Brian Hoyer – 61-for-94, 716 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Hoyer started winning the quarterback competition back in March and April, when he was one of the only players in the building every day studying the new playbook and rehabbing his knee. What makes Hoyer special is his dedication is contagious. His enthusiasm for winning teamed with coach Mike Pettine's strong messaging is turning around a losing culture that lingered in Berea.
On the field, Hoyer's confidence has translated into overwhelming success. The Browns offense was supposed to be the weak link on the team; instead it's been the catalyst for success. Hoyer's proved he was the right choice to be the starter, and then some. His 156 straight passing attempts without an interception is the longest active streak.
But the biggest thing is that Hoyer is elevating the play of others around him. Andrew Hawkins used to be a guy who admittedly worked at a golf course and slept on couches praying for an NFL tryout. Now he's the top receiver. Reserve tight end Gary Barnidge was instrumental in the Saints win. Miles Austin was written off by many around the league, and now he's leading the Browns in touchdown receptions. Without Hoyer spinning spirals the way he is, none of this is possible.
"I think Brian's done a great job managing the huddle, making some big throws in critical situations," said quarterbacks coach Dowell Loaggins. "I think that his play can improve as we go forward and he gets more comfortable in the offense."
The redshirt freshman year, sort of
*Johnny Manziel *
In today's sports culture, there's longing for instant success. If Andrew Luck and Cam Newton can come in and play at a high level, why can't Johnny Manziel? The Browns wisely avoided the temptation of hurling Manziel in the starting lineup Week 1. Instead, Cleveland is following the patient route with the future of their franchise. Easing a quarterback in seems to have a high success ratio too – Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick and many more in the 1990s.
Except the Browns are being creative in keeping Manziel involved. Although the trick play against the Ravens ended up being called back for a penalty, Cleveland showed it can come up with innovative ways to exploit defenses using Manziel's unique talents. The "Johnny Package" plays are good for the rookie to feel like he's playing a part in the offense, even if it's a small role.
"The kid is a great competitor and he wants to be in there," said Loggains. "It's understanding how to be a quarterback and how to learn and do all those things that he's going to have to do. It's just the process, the grind of that, fighting the boredom of sitting in a meeting room learning a game plan, memorizing a game plan, but not get to go execute it."
The craziest year of his life
In the span of five months, Shaw went undrafted, signed with the Browns, beat out Tyler Thigpen, lost out to Rex Grossman, was cut, was signed to the practice squad, got married and had a baby girl. The ride seems like it would be tumultuous for most people, but the South Carolina alum is a person who embraces change.
"Everything has been a blessing, man," said Shaw in an interview right after he made the team. "I'm learning so much. It's been a wild few months, but I'm thankful for it all."