The disappointing loss was still too fresh and the evaluation still too raw for Mike Pettine to settle on a decision at quarterback Monday as the Browns eye their Battle of Ohio showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Much like he did in a similar spot last week, Pettine said he needed to go through a couple of meetings and inform the competing parties before he announced whether veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Duke Johnson Jr. would start. The decision will come no later than Wednesday, when the Browns begin their on-field preparations for the AFC North-leading Bengals.
"I think it's natural to lean the other way given the results," Pettine said. "Still want to make sure we do our due diligence and talk to everyone involved in it.
"We'll go out there on Wednesday and practice with who our starter is and get ready for Cincinnati."
Pettine's once again faced with this decision because the passing game's funk continued Sunday against Indianapolis.
Hoyer, who has started every game this season, completed 14-of-31 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions. Hoyer's first pick came near the goal line on a play in which Pettine and Jordan Cameron both said the tight end didn't run the proper route. The second came on a long heave with just seconds to play in the 25-24 loss to the AFC South-leading Colts.
In the past four games, Hoyer's thrown one touchdown and eight interceptions in one win and three losses. Pettine, as he did after Sunday's game, didn't blame Hoyer for all of the issues.
"When you look at his last couple of weeks, he could have elevated the play. There were some throws I know he made mistakes on and some where it was a mutual thing," Pettine said. "I think there are very few quarterbacks in this league that fall into that category of making the guys around them better or that can overcome any circumstance whether it's an offensive line, whether it's the receiving corps, whether it's the run game. There are very few. The guy we just played against (Andrew Luck), I would put on that list, but there are very few."
"We're in a results business. We've lost two in a row and we all know what the numbers have been in the pass game and for us to be successful they need to improve."
Manziel's fourth-quarter performance at Buffalo, which included a number of sharp passes and a 10-yard touchdown run, was one of the main reasons why Cleveland faced some indecision at quarterback last week. The former Texas A&M star didn't play Sunday against the Colts in a game the Browns led for almost the entire second half.
Pettine cited the Browns' lead -- compared to the 17-point deficit they faced against Buffalo -- as the reason why Manziel didn't see the field.
"It was more of a total offensive thing as it was one particular player," Pettine said. "To me, if we were down 14, then it certainly would have come up, but I just think it would have been very difficult to do with a lead."
Asked if he thought Manziel would be properly prepared if he were named the starter for a game Cleveland must win to keep its playoff hopes alive, Pettine said, "absolutely." Asked if a change would have already occurred if Manziel weren't a rookie, Pettine declined to dive into any hypotheticals.
"We deal with those circumstances each week and move forward," he said. "I'm looking ahead, not going to go back and second -guess anything that we've done. That's just time wasted."
Hoyer, as he stood in front of his locker Monday, spent a few moments lamenting some of the throws he made against the Colts. He was particularly disappointed about overthrowing Taylor Gabriel on a long pass during the second quarter, though the Browns rebounded and scored their only offensive touchdown on the drive. He also cited an overthrow down the sidelines to a wide open Josh Gordon in the third quarter.
Hoyer carried a quarterback rating of 90.4 after the Browns moved to 6-3 with a 24-3 win at Cincinnati last month. It stands at 76.4 after Sunday's loss.
"When 10 guys do their job right and one doesn't, it can really affect a play, whether that's the quarterback, the running backs, the line, the receivers, the tight ends," Hoyer said. "That's just the way it is. Everybody has got to be able to step up, and when you're not being perfect, you need one guy to step up and make a big play. We didn't have that yesterday. We didn't have one play that just changed it all for us. When you're having a game where there are some inconsistencies and not everybody is doing their job on every play, you need that - that one player to make a play."
Browns players were reluctant to pick sides in the quarterback battle when there was uncertainty last week, and Monday was no different. Safety Tashaun Gipson said the team received no indication of whom it would be during Monday's meetings.
Gipson left the prognosticating to the reporters encircling him.
"I think it's whoever is going to give us the best opportunity to win right now," Gipson said. "We've got three games left. Nobody knows who's going to be the quarterback and it's not my decision to make. Right now, that's not even my focus. I just want to make sure whoever it is that the team rallies behind him and we go out and give our best for these last three games."