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Cleveland Browns Losing Brian Hoyer Does Not Mean the Season is Over
The Cleveland Browns are sitting at 3-2 atop the AFC North with a week to rest before they welcome the Detroit Lions to town. Yet for some reason, Cleveland fans have already given up on the season because of a season-ending injury to Brian Hoyer.
If you sense a theme here, you are probably right. Cleveland fans live and die by the phrase “there’s always next year”, so when the opportunity to revert back to usual patterns presents itself, they are normally the first to jump on the ship. And who could blame them? Two winning seasons since 1999 and one playoff appearance does not exactly give the fans much confidence.
Despite his success, the Cleveland Browns didn’t lose Tom Brady at the quarterback position, they lost a 27-year old who had been his backup for the majority of his career. Hoyer certainly performed admirably in an attempt to write the Cinderella story of all Cinderella stories as a hometown kid leading the team he grew up rooting for back to relevance. But at the end of the day, this is the same quarterback the majority of fans were screaming “why” about when the Browns signed him before the season.
In his three appearances this season, Hoyer completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 615 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions—giving him a quarterback rating of 82.6. With poise and resiliency he made up for his mistakes against Minnesota to lead the team to a game-winning drive with less than two minutes left in the game, and he played a very efficient game against the Bengals as the Browns beat their AFC North foe.
With all of this in mind, Hoyer was not even in the conversation of “season is over” if you lose him. Yes, I understand Brandon Weeden is once again under center—and he actually did his best Hoyer impression by coming off the bench to complete 54.2 percent of his passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Weeden’s performance after he knocked the three-week rust off led to a quarterback rating of 95.3, which was the third highest in any game of his career. The other two were achieved in losses to Cincinnati and Indianapolis last year.
Would it have been nice to see the hometown kid under center for the remainder of the season to see what he can do? Sure, but the fact of the matter is that Hoyer is not the difference between the Browns winning the Super Bowl or not this season. With a smaller salary demand than Weeden and the full support of general manager Michael Lombardi, Hoyer will likely be back in Cleveland next season. Weeden, on the other hand, is once again on an 11-game clock with a shot to prove he can be “the man” for the Browns.
Barring the world’s greatest turnaround, Weeden will not likely prove to be the Browns quarterback of the future over the final 11 games. He has not developed touch on his passes that the elite quarterbacks need, and with two first-round picks thanks to the Trent Richardson trade the current regime will have every opportunity to go out and get “their guy” in the 2014 NFL Draft.
With all of this in mind, this Browns team’s season will live and die by the unit they spent the offseason upgrading—Ray Horton’s defense.
Thanks to their new additions actually performing at or above expectation level (when was the last time that happened here), the defense has quickly ascended to the Top 10 of the league. Many people were opposed to the switch to the 3-4 defense in the offseason, but it has been nothing short of an excellent turnaround thus far on that side of the ball. In fact, Horton has even worked wonders on the butt of many jokes in 2012, cornerback Buster Skrine, as he has emerged as one of the unit’s top playmakers thus far.
Sitting at 3-2, Horton’s defense will get its biggest test over the course of the next four weeks before the team’s Week 10 bye. After facing off against the Lions this coming week, they will hit the road to take on the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs before returning home for date number two with the Baltimore Ravens. All four teams are major playoff contenders, and as the old saying goes “to be the best, you have to beat the best”.
The season did not die with the loss of Hoyer, it just presented yet another hoop for this franchise to jump over. With a solid defense and Weeden with plenty of starting experience, this team will have an opportunity to continue on the path they have rebounded to after losing their first two games of the season.
And hey, if Weeden can’t get the job done and the team finishes with yet another losing record—there’s always next year. Okay, I’m kidding, but let’s not write this team off before their 2013 season is done being written, because they are already more entertaining and exciting than any team since 2007.
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