Brian Hoyer was the first domino to fall.
This morning around 10 AM, the Cleveland Browns announced that Brian Hoyer, their third-string quarterback who was inactive for the team’s game last weekend, would start in Minnesota on Sunday in place of Brandon Weeden.
Weeden, of course, injured his thumb towards the tail end of the Browns week two loss in Baltimore. In just under two games so far this season, Weeden has thrown the ball an incomprehensible 86 times. He has completed just 47 (54.7%) of those passes for 516 yards and one touchdown for a rating of 62.0. Oh yeah, I almost forgot his three interceptions. Yes, the offensive line has been horrible and the receiving corps still has trouble executing the one skill they are paid for – catching the football – but Weeden’s play through two games has still been underwhelming.
With Weeden injured, the Browns obviously had to make a decision about who would start in his place. However, the choice to go with Hoyer – he of the one career start and 96 career attempts – was somewhat puzzling. Veteran Jason Campbell has been listed as the backup since training camp, when coach Rob Chudzinski called the competition between him and Weeden close. Campbell came in and gave an uninspiring performance in relief against the Ravens, yet now Hoyer is set to start the Minnesota game.
Many cited this decision as a sign that the front office of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi was throwing in the towel on the 2013 season after two games. However, when the injured Weeden spoke to the media today, he stated that the decision came from Chudzinski, not one of the suits on the top floor in Berea.
I actually had no problem with the decision to start Hoyer when it was announced this morning. Jason Campbell has started 72 games over eight-plus years in the NFL. When a team chooses to start him, they’re pretty much aware of what they have at this point. Hoyer at least has the potential to surprise Browns fans a tiny bit with solid play. Am I expecting that to be the case? No, of course not. I’ve learned to guard against optimism when discussing Browns quarterbacks. However, combine the unknown quantity factor with Lombardi and Banner’s stated love for Hoyer, and the decision to start him makes sense.
Also, the fans will surely give him the Charlie Frye bump because he’s a local guy who played his high school ball at St. Ignatius. That’s a Cleveland classic.
Trent Richardson has donned the brown and orange for the last time. (John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer)
That’s where this piece would have ended, but recent events have dictated that I reevaluate the Hoyer decision. At 6:19 PM EST, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, one of the most respected guys covering the NFL, tweeted that the Browns has traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first round pick. And with that one tweet, Schefter instantly changed my opinion of the Hoyer decision.
While the official reason given for the trade was that Richardson did not fit into Chudzinski’s offense, it was clear that the team had other motives. This trade was a white flag waved high for all to see. Recontextualizing the decision to start Hoyer with this new information, it is clear that the Browns, after just two games, are in full-on tank mode. The front office has declared that, for all intents and purposes, the 2013 season is over. They have not so subtly stolen ticket money from the fans in Cleveland and told them for this season that they should be watching Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Jonny Manziel, and Marcus Mariota on Saturdays instead of heading down to FirstEnergy Stadium to watch Brian Hoyer and Chris Ogbonnaya on Sundays.
If only it were that easy for the depraved masses who call themselves Browns fans. I, like so many others, will still be watching this miserable excuse for an NFL team. But, as Banner and Lombardi have implicitly suggested, I’ll also be keeping a keen eye on the various college quarterbacks who just might become the Browns savior come next May.
The Cleveland Browns offensive line