COMMENTARY | A lot of draft talk surrounding the Cleveland Browns in 2014 has centered around their number four pick and whether they should use it on a quarterback. Should they draft a wide receiver or trade down if "their guy" isn't available?
Let's assume for argument's sake that the Browns get the QB they're looking for. Where does that leave Brian Hoyer after his return from a torn ACL? Should Hoyer be the de facto starter? Should the two compete for the job? Should the rookie (Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, etc.) start? It depends somewhat on who is selected, but in general, not all rookie quarterbacks are NFL ready. Some take a year to get a handle on the increased speed and intensity of the pro game.
One would hope that a top five quarterback would be ready to go, but do the Browns have the pieces necessary for a rookie quarterback to have success? I think they do, particularly if they manage to acquire a solid number two wide receiver, something that shouldn't be that difficult, given the depth of the wide receiver class in 2014 and the sheer number of picks the Browns have stockpiled. The biggest question mark is currently the running back position, but that is a very plug-and-play position in the NFL today, an easy fix. On the other hand, with no clear number one guy, will any of the potential top picks be starting material upon first entering the league? Remember, in 2012, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were almost invariably declared the number one and two players in the draft. This year, there is no such consensus, with only one of the top QB prospects (Teddy Bridgewater) even cracking the top 5 in overall rankings.
The greatest advantage Hoyer would have had over an incoming rookie would have been prior knowledge of the offense, but after the front office fired head coach Rob Chudzinski, Hoyer will be working with a whole new playbook as well. Experience is hard to argue in Hoyer's favor, too, because he's only started a few games in his entire career. His statistics are nothing glamorous, either, with only 6.4 yards per attempt, the same as Jason Campbell and actually slightly less than Brandon Weeden. Admittedly, the offense did "look" better with Hoyer on the field, but with such a small sample size, declaring him the de facto starter seems premature. Whether Hoyer gets the nod in 2014 or not, it's hard to argue that he can be the guy who rescues Cleveland from its current home in the basement of the AFC North, at least until he shows something more.
Management and Coaching
The reason this is such a hot debate is because the Browns front office cannot afford to have this situation devolve into another quarterback controversy. Need I remind anyone of the Tim Couch-Kelly Holcomb debate, or of Derek Anderson vs Charlie Frye? I'd go on, but they're painful memories for me as well. The point is, a PR disaster surrounding the team's most important decision this offseason won't sit well with owner Jimmy Haslam. The front office and their selection for Chudzinski's successor have to get this right, or the Browns could be facing another house cleaning in 2015 or 2016.
When it comes down to it, there is no "safe" option this year. Campbell and Weeden both turned out to be disasters on the field, and Hoyer is as much a question mark as any potential rookie this year. There is no consensus franchise quarterback in the draft like Andrew Luck in 2012. The decision to start "X" rookie quarterback or Brian Hoyer will have to come down to who the new head coach (assuming he has final say) thinks is best suited to run his offense in 2014 based on his appraisal during preseason activities. Depending on how one feels about this front office's ability to find a quality head coach, that could be a scary thought.
Ryan Hurley currently lives in Cincinnati and has been a follower of Cleveland sports for 23 years.
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