One of the biggest storylines heading into training camp is the Cleveland Browns quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, and it has more to do with the importance of the battle than even Manziel’s name recognition. If Manziel wins, then the Browns will let their electric rookie learn on the job and see if his rushing ability and skill-set can overcome a relative lack of weapons in the passing game with Josh Gordon suspended. If Brian Hoyer starts, then it allows the Browns to let the raw Manziel learn on the bench while playing a capable stopgap QB.
Browns cornerback Joe Haden believes that it’s important not to undersell the veteran competing for the job, and he sent some nice praise in the direction of the Michigan State product, who helped lead the Browns to a victory over the talented, rival Cincinnati Bengals last year.
Haden told the Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich in a Q&A session, “People aren’t even giving Hoyer a chance. If he wouldn’t have gotten hurt last year, it could’ve been totally different. He’s a really, really, really solid quarterback. He plays smart. He’s not going to do anything to lose the games for you. He plays like a professional. He controls the game. You can call it a game manager, but he’s really good at what he does. He makes sure he gets the ball out of his hand fast, he controls the offense and he’s a leader. So that’s what you need at the quarterback position, and I think with him being there and then with Johnny coming in with his talent and everything, you could want no more but a fight like that for the quarterback [position].”
Manziel and Hoyer have pretty opposite skill-sets, and the “game manager” role is applied as a negative far too often. It’s not a bad thing at all, and it can actually be preferable if your team has a strong running game and strong defense. We know the latter will be the case for the Browns under Mike Pettine and with the talent they have on that side of the ball, and the Browns running game should be vastly improved with the quartet of Ben Tate, Terrance West, Dion Lewis, and Isaiah Crowell. If you look at the early dynasty New England Patriots and last year’s Seattle Seahawks, two great QBs (one more so than the other, of course) played as “game managers” in an effort to accentuate their team’s strengths. Being accurate and not turning the ball over are two important traits for a team, but a QB with Manziel’s tools would be needed if the rest of the team around the QB needs to be carried.
It’s going to be an interesting camp battle, and I think they should just give the job to the best QB regardless of the benefits of Manziel learning on the bench or the benefits of Manziel learning on the job. That philosophical argument shouldn’t get in the way of starting the QB with the best chance of netting a win. But in the case of a tie, I think the Browns would play it safe and start Hoyer, who should be competent. Haden’s word choice of “really, really, really solid” emphasizes Hoyer’s stature as a steadying presence at QB, because strong adjectives before “solid” imply clear steadiness.