In a weird way, Browns’ coach Mike Pettine owes his current job to Brian Hoyer, and not because of the quarterback’s performance this year in leading the Browns to a 7-4 record thus far.
Let’s go back to last season, when Cleveland got off to a 2-2 start going into a week five matchup with the Buffalo Bills, who coincidentally are the brown and orange’s opponents this Sunday.
We all know what happened in that game, Hoyer tore his ACL and was out for the season, forcing then head coach Rob Chudzinski to have to use Brandon Weeden, who didn’t play well in a week one loss to Miami or a week two loss to Baltimore.
Later, Chudzinski went to Jason Campbell and back to Weeden because the former got hurt.
The effect we took away from the season was the Browns were a decent, competitive team when they received competent quarterbacking play, which is what they received from Hoyer in wins against Minnesota and Cincinnati.
Notice we didn’t say great QB play, just decent play. That’s how close the Browns were to respectability in 2013.
We decided to test our theory, and used the average passer rating from last year, which was the 87.0 mark posted by Andrew Luck. We arrived at this figure because there were 37 QBs who qualified for the rating and Luck ranked 18th, right in the middle.
Weeden achieved a QBR higher than 87.0 just twice last season. He posted a 95.3 rate (13 for 24, 197 yards and a touchdown) in the game he relieved Hoyer in a 37-24 win over the Bills, and a 94.8 rating in a 32-28 loss to the Jaguars (24 of 40, 370 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions).
Campbell had three games in which his rating was above 87.0. He posted a 105.4 in a 23-17 loss to Kansas City, who was unbeaten at the time (22 of 36, 293 yards and 2 touchdowns), a 116.3 in a 24-18 win over the Ravens (23 for 35, 262 yards and 3 scoring throws), and a 116.8 in the heartbreaking 27-26 loss to New England that probably cost Chudzinski his job.
Campbell had three games with ratings of under 70, while Weeden had four such games. As a point of comparison, Hoyer has had three games all year with a rating under 70, two of those coming in the last two weeks.
Hoyer did have a rating of under 70 in the first of his two starts last season, that being in the win over the Vikings in which he threw three interceptions.
This means last year, Browns’ quarterbacks had eight games, half the schedule, in which they received poor quarterbacking play.
Based on Hoyer’s performance this season, you would have to think Cleveland would have won two more games (23-10 loss to Miami, 14-6 loss to Baltimore, 24-13 loss to the Jets?) if their quarterbacks had done even a decent job in those contests.
If that occurred, the Browns would have finished 6-10 and the improvement from the season before perhaps keeps Chudzinski is in the job, and Pettine planning how to stop the Browns as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator.
On the other hand, two of those losses came before Hoyer took over as the starter, so maybe if Chud would have picked the more competent guy in the first place, the season would have started differently.
Nevertheless, Hoyer’s injury against the team Pettine was coaching sent the Browns into a death spiral, as they won just one more game the balance of the year.
If Brian Hoyer doesn’t get hurt, Mike Pettine may not have his current gig, and he’s right now a contender for AFC Coach of the Year.
It’s funny how things have turned out.