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Browns' QB Hoyer to start Sunday

The SportsXchange

Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski informed quarterback Brian Hoyer he will start Sunday's game at Minnesota.

Hoyer has one career start in four seasons and spent his first three seasons as Tom Brady's primary backup in New England.

He was inactive for the first two weeks of the season and had been listed as the No. 3 quarterback on the Browns' depth chart behind Jason Campbell and starter Brandon Weeden, but Chudzinski hinted Monday that he wasn't locked in on Campbell.

"Brian (Hoyer's) strengths are the best fit for us this week. He gives us the best chance to win," Chudzinski said.

Weeden will miss Sunday's game with a thumb injury, though the Browns have denied reports that Weeden's injury could keep him out several weeks.

Weeden has been sacked 11 times in two games. Hoyer, according to the coach, gives the Browns the best chance to beat the Vikings. He'll be the 19th starting quarterback for the franchise since 1999.

"He can make every throw that you need," Chudzinski said when asked about Hoyer's arm strength. "No limitations in that regard."

Chudzinski allowed that the Browns would need to take a "wait and see" approach with Weeden. Based on history, Weeden might have reason to be concerned about his job security. At 0-2, the Browns are looking for a spark.

Asked if Weeden was still the starter when he returns, Chudzinski said he will leave "all the options open."

Hoyer, 27, has never had an extended audition in the NFL. But he has been a target of first-year Browns general manager Mike Lombardi since Hoyer signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent from Michigan State in 2009. Chudzinski said Wednesday that the decision to start Hoyer was his, not a front-office mandate.

Lombardi, a former scout with the Browns and later an executive with the Oakland Raiders, said in 2010 as an analyst at NFL Network that he would've acquired Hoyer from the Patriots had he been hired as San Francisco 49ers general manager. Lombardi, who once worked for the franchise under Bill Walsh, interviewed for that position Dec. 28, 2010. The York Family instead hired Trent Baalke, and the 49ers went on to hire Jim Harbaugh and draft Colin Kaepernick.

"If I would have taken the GM job of the 49ers, I would have gone after Brian Hoyer, because I think he has all the traits and characteristics," Lombardi said in 2010. "If I were the Cleveland Browns, I'd rather have Brian Hoyer behind center than Colt McCoy. I think he's got all the traits you need, in terms of leadership, toughness, the arm strength, the ability to move the team."

Hoyer was a restricted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals during the 2013 offseason and was released in May, opening the door for him to join Lombardi's Browns. Cleveland had already signed Campbell to a $1.5 million contract.

Lombardi's opinion of Weeden, a first-round pick in 2012, wasn't flattering, labeling general manager Tom Heckert's decision to take Weeden 22nd overall in the draft a "panicked disaster." Lombardi since backed off those comments. At the outset of training camp, he said the "media evaluation" he made is different than one from inside the building.

The Browns, under the direction of Mike Holmgren and Heckert, engaged the St. Louis Rams about a potential trade for the No. 2 pick in 2012 but dismissed themselves from talks when the asking price escalated. The Washington Redskins eventually landed the pick, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, for a multiple draft picks, including three first-rounders.

Following Sunday's game at Minnesota, the Browns return to Cleveland and host Cincinnati, a team Weeden performed well against as a rookie, completing more than 63 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and one turnover in 58 pass attempts.
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