. He goes about his business, then goes home to his high school sweetheart-turned-wife. His physical tools are beyond reproach. He’s 6'3" with a powerful arm and is among the league leaders in yards per completion. He also earned his NFL bona fides as a leader earlier this season in bringing the Browns back from a 28–3 deficit to a 29–28 road win over the Titans, throwing three touchdowns in the process.

Hoyer made an eloquent case for himself when this latest bout of Manziel mania started to gain momentum. “I don’t have any doubt in myself. I never have, throughout this entire process, going back to last year,” he said. “I feel like we’re 7–5, we still have a chance to attain all of our goals. It’s still there in front of us. We won three games last year when I started. I mean, 10–5 as a starting quarterback is not bad.”

When you’re Cleveland, not only is 10–5 not bad; it’s darn near a miracle.

I’m a big believer in proven production. With Hoyer, you have a leader who has put his team into playoff contention, while Manziel remains an unknown quantity and a wild card who could just as easily derail this season as save it. “You don’t get to 7–5 in the NFL just lucking into it,” Hoyer said. “I feel like I can carry us through the next four games. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be ready to go.”

Cleveland and its long-suffering fans should be ready to end their flirtation with Johnny Football and hand the reins permanently to Hoyer the Destroyer.

— Rob Doster