If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that one of our central theories in evaluating players is the “can’t do any worse” theory.
Simply put, when looking at a veteran player’s performance, you have to determine whether a young player could do any worse than the incumbent, because it isn’t a stretch to believe the young player will get better with age and experience.
That’s where we are with the Cleveland Browns and their quarterback situation.
In the first nine games this season, Brian Hoyer provided stability at the position. No, he wasnt’ Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers, but he moved the team and protected the football, leading the Browns to a 6-3 record, one far better than most figured at the beginning of the season.
He threw 10 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in those nine contests.
In the last four games, something has changed. Hoyer has become turnover prone and his inaccuracy has become a huge problem. He’s thrown just one TD pass and six interceptions in those three games. His completion percentage, never high even when he wasn’t turning the ball over, is a paltry 50.8% over that span, which has resulted in two losses.
We understand that players have bad games, but the good ones rebound with a solid game the following week. When a player like Hoyer, who really doesn’t have a proven track record in the NFL has three straight mediocre games, you have to question whether or not he is the guy to lead the team going forward.
And it’s not only protecting the ball either. Hoyer isn’t taking advantage of the turnovers his defense is creating for him.
Against Atlanta, the Browns’ defense handed him the ball twice in Falcon territory and in both cases, Cleveland could only muster a field goal.
And Sunday versus the Bills, Joe Haden picked off Kyle Orton on the second play of the second half, giving the Browns the ball on the Buffalo 30-yard line. This time, the offense was forced to punt the ball away when Hoyer took a critical sack.
That’s the kind of performance you would expect from an average or below average player at the position. And because of that, the Browns need to find out if Johnny Manziel can be a difference maker.
We have said all along that the quarterback who gives the Browns the best chance to win should be the guy who plays, which is what Mike Pettine has always said. Right now, do you really think Manziel gives Cleveland less of a chance of winning?
With all things being equal, why not play the younger, more athletic player? Manziel has more upside and quite frankly, why not see what you have in a first round draft pick.
Had Hoyer been playing at the same level he was during the first half of the season, it would be ridiculous to make such a change in the middle of a post-season race, and make no mistake, despite not having the advantage in the tie breaking scenarios, the brown and orange are right in the thick of the playoff chase.
However, the offense has bogged down and the Browns need to score points to win.
Still, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Pettine need to tell Manziel that possession of the football is a precious thing, and stress to him that the Cleveland formula for winning is the way they played during the first eight games, and that is mistake free/turnover free football.
If you can get the best of what Hoyer did in the first half of the season with Manziel’s arm and mobility, it may be just what the doctor ordered for the Browns.
The time is here. Manziel should get the start against Indianapolis at home this Sunday.