Cleveland Browns: Will Brian Hoyer be the Franchise Answer at QB?

Updated: December 20, 2013

Since the front office of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi has taken over, the days of 2012 first-round pick Brandon Weeden have been numbered. While a member of the NFL Network, Lombardi was quite blunt with his assessment of the then-rookie quarterback, noting the pick was a “panicked disaster.” His disappointing performance in the 2013 NFL regular season likely has not redeemed him, nor has it altered Lombardi’s opinion in a positive manner. To be honest, it is incredibly likely that Weeden will not be on the team in 2014.

That leaves the combination of Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell and Alex Tanney on the Cleveland Browns roster. This should really come as no surprise to anyone, since Hoyer has been shown public support from Lombardi, Campbell was signed in free agency from a combination of Banner and Lombardi and Tanney has been given support from assistant GM Ray Farmer. To say that these are “the guys” of this new front office would be a fair statement, but do any of them have starting potential in 2014?

Campbell’s age will be a big deciding factor. Set to turn 32 this month, his age and resume in the NFL say about all you need to know about him. He has had one of his better seasons in the league this year under Norv Turner‘s “quarterback-friendly system”, but he has still been decidedly average. While he could be retained as the backup next year, it is entirely more likely the team adds a prospect in the NFL Draft.

As far as Tanney goes, he’s a long-term project at best. Coming out of a lower division college like Monmouth, Tanney dominated the competition. He has yet to see any NFL action besides preseason this year, but if Farmer has belief in him, it is likely the organization will keep him around as a third quarterback to develop on the roster. There is no denying his accuracy, but you only need to look at Weeden to see that against NFL defenders, accuracy only takes you so far. He will need a lot of work and development to remain in the team’s plans.

This brings us to Hoyer. Boasting a 2-0 record with the Cleveland Browns (not giving him credit for Buffalo even though most do), Hoyer helped to knock off the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals before his ACL injury landed him on the IR. While he looked solid in his two starts, it is a very small sample size, and an even smaller resume to assess. Obviously, the front office would love for the hometown success story to make good, for reasons of QB stability and fan support both. He still has much to prove, however, going into 2014.

As the backup to Tom Brady in New England for multiple seasons, Hoyer was able to study under some of the greatest minds in the NFL, including Bill Belichick. While learning a lot, it’s fair to say he was never given a legitimate chance to fight for the starting spot too. It would be unrealistic (and bordering on lunacy) to say that Hoyer would have dethroned arguably the best passer in the NFL, but what about his time in Pittsburgh?

The Patriots had cut Hoyer after drafting Ryan Mallet in the 2011 NFL Draft, and he sat idly by until November 20th when he was signed off the street to back up Charlie Batch for Weeks 12 and 13 due to a Ben Roethlisberger injury. Hoyer only hung around until December 8th though, being waived as soon as Roethlisberger made his return.

It only took two days for the Cardinals to pick up Hoyer on December 10th, and he was immediately put into action, replacing Ryan Lindley due to ineffective play. On December 26th, head coach Ken Whisenhunt announced that Hoyer be the starter for the finale against the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately for Hoyer, a head coach replacement and a trade for Carson Palmer during the offseason, effectively ended his time in Arizona.

So, Hoyer has had one backup stint behind the best quarterback in the NFL, and two short-term stints as an unprepared backup, so the answer to if he has starting potential? Nobody knows. If you ask Lombardi though, the signs point to yes.

“I think (Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett) are starters,” Lombardi said in December 2011. “I’ve said this many times: If I would have taken the GM job of the 49ers, I would have gone after Brian Hoyer, because I think he has all the traits and characteristics. If I were the Cleveland Browns, I’d rather have Brian Hoyer behind center than Colt McCoy (former Browns draft pick). I think he’s got all the traits you need, in terms of leadership, toughness, the arm strength, the ability to move the team.”

Fans will have to wait until next season to see if Lombardi’s words still hold true, but don’t think that it will stop them from taking a QB talent in the draft if one presents itself. The team has stated time and time again, they will actively continue to look at options in upgrading every position on the roster. While Hoyer has the support for now, until day three of the NFL draft winds down, anything can happen.

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