The Browns have opted to start third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer in place of the injured Brandon Weeden for Sunday’s Week 3 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The motives behind the move are puzzling. The most logical reasoning I’ve heard so far is, ‘why not?’ Well, because the Browns are two games into the season and one game behind in a weak division they should be competing in by now. Although the Browns’ management and coaching staff are new, this is a very familiar move; One fueled by total incompetence and desperation.
When Weeden unceremoniously jogged off the field in a baseball cap with three minutes remaining in a close game last week, we joked that that was probably the last we’d ever see of him. I never expected it to be the truth. Obviously, the new regime inherited Weeden and just wanted to see him fail beyond the shadow of a doubt before they begin their search for a franchise quarterback. And so it begins… in Week 3. If the Browns wanted to remain competitive in this division for the remainder of the season, the obvious move was to start veteran backup Jason Campbell. Campbell is a more stable play and would do a better job of managing the game as a quarterback. Now, this is not a wringing endorsement. He is not very good. He’s the clear #2 quarterback on the roster.
But maybe that was part of the plan, if you can call this disaster a plan. The switch to Hoyer raises questions about the signing of Campbell. Why did the new administration go out and sign Campbell as a backup if they had no faith in him stepping in and leading the team, if need be? With Weeden down and out, it’s looking like Campbell was brought in as the perpetual backup; Someone that the Cleveland fan base would never clamor for, despite the twisted obsession with a backup quarterback in this town. The Browns stacked the deck against themselves at quarterback to make sure Weeden was the clear starter, no matter how much he struggled. Now, that plan has backfired and they actually have to start somebody.
So that brings us to Brian Hoyer. Look, I get that Hoyer is an unknown and we already know that Campbell isn’t going to produce at even a good level ever again. But you can’t honestly expect me to go along with the thought that the coaching staff truly believes that the astronomically slim chances of discovering an unheralded undrafted franchise quarterback is going to produce a higher level of play than a veteran like Campbell. If that’s the belief around the team, then this problem is a much deeper one.
There is simply no way this is a move to find out if the ‘kid can sling it,’ as some have said. Actually, the kid’s been in the league for five years, so someone already found out that he can’t. Hoyer has as slim of a chance of being in a Browns uniform next season as Weeden does. I would love to be eating crow on this in a few weeks and I wish Hoyer success, but let’s be realistic. The hope of the Browns finding their future in another team’s dumpster is as delusional as Browns fans have ever been. The more likely scenario is pretty simple. The Browns have decided that the season is lost and Hoyer taking over now will give them a better chance at obtaining a high draft pick and subsequently a highly touted franchise quarterback for 2014.
Now, some might call this tanking or giving up, and of course this presupposes that Weeden’s injury is serious or that the coaching staff has seen enough not to return to him. The latter is probably more likely to be true. Some fans might actually be for this, since it seems the Browns always end up around 5-11 and miss out on the very top of the draft board. Is that what we’ve come to? This early in the season, it’s a gutless move and this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, is far too competitive to be expected to compete, or not compete, with the likes of decidedly terrible teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars. The sad thing is, this is the time the Browns were supposed to be dominating a weakened AFC North. Instead they’re throwing away another season, before the aging team in Pittsburgh and the rebuilding one in Baltimore.