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Browns’ starting QB decision driven only by best chance for success

Posted Aug 15, 2014

Mike Pettine leaning on experience with Brian Hoyer, but “every option is still on the table.”

Mike Pettine

Perhaps a whole bunch of media members and fans didn’t get what they wanted.

Maybe ESPN is a bit disappointed, too.

In the end, that didn’t matter to first-year Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine when deciding on a starting quarterback for Monday night’s nationally televised preseason game at Washington.

It couldn’t matter.

Pettine’s choice of Brian Hoyer to take the first-team snaps against the Redskins was driven by one factor and only one factor: what does the most to allow the Browns to best prepare for a successful regular season?

The rest of us, myself included, can argue that a “true” competition between Hoyer and Manziel should have compelled Pettine (and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, whom Pettine has said have strong input in the process of selecting a starter) to start Manziel Monday night. Now Pettine has said that Manziel would get an even amount of reps with the first team and that “every option is still on the table” with regard to picking the No. 1 quarterback for the Sept. 7 season-opener at Pittsburgh.

But there is understandable skepticism that Manziel’s work, which is likely to come against a Washington defense comprised of some if not all backups, would provide the coaches with enough substantive material for their evaluation. It isn’t outrageous for some to conclude (and they have) that, given Pettine’s desire to name a starter for the Steelers’ game on Tuesday, before Thursday night’s preseason game on Aug. 23 against St. Louis, starting Hoyer against the Redskins effectively ends the competition and strongly suggests that it was heavily tilted in Hoyer’s favor in the first place.

What is outrageous is hearing what I heard from Skip Bayless, as he gave his take on the Browns’ decision to start Hoyer on ESPN2’s “First Take.” Bayless said Pettine and Shanahan were not aboard with the Browns’ drafting of Manziel and that they chose to start Hoyer out of fear that Manziel would perform so well against Washington’s starting defense that it would force them to pick Manziel as their No. 1 quarterback for the season. Bayless said it was the coaches’ way of reminding Manziel about who is in charge.

Really?

The last time I checked, the job security of coaches in the NFL strictly depends on the number of games they win or lose. Failure to win is never an option, and, as we witnessed last year, head coaches who lose more than they win in their first season, sometimes don’t get a second season.

Pettine is well aware of that. He is far too intelligent to make decisions based on showing someone – especially a quarterback who was picked to eventually be his team’s long-time starter – “who’s boss.”

It could be argued that Pettine is guided by the reasonable logic that, as of now, Hoyer is more experienced (even with only four career regular-season starts in the past five seasons) and the more ready of the two quarterbacks to start on Sept. 7. And on that basis, his and the other coaches’ efforts are and should be geared toward doing everything possible to give him the optimal chance to succeed in the regular season.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that if something were to go terribly wrong in Hoyer’s outing against the Redskins, Pettine would avoid going in a different direction. That doesn’t mean that Manziel has no chance to win the starting job.

When all is said and done, everything that the Browns do on the way to picking a starting quarterback for Sept. 7 is with an eye toward having the maximum amount of wins when the regular season ends on Dec. 28.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com. We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.