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Hoyer or Manziel? QB decision will be based on who is best option vs. Indianapolis


At some point over the next 48 hours, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine will meet with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for their regular personnel meeting. General Manager Ray Farmer will be there, too, just like he always is.

The routine hasn't changed and won't this week as the Browns prepare to host the Indianapolis Colts for a game pivotal toward the team's playoff hopes. There'll just be a little more time spent on the quarterback portion of this meeting, as the group will ultimately decide whether to stick with veteran Brian Hoyer or present rookie Duke Johnson Jr. with the opportunity to make his first career start.

A decision is expected by Wednesday.

"We believe that competition is a cornerstone of what we do," Pettine said. "I said earlier in the year that quarterback would not be an exception except that we would be much more patient there. We do look at the body of work, but I think given the play recently at that position that it's time to discuss it. It's something … I don't want to just sit here and be independent and lock myself in my office and come out with a decision. I want to rely on the people that I trust that are with these guys day to day and pull in all the circumstances that are involved."

Not among the circumstances? Cleveland's current position in the AFC playoff race.

The Browns are one of five AFC teams who sit at 7-5 with four games to play. They're one of three with that record in the North division. A Miami win Monday over the last-place New York Jets would make it six.

Every game matters. But that's the way it's been since Hoyer was named Cleveland's starter over Manziel midway through the preseason.

"We hit the reset button every week," Pettine said. "I've said it a million times - who gives us the best chance to win this weekend, period? Involving the playoffs it's … you've got to win. That's the bottom line. It's not like anything beyond that would influence that decision. It's who gives us the best chance to win this weekend, and it's that simple. It makes it easy when it's a football thing like that. You shut out everything else."

While Pettine stressed the quarterback position is discussed every week in these meetings, he was specific to note that it "certainly came up" after Hoyer completed just 20-of-50 passes in the Browns' 23-7 loss to Houston in mid-November. The next week in Atlanta, Hoyer threw three interceptions but led Cleveland on a late drive to come back and beat the Falcons.

On Sunday at Buffalo, Hoyer ceded significant playing time to Manziel for the first time all season after he threw his second interception. With the Browns trailing 20-3, Manziel led the team on a speedy, 80-yard drive and scored the team's only touchdown on a 10-yard scramble.

Manziel was 5-of-8 for 63 yards on two series. He barely escaped a disastrous turnover when his apparent fumble in his own end zone was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass.

"A couple hiccups … Handful of minuses, but showed good energy, made some throws," Pettine said. "I know he missed Travis (Benjamin) on the one boot. I thought the throw to (Jim) Dray was in a pretty tight window. I thought Jim made a heck of a catch, and I thought he was very decisive on the scramble for the touchdown."

Asked if Manziel had been building to this moment with his performance on the practice field, Pettine cited the former Texas A&M star's attitude, energy and "overall quarterback play" as the reasons why he was confident inserting him into the game Sunday.

"We got a taste in the game of what he's capable of," Pettine said. "We saw some of that in the preseason. It's not like this is really the first time we've seen him out there.

"He's shown a steady improvement through the year."

Before Manziel's entrance, the Browns' offense, which has averaged 14.3 points in its past three games, was "stagnant," Pettine said. The coach said Hoyer was missing some of his reads, making poor throws and called his reasoning behind the decision a "cumulative thing."

Pettine stressed this particular decision, just like all of the other ones he makes with the Browns' personnel, applies for Sunday's game and nothing more.

"We work very short-term, and we're getting down to the end with four left," Pettine said. "They're all huge, none more important than this one."

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