Maybe my favorite aspect of the NFL is trying to read the clues decision-makers give during the team-building process. A little less than a year ago when Mike Lombardi & Co. took over the Cleveland Browns, it became very apparent that this group was looking to the future and maybe more specifically, this upcoming offseason.
Cleveland’s coaching staff and front office has now had a full season to evaluate their players, but they also have ample cap space to add talent via free agency. The key here is how well prepared they are for this upcoming draft. Not only did they trade Trent Richardson for the Indianapolis Colts' first round pick, but they also consistently traded down during the last draft to accumulate more selections for 2014. With such collateral at their disposal, the obvious route that many expect this team to go with all those resources is to finally get a franchise quarterback in Cleveland. They will most likely do this through the draft this year in what looks to be a deep class with first rounder quarterback prospects. But the Browns also have quarterbacks on their roster. One in particular is quite intriguing.
In a season that featured three different starting quarterbacks, Brian Hoyer clearly was the Browns' best in 2013. I like where Cleveland stands in this regard in the big picture, which is all this organization should be thinking about. It seems unlikely that Jason Campbell or Brandon Weeden is with the Browns in 2014, but keeping Hoyer would be a very wise move.
Hoyer only took 155 snaps this season over the course of three games, before getting injured at the very beginning of Cleveland’s Week 5 contest against the Bills. Expectations were not high, but he looked very good in limited playing tine with a completion percentage right under 60 percent with a 5:3 touchdown to interception ratio. Hoyer threw 321 yards in Minnesota in Week 3 in relief of Weeden and then for 269 yards at home against the Bengals the following week in his first start. But let’s look past the numbers.
When I was the Assistant Recruiting Coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh, I watched Hoyer as a high school quarterback at St. Ignatius high school in Cleveland. Hoyer is now 28 years old and has been with four teams over his five NFL seasons, including a very brief stint with the Steelers. Hoyer isn’t physically overwhelming. But he is more than adequate for the position, including having a good enough arm to deal with the harsh elements in his hometown of Cleveland late in the season. Hoyer isn’t afraid to make throws, which also worked against him at times.
During his time behind center this season, Hoyer clearly favored Josh Gordon, which made sense. But Hoyer has very functional mobility, can extend a play and never goes down without a fight. His style of play seemed to inspire his teammates. From what we saw this year, Hoyer looks like the ideal guy to compete with a talented rookie quarterback in camp next year. He can either hold down the fort until the youngster is ready or act as a mentor and high quality backup.