Hoyer decision driven by decisiveness

Posted Sep 18, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the choice of Brian Hoyer to start at quarterback was based on his quick decisions and throws.

From a football standpoint, this makes sense.

I’m not sitting here typing, with a straight face, that the Browns have found the solution to their offensive woes by making Brian Hoyer their starting quarterback in place of injured Brandon Weeden.

Hoyer hasn’t done enough in a brief NFL career to instill that sort of confidence in anyone, including the Browns’ decision-makers. He joined his hometown team as a third-stringer, taking few meaningful practice snaps behind Weeden and Jason Campbell. Hoyer didn’t show anything through training camp or the preseason, including his full-game performance in the preseason-finale at Chicago, to truly suggest he could be a difference-maker if given the opportunity to play.

But what he did demonstrate was the ability to make quick decisions on where to go with his passes and to waste little time getting the ball out of his hand. This was an aspect of Hoyer’s game that separated him from Weeden, as well as from Campbell, in what coach Rob Chudzinski has maintained since training camp was a trio of quarterbacks who are closely bunched in quality.

And that’s where the football portion of this discussion comes into play.

The Browns’ offense is bad for several reasons. One of the biggest is the struggles of the offensive line, especially in pass protection.

It stands to reason that a quarterback with rapid-fire decisiveness and delivery has a better chance to succeed when opponents are able to apply the intense pressure Weeden has seen in being sacked 11 times the past two weeks. And those protection issues don’t figure to dissipate against Jared Allen and the Vikings on Sunday.

Hoyer is extremely bright and knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the offense and anticipating what is happening on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He can recognize and diagnose and react to most anything that a defense throws at him schematically.

What he lacks is the sort of arm strength that enables him to make the exceptional deep passes that are supposed to be a staple of the attack-oriented offense of Chudzinski and Norv Turner. That is why he has found himself bouncing around the league as a backup and, at least initially, why Weeden and Campbell occupied the top two spots on the Browns’ quarterback depth chart.

The Browns entered the season determined to generate “chunk” plays. Josh Gordon’s absence through the first two games due to a suspension was a factor in the derailment of that plan so far. The inability of other receivers to sufficiently pick up the slack – something that was underscored by Wednesday’s announcement that Davone Bess has supplanted Greg Little as a starter – was another factor. And Weeden’s performance up to the time that he suffered a thumb injury late in last Sunday’s game at Baltimore – which hasn’t come close to resembling the impressive work he did in the first two preseason games – was yet another factor. At times, he has had trouble with processing plays as they’re relayed to him from the sideline and has, on more than a few occasions, held the ball too long as the defense drops back in coverage to take away the long ball.

Still, nothing has done more to hold the offense back than a line that has, in some ways, taken the Browns’ hierarchy by surprise with its poor play. Not only on the right side, where injuries at guard have exposed a severe lack of depth, but in other places as well.

This is what Chudzinski, Turner, and everyone else calling the football shots for the Browns considered the most when deciding what to do at quarterback after it was determined Weeden wouldn’t be available to play Sunday.

For that matter, it’s a consideration that goes beyond Sunday as well. Weeden’s status won’t be determined until he visits a hand specialist, but that didn’t prevent Chudzinski from telling reporters Wednesday that Weeden isn’t assured of reclaiming his starting job if and when he returns to action. The coach said the team is “going to leave all the options open” and that who plays quarterback the rest of the way will be guided by “who gives us the best chance to win.”

That could very well be Hoyer. Although he might not fit the profile of the big-armed, stand-tall-in-the-pocket quarterback who launches those picture-perfect rainbow bombs, he is capable of being effective with short and intermediate throws that Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Bess, Travis Benjamin, Little, and can turn into long gains after the catch.

For an offense that has been as ineffective as the as the Browns’ has been so far, that would be a welcome change.

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