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Brian Hoyer’s only focus can be on Steelers’ defense

Posted Sep 4, 2014

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the Browns can’t have Brian Hoyer looking over his shoulder in Sunday’s season-opener at Pittsburgh.

Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer doesn’t have to look over his shoulder.

So many others are doing that for him.

It isn’t just the fans and media who regularly speculate on when Johnny Manziel will replace Hoyer as the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback this season. Opposing head coaches weigh in on the topic as well.

“We fully expect (the Browns) to use (Manziel) in some capacity in this football game,” the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin told reporters earlier this week in reference to Sunday’s season-opener at Heinz Field. “They didn’t draft him in the first round to watch.”

Fair point.

But Browns coach Mike Pettine also didn’t name Hoyer his starting quarterback so that Hoyer could constantly worry about when Manziel would take his place.

Hoyer will have some room to make mistakes. He will be cut some slack if there are drives that fail to produce a touchdown or even a field goal.

Will Manziel enter the game periodically to run a package of plays specially designed to capitalize on his mobility? Pettine won’t say for obvious competitive reasons, but that could very well happen.

Here’s what won’t happen: Hoyer getting yanked the moment something goes wrong.

“I had a good conversation with him,” Pettine said. “He knows it’s not going to be a quick hook, but he also knows that in the long run, this is a production business. You have to produce or there will be a change made, but I don’t think he’s going into this game feeling that.

“I think he’s fully focused on Pittsburgh and being productive.”

The Browns desperately need that to be the case.

Hoyer will have enough of a challenge deciphering the complex, blitz-happy scheme of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. His full attention must be on what is in front of him, not behind him.

Hoyer is the starter, not Manziel. Hoyer is expected to lead the offense, even if Manziel periodically enters the game. Pettine hasn’t put conditions on Hoyer’s status as a starter beyond the need to produce, which is true with all starters.

As Pettine said, “We didn’t go with him and say, ‘Hey, listen, we might do this and see how it goes. Then after a series, we might switch it back.’ I don’t think you can do that at quarterback. I know you can’t do that at quarterback.”

By all indications, Hoyer gets that and believes that. As far as he is concerned, the situation hasn’t changed since after the Browns’ second preseason game, when Pettine informed Manziel that the No. 1 spot was his.

“When he named me the starter, and he said, ‘Look, I just want you to go out and be yourself and play and not worry about anything else,’ which I think for me, that’s how my mentality is regardless,” Hoyer said. “This is something I’ve worked towards, and I’m not looking back. It was good to hear him say it, but had he said it or not, I think my mentality would be the same.”

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