When the Cleveland Browns drafted Texas A&M product Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the NFL Draft last May, the franchise knew they were opening the gates to one of the most interesting position battles in the entire NFL for the 2014 season.
Many believe the Browns have a rookie sensation with the raw ability to become one of the most exciting players in NFL History. However, the team also employs a hometown hero in Brian Hoyer, who has shown he can be a successful quarterback when given the opportunity to play.
Head coach Mike Pettine and the rest of his staff clearly cannot hand a starting role to Manziel, especially after Hoyer had such great success in his short time as the Browns starter last season. Manziel has a lot of skills to develop in his first professional offense, while Hoyer has earned the respect of the Browns roster throughout his rehab process.
Hoyer started three games for the Browns in 2013 before he suffered a torn ACL against the Buffalo Bills in week 5. Throughout those three starts, Hoyer led Cleveland to back-to-back victories and passed for over 600 yards, five touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 82.5.
Early reports from Browns mini-camp indicated that both quarterbacks were sharp throughout summer practices, but Hoyer’s inability to compete in 11-on-11 drills due to his injury may have opened the door for Manziel to gain first-team reps and plant the seed of doubt for the coaching staff.
The Cleveland media have also played a role in the quarterback battle, as the reporters continue to follow Manziel’s every move off the field.
Pictures of Manziel’s late night partying, drinking, and celebrity persona have continued to put the Browns quarterback situation under the microscope, and has increased the national interest into which man Cleveland will put under center against Pittsburgh in week 1. In fact, Manziel’s antics have even prompted some national football analysts to write that the franchise should be “concerned” with the 21-year-old’s actions away from the field.
Meanwhile, Hoyer has been staying out of the news while he continues to prepare for the upcoming season. Josh Alper of NBC sports wrote earlier this week, “Hoyer said his knee is totally healthy after last year’s torn ACL and that he’s been throwing to Browns receivers Andrew Hawkins and Charles Johnson during the time off before training camp in order to be as sharp as possible when his competition with Manziel heats up later this month.”
Hoyer's desire to remain the Browns starter can be seen throughout his off-field preparation, and that has already set him ahead of Manziel on the depth chart at this point in the process.
That type of dedication is something Browns fans appreciate, especially after learning that the team’s star wide receiver, Josh Gordon, may be suspended for the entire season due to violating the league’s drug policy. Many are worried that Manziel may be headed down a similar path if he does not take a lesson from Hoyer and stick his nose in the playbook.
The Browns will open their preseason schedule against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Aug 9. The game is currently set to air live on NFL Network.