The game against the Minnesota Vikings worked to prove two things with the Browns offense: Josh Gordon is an impact player defenses are forced to counter and that even average quarterback play made a huge difference. Brian Hoyer made some plays, but he also effectively demonstrated that he is not the answer to the position long term. He might start again and ultimately start the rest of the year or Brandon Weeden may get another shot with the offense. Gordon is the straw that stirs the drink for the offense at this point and the Browns need to find a way to keep him out of trouble so they can keep him on the roster and find the right quarterback to pair with him.
Hoyer made some good throws and some nice plays, but he was only a revelation at the quarterback position compared to what had been playing there. Weeden was miserable and Gordon’s absence certainly had something to do with it. There will be those who argue that Weeden deserves a shot to prove what he can do with Gordon in the lineup. Go nuts. Put any of the three quarterbacks in there. Gordon will make plays while the quarterbacks will make a few plays but ultimately not be the answer the Browns are looking for in the long term.
There will also be people who suggest Hoyer is the guy. He might be the guy… in 2013. Hoyer made some great plays, found open receivers and had some highlights a fan could be proud. He also made some incredibly bad decisions where he did not see defenders at all on the first two interceptions, will have times where his accuracy is simply not there and get flustered in the pocket. It was only one game and he might get better, but he is not a long term starter and the focus of the Browns is still on finding one.
No, if the Browns had just run with Hoyer and had kept Richardson, they would not be a great team. The same problems would remain. The Browns run offense was putrid. They cobbled together 103 yards but 34 of those were on the fake punt and 22 were on Gordon’s end around which just serves to show how much Gordon can do. Willis McGahee might get better with more time to get acclimated in the offense but it does not matter. The Browns are still better off with a first round pick than they are with Richardson. The outcome today does not mean they pulled the trigger too early on Richardson. They had to make it then if they wanted to get that much for him.
Gordon’s presence did exactly what a legit #1 receiver is supposed to do. It opened up opportunities for the rest of the offense. Jordan Cameron had three touchdowns among his six catches, including one on the fake field goal. Davone Bess was a big part of the offense and more evidence that Weeden does not go through his progressions as well as he should. Bess caught 7 passes for 67 yards. Greg Little caught 3 passes for 18 yards. Chris Ogbannaya caught 4 passes for 30 yards.
It remains to be seen how much of this was a function of the Minnesota defense being without Chris Cook or not having much to scout Brian Hoyer and Gordon on this year and how much is just what the Browns could can do in this situation. Everything about it suggests the offense going forward under Hoyer is going to be more of the same. He will make a few nice plays but will also make some incredibly bad decisions that cost dearly. Hoyer might win a few games but he is not going to quarterback this team to a championship. That does not take away from his day or getting the first win as a member of the Browns after growing up watching them as a kid. Nevertheless, the two things that are clear with the Browns today. Josh Gordon is really, really good and they need to figure out how to keep him here and on the field with all he can do for the offense. Even average quarterback play was a dramatic improvement, so imagine what great play from a legitimate franchise quarterback would bring with weapons like Cameron and Gordon among hopefully others.