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Brian Hoyer makes sense to start, but Johnny Manziel is progressing

Posted Aug 6, 2014

Mike Pettine’s decision to start Hoyer against the Lions is not a surprise.

Brian Hoyer

Mike Pettine did the expected in naming Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns’ preseason-opener Saturday night at Detroit.

The Browns’ coach might have been a bit coy in his remarks to reporters earlier in the week when he kept the door open to the possibility that someone other than Hoyer – namely Johnny Manziel – would get the nod, but in the end he stuck with a plan put in place months ago.

And this is a sensible approach, based on what Hoyer and Manziel have shown in workouts through the offseason and since the first training-camp practice on July 26.

Which is this:

>Hoyer has been consistently efficient. He has had more good days than bad. He has managed the offense in a professional manner, both in his understanding of the plays and the ability to communicate them to the rest of the offense. He has made mostly good reads and solid decisions about where to go with his throws. Hoyer hasn’t really done anything spectacular, but he hasn’t really done anything that would qualify as disastrous. He has been steady and reliable.

>Manziel has been inconsistent, given that through most of the offseason and for most of the first week of camp, he struggled. He had a hard time repeating plays in the huddle. He had a hard time making reads. But Manziel seemingly had a turning point in Saturday’s Family Day practice in Akron, and has done increasingly well with his first opportunities to work with the starting offense this week. He has shown more and more signs of the dynamic play-making ability that led to the iconic status he achieved at Texas A&M. In fact, Manziel’s very best day of practice might have come on Wednesday, right before Pettine announced that Hoyer would get the start against Detroit.

On that basis, Hoyer qualifies as being more ready to start Saturday night. He represents the safest option for being steady and reliable.

“We did want to mix the groups up, which we did,” Pettine said. “But (Hoyer’s) done nothing to have that taken away from him, so he’ll be out there with the starters.”

How long does Hoyer stay with the starters Saturday night? That’s to be determined. For the sake of staging a true competition, it would seem to make sense to have Manziel also get some preseason-game reps with the first-unit offense as well.

How long does Hoyer remain a starter beyond the Detroit game? That also is to be determined. If he continues to be efficient and avoids any sort of meltdown, that could very well be enough for him to keep the job for the second preseason game at Washington. And if there are no significant setbacks against the Redskins, then that would seemingly allow him to secure the No. 1 spot for the regular-season opener at Pittsburgh on Sept. 7.

However, depending on how Manziel performs against the Lions, a case could be made for him to start against the Redskins. And if Manziel builds upon the momentum he has seemingly gathered in the past few days and makes some of those signature, eye-opening plays with his arm and his legs, he could very well convince Pettine that he gives the Browns the best chance to beat the Steelers and all of the other opponents on the schedule.

For now, Hoyer is the quarterback who figures to have the best chance of not losing a game for the Browns, while Manziel looks more and more like he could eventually be the quarterback who has the best chance to win for them.

That’s why, for now, Hoyer should be the starter for the first preseason game.

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