We know what Hoyer is, and he has reaffirmed it this preseason. He's probably a reasonably good backup. He is 8-of-20 for 108 yards this preseason. He had 16 passing yards and led one first down in four drives on Monday night against Washington. He's just not an average or better starting quarterback (and please, please stop with the "he was 3-0 last season!" stuff; quarterback wins is the stinkiest of all garbage stats and he completed two passes before getting hurt in one of the three games).
The Browns didn't make this move because of Hoyer. The decision came down to what's best for Johnny Manziel.
Manziel is the future, as a first-round pick with obvious talent. The Browns had to decide, is it better for Manziel to sit and learn a bit, or better to get him experience? They chose the first option. Jacksonville and Minnesota will be asking the same question when it comes to Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, their first-round quarterbacks – and it looks like both teams are going to sit the rookies in Week 1. That might be for the best, although the notion that a rookie needs to sit and learn is as outdated as drafting a running back with a top 5 pick.
The last time there were no rookie quarterbacks starting in Week 1 was 2007. From 2008-2013 there were 16 drafted in the first round and 11 started right away. Let’s look at the breakdown:
Started Week 1: Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and EJ Manuel.
Didn’t start Week 1: Josh Freeman, Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert (though he started Week 2) and Jake Locker.
That second list is rough, with four of the biggest busts among first-round quarterbacks and Locker, who hasn’t done much yet. The first group of 11 quarterbacks has seven hits (I’m including Tannehill and Griffin), two maybes (Bradford, Manuel) and two busts (Weeden, Sanchez ... and even Sanchez had his moments). That's a good percentage for the rookies who started right away.
The fact is, there’s no hard-and-fast rule anymore that sitting a rookie quarterback benefits him. Players are far more ready to play coming out of college, and some of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL have started from Day 1 (you can add Russell Wilson on that list, though he wasn’t a first-round pick). Thinking a quarterback is definitely better off to wait and learn is a tired and lazy narrative. It doesn't fit anymore.
That’s not to say the Browns are doing the wrong thing. Every situation is different. Manziel didn’t use a regular playbook at Texas A&M and has struggled to learn the terminology of a large NFL playbook, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot wrote that Manziel’s off-field antics in the offseason, missing a team meeting last week and making an obscene gesture to the Redskins bench played a part in him not winning the job. It makes sense that the coaches wouldn’t feel comfortable giving Manziel positive reinforcement by making him the Week 1 starter. Again, it’s all about getting Manziel where he needs to be to lead the Browns for the next decade, not a Week 1 game this season at Pittsburgh. Judging by what we all saw Monday night when he struggled, he needed a little more time.
Presumably, the Browns hope this motivates Manziel, he gets up to speed with the playbook and he’s more ready after the team’s Week 4 bye to start Week 5 at Tennessee. The Jaguars and Vikings will each have to figure out their own timetable, too.
It isn't necessarily advantageous to sit a rookie quarterback and have him learn, because it’s not 2003 anymore. A rookie quarterback’s development is no longer automatically helped by sitting Week 1, and it’s no longer hurt by playing right away either. That era has passed.
But in the Browns’ case, they had some reasons to go with Hoyer. They had to do the right thing for Manziel.
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