In week two of last year’s NFL season, opening day starter Brandon Weeden, one of the best red-headed 30 year old quarterbacks named Brandon to ever don the Cleveland Browns uniform, went down with an injury. Several days later, a decision was made that could very well be causing another quarterback controversy a year later. One and done head coach Rob Chudzinski chose to play Brian Hoyer, the proverbial third string quarterback on the roster, over the expected backup in Jason Campbell. Hoyer went on to turn the quickly 0-2 Browns into a .500 team with surprise wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals. Then, as good ol’ Cleveland luck would have it, Hoyer tore his ACL on prime-time Thursday night football. I still remember sitting in a crowded Applebees, watching the team help him off the field. Everybody in the restaurant, including the women and children simultaneously let out a single tear. Cleveland football fans got their glimpse of what it was like to win and they lost it in the blink of an eye.
Fast forward to this very moment and the Browns have a familiar phrase hanging over their heads yet again. A quarterback controversy is dominating headlines yet again as polarizing rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel parties his way through the off-season. The two challenging quarterbacks are essentially opposites this time around. Hoyer is a humble, hometown Ohio boy who worked his way to this position after several years as a backup. Manziel hails from a rich Texan family and achieved sports world celebrity status in his time at Texas A&M. When the Browns traded up to take Johnny Football at 22 in this year’s draft, they knew what they were getting into. The media circus for the ages and an unlimited supply of quarterback questions are here, yet the Browns personnel remain adamant in their belief that Brian Hoyer will be the opening day starter.
It’s hard to look at the depth chart and not say Manziel should start over Hoyer based on name recognition alone. But when that fateful decision to start Hoyer was made, it showed Browns fans and personnel alike a winning culture that Cleveland doesn’t get to see very often. By instilling that culture, the decision on who to name starter was made a hundred times harder. It’s still too early to make a definitive decision since training camps haven’t started yet and preseason is just weeks away, but new first time head coach Mike Pettine is set to have his hands full for the foreseeable future.
With all this being said, I myself am still torn between whether or not to start Manziel in week one. It’s an unbelievably difficult decision to make and both choices will have their fair share of positive and negative reactions. My hometown bias desires to give Brian Hoyer his shot to see whether his short stint last year was a fluke or not. The straight football side of me yearns to see if Manziel’s college stardom can translate seamlessly into an NFL system. LeBron James had “The Decision” four long years ago, and his second Decision just last week. It’s your call now Mike Pettine, what will your Decision be?