Despite speculation that rookie Johnny Manziel would get his first NFL start this weekend against the Colts, the first-round pick will enter the game as Cleveland’s backup signal-caller once again, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. Glazer reports (via Twitter) that the Browns have informed Brian Hoyer he’ll get the start against the Colts this Sunday.
The decision to stick with Hoyer may surprise some, but Glazer suggests (via Twitter) that the veteran had “widespread support” inside Cleveland’s locker room, and that the decision was a “no-brainer” in the view of many players. Still, Hoyer has been erratic in recent weeks, throwing for no touchdowns and five interceptions against the Falcons and Bills, resulting in his benching in Buffalo. Manziel looked excellent in his first drive on Sunday, leading the offense down the field and running for a touchdown, but was shakier on his second series.
Despite Hoyer’s middling overall numbers (56.2% completion percentage, 11 TDs, 10 INTs), he has led the Browns to a 7-5 record this year, putting the club right in the thick of the Wild Card race in the AFC. Presumably, with a handful of rookies already manning the running back position, the team feels more comfortable that the veteran Hoyer – rather than the rookie Manziel – can keep the Browns’ playoff hopes alive on Sunday against the Colts. If Hoyer struggles again, Manziel may still get a look down the stretch — ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that Johnny Football could start the last three games for Cleveland if Hoyer loses on Sunday to Indianapolis.
Hoyer’s performance in the last quarter of the season could go a long way to determining not just his NFL future, but the future of the quarterback position in Cleveland. As Hoyer thrived in the first half, there was speculation that he could sign a long-term deal with the Browns, but if Manziel takes over the job down the stretch, it seems less likely that Cleveland will lock up Hoyer, who is in a contract year. That could ultimately open the door for another team to swoop in with an offer for Hoyer in free agency.