If the Browns Like Winning, They'd Bench Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer continues to struggle, and the Browns and Mike Pettine need to make a change.

Brian Hoyer wasn't this bad at the start of the season. In fact, after the Browns' victory against the Steelers in Week 6, Hoyer ranked as the 10th-best signal-caller in the NFL according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, and the 5th-best one on a per drop back basis.

We can't let that overshadow how dreadful Hoyer's been under center over the last eight weeks.

The Browns were a surprising 3-2 after their win over the Steelers, and now sit at a still-impressive 7-6 after 14 weeks of play. But make no mistake, the team's 4-4 record over this time has nothing to do with Brian Hoyer.

Hoyer's Fall

A win isn't a quarterback statistic. Sure, you'll often find good quarterbacks on winning teams, but the statistic in and of itself is generally misleading. How wouldn't it be when a team's quarterback is off the field for half the game, and isn't the one blocking, catching or running on offense?

The argument for Brian Hoyer is that he's won. Period. Mike Pettine even stated after deciding to keep Hoyer as starter that "Brian has led our team to a 7-5 record."

Brian. Not Joe. Not Isaiah. Not Karlos.


Except he hasn't. Yes, as I said, Hoyer's start to the season was great. He was efficient with each drop back, and was leading and managing the Browns' offense just as well as anyone could expect.

But since that Steeler game, Brian Hoyer's been really bad.

Passing NEPPer GamePer Drop BackSuccess Rate
Games 1-540.006.670.2547.77%
Games 6-13-19.79-2.47-0.0744.44%

Again, through the first five games, Hoyer's 40.00 Passing NEP was 10th-best in the NFL, while his per drop back NEP of 0.25 ranked 5th. His Success Rate, which measures the percentage of passes that contribute positively towards a player's NEP, was a solid 47.77%. For reference, that's roughly a top-15 rate.

The following eight games saw Hoyer play at a -2.47 Passing NEP per game rate, losing 0.07 points for the Browns with each drop back. His Success Rate, too, dropped over three percent.

These numbers may not make a whole lot of sense at face value, so let me draw some comparisons for you. His current per game rate would equate to a -39.57 Passing NEP season, which was only reached by three full-time NFL starters a season ago. Among quarterbacks this season, the group of passers who are likely to finish at this mark equate to both Jets quarterbacks, both Jaguars quarterbacks and Robert Griffin III. In other words, each quarterback who's performed the way Hoyer has over the last eight weeks has either been benched or didn't start the season as starter for his team.

The reason Hoyer's numbers show him playing just a tad below expectation is because passing is far more efficient than rushing. So while -2.47 Passing NEP doesn't look horrible, it actually is -- it's bottom-five-in-the-league bad.

Now, JJ Watt has more touchdown receptions than Hoyer does touchdown passes since November 2nd.

But Brian's winning games.

Strength of Schedule Importance

What seems to go unnoticed in the ongoing "Should the Browns bench Brian Hoyer?" debate is the fact that Cleveland's faced a moderately easy schedule during this "Bad Hoyer" timeframe. Take a look at their opponents over the last eight weeks and how they ranked against the pass when the Browns faced them (not how they ranked against the pass entering Week 14).

OpponentPass Defense Rank
Tampa Bay32nd

Hoyer faced four of the worst pass defenses in the NFL during this eight-game stretch, three of the best, and one average secondary, Indianapolis, that played without their best cornerback. He posted a positive Passing NEP score only against Cincinnati, while he combined to lose 13 points for the Browns against Buffalo and Houston.

That's nothing to write home about.

Manziel's Ambiguity

A Hoyer backer will more than likely point to the fact that Johnny Manziel is no lock. And they're completely correct. The rookie quarterbacks this season are more or less performing at Hoyer-like levels, with the exception of Teddy Bridgewater. So what's the point in replacing Hoyer for Manziel?

Well, I'd argue that this situation is more about how bad Brian Hoyer has played than how good Johnny Manziel can be. If we assume Hoyer continues to play at this pace - and, honestly, what's the reason to not assume this? - then we're looking at a bottom-five quarterback in the NFL, and a bottom-three starter. It really doesn't matter if Johnny Manziel is better than that because that, my friends, is going to get your team nowhere. That isn't close to good enough.

By throwing Johnny Football under center, you're playing a game of probability. What are the chances Manziel is better than Hoyer? I'd argue that they're not bad considering the majority of NFL quarterbacks have played better than Hoyer this season. What are the chances that it doesn't matter? 100%. Because if Manziel is worse than Hoyer, the Browns are bound to be in the same position they would be with Hoyer.

It's time for Mike Pettine to make the change. Brian Hoyer is not the answer.