Debate: Should the Browns Have Named Brian Hoyer Their Week 1 Starter?

Two numberFire football writers argue whether Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel should be the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns drafted Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and he was immediately pegged as a savior by fans and the future starting quarterback of the Browns. The Browns had Brian Hoyer already rostered, who's coming off an ACL tear, but he's never really amounted to anything more than a journeyman backup.

Prior to tearing his ACL a season ago, Hoyer led the Browns to three wins. And going into training camp, many pegged him as the opening day starter, unless Manziel wowed the coaching staff.

Evidently Manziel didn't, as it was announced today that Hoyer will be the starter in Cleveland to start the season. Was it the right call? Tom Bonner and I debate.

The Case for Johnny Manziel

By: Tom Bonner

I want to preface this by saying that I'm not a Johnny Manziel fan. I don't appreciate his antics, I don't think he has the on-the-field discipline to successfully run an NFL offense, and he looks like a teenager next to the athletes he's on the field with. I don't even believe that Manziel is going to be a successful quarterback at the NFL level, but the Browns only logical choice is to hand him the reins.

The Browns are invested in Johnny Manziel, spending a first-round pick on him in the NFL draft (one of the most valuable assets in professional sports). They've sold record numbers of tickets and jerseys due to his mere presence on the practice field. They've got who knows how many spotters and baby-sitters on their payroll charged with keeping track of his off-the-field “activities”. The Browns can't spend another high draft pick on a quarterback until they know what Johnny Manziel is or isn't at the NFL level (see: Geno Smith).

The Browns are not, however, invested in Brian Hoyer. Hoyer is a 28 year-old journeyman (he'll be 29 in October) that went undrafted in 2009 and has fewer NFL starts under his belt than Nick Foles. He's in the last year of a two-year contract that pays him close to the veteran minimum and attempting to return from a torn ACL. In the three games he started last year for Cleveland, Hoyer completed less than 60% of his passes, and threw for just 615 yards.

Manziel hasn't looked good so far this pre-season (and neither has Hoyer), but the only way Manziel has a chance at adapting his game to the NFL level is to get reps. He won't be able to play the way he played at Texas A&M now that he's in the NFL. The only chance he has to succeed is for the Browns to give him the chance to learn how to succeed. I've always been a big believer that quarterbacks only get better by playing on the field, and that's exactly where the Cleveland Browns need to have Johnny Manziel in 2014.

The Case for Brian Hoyer

By: Ari Ross

Undrafted out of Michigan State, Hoyer sat behind Tom Brady for three years as the Patriots backup before being released. He bounced around with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals in 2012, until now-former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi brought him to Cleveland.

Hoyer began the season as the third string quarterback, but after Brandon Weeden went down with injury last year, Hoyer jumped Jason Campbell on the depth chart, starting three games, all wins, before going down with a torn ACL. In those three games, Hoyer passed for 615 yards (59.9 completion percentage), five touchdowns and three interceptions with a 82.6 rating and 47.5 QBR.

Based on numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures how many points a player is adding or subtracting to his team's expected point total based on his performance, Hoyer was very average over his three starts. Dropping back to pass 102 times, Hoyer accumulated a 2.91 Passing NEP, which measures how many points a player added or subtracted through his passing attempts, and 0.03 Passing NEP per drop back, measuring how many points a player added or subtracted per pass. He had a 43.14 Success Rate as well, which is the percentage of passes that contribute positively to a players Passing NEP.

Among the 11 quarterbacks with between 50 and 200 passes last year, Hoyer had the fourth highest Passing NEP, and he ranked fourth on a per drop back basis as well. And if Hoyer's per drop back Passing NEP is extrapolated to the number of passing attempts by Browns quarterbacks last year, 681, Hoyer would have had a 20.43 Passing NEP, good enough for an average to below average starter in the NFL. For reference, Carson Palmer's Passing NEP was a little over 25.00 last season due to his sluggish start.

But average is good enough for the Browns this season. Expected to have a great defense and a decent rushing attack with Ben Tate and Terrance West - much better than last season - the Browns don't need a miracle worker at quarterback. An average quarterback would be good enough, not only to give the Browns a chance to win numberFire's projected 7.1 wins, but also to let Manziel learn the offense and adjust to the NFL.

Having taken most of his snaps this preseason out the the pistol or shotgun, Manziel doesn't have a firm grasp of the offense yet, and he's even said this himself. Manziel needs time to adjust to the NFL, learn the offense and mature into an NFL quarterback, and Hoyer starting will give him that time. Throwing him into the fire Week 1 won't. Rookie quarterbacks don't immediately become superstars. Manziel isn't ready yet.

It's not like the Browns know what they have in Hoyer either, as he's only started three games for them and just one more in his career. But Hoyer's a veteran who's learned from one of the best. While he's probably an average passer at best, starting him gives the Browns a better chance to win now, and gives Manziel a chance to adjust, learn and prepare, so he can be ready when it's his time.