For the last several weeks, the daily NFL storyline has centered on Berea, Ohio, where the Cleveland Browns have training camp, and all of the attention, of course, has focused on the quarterback situation.
Is Brian Hoyer getting the first-team reps, or is Johnny Manziel? How does Manziel look? What is he wearing? Is he fitting in with teammates? Who will start in the preseason? Who will start in the regular season?
Well, here’s one thing we do know: Hoyer will start the Browns’ preseason opener Saturday in Detroit. After that, it’s a mystery.
But let’s be real: the preseason is just window dressing. The real question is who’s going to start when the Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 1 on Sept. 7?
Pete Prisco doesn’t know which quarterback will start, but he knows which one should start.
“Absolutely you start Johnny Manziel,” the CBSSports.com senior NFL columnist said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “You gain nothing by starting Brian Hoyer. He’s not the long-term answer there. You have a guy that you drafted. You traded back in to get him. You may as well play him because he’s your guy. He’s your long-term future. To me, you don’t get anything by playing Hoyer.”
So how and why is Hoyer in the mix? Well, a few reasons. First of all, he went 3-0 as a starter last year (although, to be fair, one of those wins came in Week 5, when Hoyer suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of a 37-24 win against Buffalo). So, for all intents and purposes, Hoyer, went 2-0 last year, but the fact remains that the Browns went 3-0 in games he started and 1-12 in games he didn’t.
So there’s that.
There’s also the fact that Hoyer is a local boy. He’s from Lakewood, Ohio, and attended Cleveland St. Ignatius – one of the top prep football powerhouses in America. The folks in Cleveland like that.
And then there’s the cold, hard, physical facts. At 28, Hoyer has more experience than Manziel, 21. At 6-2, Hoyer also has more size than Manziel, 6-0 (on a good day). And photos of Hoyer partying drunk – if they exist – never see the light of day.
So yeah, Hoyer has a couple of things going for him.
As for Manziel, he’s Johnny Football. He’s the trash-talking, Heisman-winning, did-you-see-what-he-just-did quarterback.
And he may be in for a rude awakening. The Browns have arguably the toughest early season schedule in all of football. In Week 1, as mentioned, they play at Pittsburgh. In Week 2, they host New Orleans. And in Week 3, they host Baltimore.
That’s three Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Boom, boom, boom.
After a Week 4 bye, things get slightly easier. The Browns play at Tennessee, against Pittsburgh, at Jacksonville, against Oakland and against Tampa Bay.
“Lets just play it out,” Prisco said. “Let’s say they go 4-4. Well, you’re not going to play Manziel then. Let’s say they go 6-7. Coaches always think they have a chance to make the playoffs. They won’t play Manziel then. Then all of a sudden you’re back to square one next year because he hasn’t played. I think you throw him in there and you play him right away.”