In my opinion, the most intriguing training camp battle for starting quarterbacking duties in the NFL belongs to the Cleveland Browns. There are two main competitors to become the 2014 opening day starter for Cleveland. In one corner, we have 21 year-old Johnny Manziel, one of the most electrifying players in college football history. Brimming with confidence and a swagger to match, “Johnny Football” also possesses a unique skill set that sets him apart from most rookies. In the other corner, we have 28 year-old Brian Hoyer, a journeyman signal caller who finally earned extensive playing time last year and showed glimpses of greatness before suffering a season-ending knee injury. So who should be the Browns starting quarterback for Cleveland’s Week 1 regular season match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 7th?
Heading into Cleveland’s Week 2 preseason contest against Washington on August 18th, Browns rookie head coach Mike Pettine has not yet named his team’s official starting quarterback. Instead, Pettine has elected to give both QB’s an equal amount of reps with the first string unit. Unfortunately, politics sometimes plays a huge role in who starts and who doesn’t. Because of this known fact, I support Pettine’s decision to make Manziel earn the starting job, as opposed to just giving it to him because he was the team’s first round draft pick. A final decision should be made based solely on which quarterback gives Cleveland the best chance to win each Sunday, not what round a player was drafted in.
Assuming that both quarterbacks perform equally throughout this preseason trial period, I strongly advocate that Hoyer should begin the season as Cleveland’s opening day starter. Granted, the Browns didn’t draft Manziel in the first round because of his great potential to hold a clipboard. Most likely, Manziel will have an opportunity to start for the Browns at some point. But there is something to be said for a player with the grit and determination of Hoyer. As an un-drafted free agent who has played for four different teams since 2009, Hoyer has beaten incredible odds just to be in the conversation as a possible NFL starter. Hoyer’s mindset of survival just to get to this point can be a very good influence on Manziel. While I believe that Manziel has more upside and is every bit as competitive as Hoyer, Manziel’s overall abilities as an NFL-caliber player were never in question the way Hoyer’s was. To this point, Hoyer’s career path has been an uphill battle filled with plenty of setbacks and adversity, whereas Manziel’s path has seen much less resistance. This gives Hoyer a distinct advantage over Manziel when it comes to dealing with the day-to-day grind of being an NFL quarterback.
As far as I’m concerned, sitting Manziel to begin his career has nothing to do with teaching him a lesson for his off-season partying. It has more to do with rewarding Hoyer, who has paid his dues for an opportunity to become a starting quarterback in the NFL. Of course, if Hoyer falls flat on his face from this point forward, I reserve the right to change my mind and vote for Manziel as the starter. But from all indications, Cleveland’s quarterback battle seems to be a dead heat at this point. If no clear cut favorite emerges and all things remain the same, the battle tested Brian Hoyer should be the 2014 Cleveland Browns opening day starter at quarterback.