The Cleveland Browns are in an odd spot when it comes to the quarterback controversy between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.
On the one hand the team is 7-5 and only one game out of a playoff spot in the standings. So it makes sense to go with Hoyer — an experienced player who has a track record as a competent NFL quarterback.
On the other hand pretty much everyone in the AFC is within one game of a playoff spot, their 7-5 record is inflated by an easy schedule, and they haven’t played well since Week 10. So it makes sense to go with Manziel — the future of the franchise who needs game experience to grow into the player everyone wants him to be.
At his press conference on Monday, Hoyer made his case for why he should start. His argument is that he got the team into playoff contention, so he should be the one to finish the job.
Here’s what he said when asked why he should start in Week 14 against the Colts:
“Because we’re here, we’re 7-5, that doesn’t just happen by luck. It was hard-earned and we’ve worked to get where we’re at. And like I said we’re still in it with those other teams losing yesterday. We have four more games and two of them are division games. You don’t get to 7-5 in the NFL just by lucking into it. It’s been a lot of hard work and I think I’ve proven that I’ve gotten us to this point and I think I can carry us through the next four games. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be ready to go.”
Hoyer is a free agent after this season. In all likelihood, he won’t be back with the team. The only reason to keep playing him — and delay the development of Manziel until 2015 — is if you believe it gives you a real shot at making the playoffs.
The problem is that it’s hard to tell if the Browns have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. Cleveland is one of six teams with a 7-5 record fighting for the final wild card spot in the AFC. Three of their final four games are against winning teams (Colts, Bengals, Ravens). It’s hard to envision a scenario where they can make the playoffs without going at least 3-1 in those games, unless the AFC North completely collapses.
While Hoyer is right to say you don’t get to 7-5 by luck, he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up over the last month. He’s currently ranked 27th in total QBR out of 33 eligible quarterbacks. In his last four games he has thrown six interceptions and one touchdown and is only completing 53% of his passes.
With numbers like that, it’s fair to ask whether Manziel gives them a better shot to go on a run in these final four games and make the playoffs, in addition to being the long-term answer at QB.
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