<
>

Browns make logical move in sticking with Brian Hoyer over Johnny Manziel

The Cleveland Browns made the logical move on Wednesday naming Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Now it's up to Hoyer to back up his coach by playing better.

"The reason he's named the starter is we're confident he can go out there and lead us to a win," coach Mike Pettine said.

Hoyer has not played well in his past two games -- five interceptions and no touchdowns -- but he has seven wins this season and is 10-5 as a starter with Cleveland. The Browns are in contention for a playoff berth, and the fact that Hoyer has been the starter for 12 games played a role in Pettine's decision.

"That he was a part of our success," Pettine said. "It wasn't perfect and he's made his share of mistakes. But he's gotten the lion's share of the reps in practice and virtually all of them in games and has us in the thick of the playoff hunt."

At this point in the season, it's simply too risky to start rookie Johnny Manziel. It's also asking a lot -- it's hard enough to jump in at the beginning of a season, let alone during a playoff push.

"You almost look at it as a risk-reward situation," Pettine said. "There's a lot of unknown there. We know we've been very effective offensively at times. We're hopeful that we can get back to those times when we were efficient."

Less than two hours after Pettine explained the decision, in an ESPN.com poll in which almost 50,000 people voted, 69 percent said Pettine made the right choice. Pettine has shown tremendous faith and confidence in Hoyer since he was hired. He felt his team needed a spark Sunday in Buffalo and made the right move by playing Manziel in the fourth quarter. The move, and Pettine's comments after the game, opened the door to a possible switch at starting quarterback, but now it's up to Hoyer to shrug off any external pressure and play well against the Colts.

Pettine explained his reason for why he expects Hoyer to play better.

"Confidence in his preparation," Pettine said. "I think confidence in knowing we're going to get the guys around him playing better and we're going to get Brian playing better. ...I think he's shown the ability to bounce back from things that have happened negatively in the past."

The door also is open to the intriguing possibility of both quarterbacks playing, with Manziel being used as a change of pace on true plays, not read-option gimmicks. Pettine left that door open, saying the possibility would be "kept alive." Good. Let the Colts prepare for both.

One advantage Hoyer may have is the matchup favors what the Browns like to do on offense: running the ball and using play-action to set up the pass. Unknown Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards against the Colts for New England two weeks ago.

Pettine is not afraid of change. Nor is he afraid to challenge players in the week before a game. He's done it a few times this season. He feels that inspires the competitive nature in his players. During different times this season, he sat running backs Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, and both responded the following week. Crowell is now the starting running back (though he is dealing with a hip injury that limited him Wednesday).

The coach turned up the heat on Hoyer this week -- for valid reasons. But Pettine did not give up on his quarterback. Hoyer can never say he was not given a full and fair chance.

Now it's up to him to respond.

More: ESPN.com's live blog from Pettine's news conference on Wednesday.