Despite all the attention, all the hype, all the hoopla, odds are Johnny Football will begin his career with the Browns as Johnny Backup. The battle between rookie Johnny Manziel and veteran Brian Hoyer for the team’s starting quarterback job will be the most dominant storyline of Browns training camp by far. It’ll also be one of the hottest topics in the entire NFL this preseason because of Manziel’s celebrity. Manziel is the young, hotshot, Heisman winner from Texas A&M whose No. 2 jersey already ranks among the league’s best sellers and whose persistent partying generated headlines throughout the spring and summer. On May 8, the Browns made it clear they view him as their future because they traded up from 26th overall to select him at No. 22 in the first round of the NFL Draft. Hoyer is the under-the-radar, low-key veteran from North Olmsted who was stuck behind New England Patriots star Tom Brady for three seasons before bouncing around the league, eventually breaking through last fall with the Browns and leading them to back-to-back wins, only to suffer a devastating knee injury in his third start with his hometown team and his fourth start in five NFL seasons. On paper, Manziel looks like the front-runner. Many members of the national media certainly believe he’ll become an immediate starter. However, my prediction is the same it was in the spring: Barring injury, Hoyer will prevail. As mandatory minicamp wrapped up June 12, Browns coach Mike Pettine declared Hoyer would be the starter heading into training camp. The rookie head coach also said Hoyer is “securely ahead” of Manziel but insisted Hoyer’s lead is not “insurmountable.” In other words, it wouldn’t be surprising if Manziel found a way to surpass Hoyer with strong performances in training camp practices and preseason games. But I wouldn’t bet on it for several reasons. For one, Pettine and his assistants have the utmost respect for Hoyer. As the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills last season, Pettine had to prepare for Hoyer right after he provided the Browns with a tremendous spark in the wake of their 0-2 start and the Trent Richardson trade, a shocking, locker-room-rattling move at the time. On Oct. 3, Hoyer suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter against the Bills. Pettine believes the Browns would have won enough games to keep coach Rob Chudzinski from being fired had Hoyer stayed healthy. General Manager Ray Farmer not only thinks Manziel has a lot of work to do if he wants to catch Hoyer in the quarterback derby, but he also believes Hoyer has many traits of a legitimate starter. The team’s brass talking to Hoyer’s agent, Joe Linta, this summer about a contract extension gives its praise substance. Hoyer is scheduled to become a free agent next March. He is set to make a base salary of $1 million during the 2014 season with an opportunity to earn an extra $1.15 million in incentives.
Expect Brian Hoyer to maintain lead over Johnny Manziel in Browns QB derby
Akron Beacon Journal | Jul 20