The partial ACL tear for Brian Hoyer is obviously a disaster for Hoyer personally, but puts the Cleveland Browns in a tough spot. While Hoyer had looked solid in his play in his first two games, even if he had looked like a superstar, this injury makes it impossible for them to bank on him as the starter next year. Hoyer was auditioning for a role with the team, which he nailed, but with this injury, that role is likely as the primary backup quarterback. Although it is unclear if the Browns had ever veered off of the path of drafting a franchise quarterback next year, this forces their hand and leaves them searching for a passer to get them through the rest of this season.
Hoyer made for a terrific story. A local kid, who grew up watching the Browns, came in as a free agent after having a relatively anonymous career and fate put him in position where he could go out and win games. While the Hoyer story is certainly not over with this injury, it is at least on hold for the time being. There is no reason to think he will not be brought back next season but will be in a position where he has to fight for his dream again. Given Hoyer’s attitude and his grit, he will accept that challenge and if he is good enough, he will find his way back into the starting job but there will be better competition.
In the short term, the Browns technically have to put another quarterback out there. Brandon Weeden was able to go out and help the Browns get the victory against the Buffalo Bills, but the difference between Weeden and Hoyer was evident. Weeden cannot move, takes far too long to make decisions on most snaps and is a sitting duck. The offensive line cannot block forever and gets unfairly criticized when Weeden is the reason for his demise. When Weeden made quick decisions, he was able to make some nice throws with tremendous arm strength and set the Browns up to score points. In the postgame interview, Weeden noted that Hoyer makes decisions quicker than he does, so he at least understands. Now, if they keep rolling with him going forward, he has to do it.
They also have Jason Campbell who is also bad, but there will most assuredly be fans and critics who want to see him because they will firmly place themselves in the “anything but Weeden” camp. The answer is not on the current roster and the question will be if the Browns will go for a free agent with the ability to play right away and the focus will immediately shift to Josh Freeman, formerly of the Buccaneers.
Freeman has talent, but between the seemingly unbelievable situation he just went through with the Bucs and head coach Greg Schiano as well as his own failings, it seems like the last thing Freeman needs to do is go out and try to start as a quarterback for a team. And it is easy to forget that Freeman could not play dead this season. He was simply awful. There is talent there, but getting it out of him this season may not be realistic or good for Freeman.
Freeman could be a nice addition as a long term backup and reclamation project, but he just needs to disappear for a while. The Browns are not really set up for that situation right now, so it may not be a great fit for him. Freeman just needs to go to a team and work on his craft as well as himself as a person while not needing to worry about starting a game for a while; certainly the rest of this season but probably longer.
The Browns could potentially look for someone off the radar as well to bring in as a third quarterback and developmental player. Tyler Wilson was a fourth round pick who was cut by the Oakland Raiders after training camp. He could be conceivably worth bringing in to see what he can do as a potential trade piece later as he is not a great fit in this offense, but then again, Hoyer did not scream a great fit for the Browns either.
In the long term, the Browns again find themselves in the position of looking for a franchise quarterback in the NFL Draft, assuming that ever even wavered with what Hoyer was doing. They simply cannot bank on two games of even spectacular quarterback play in the long term. There are too many questions left to be answered and the team finds itself in the situation as many were in trying to bank on Matt Flynn. The question for the Browns is who they like in the NFL Draft and what it will take to get that player as they have ammo, but Teddy Bridgewater is unlikely in any scenario and should he declare, is all but a Jacksonville Jaguar.
Lastly, the schedule gets incredibly difficult in a hurry and the Browns only have a week and a half to regroup and figure things out before they are into it. The Detroit Lions are 3-1, followed by the Green Bay Packers which are a surprising 1-2, but are an extremely dangerous team. The Kansas City Chiefs have the best defense in football and are currently 4-0 and the Browns finish up this four game stretch hosting the Baltimore Ravens before they get to their bye. Considering the quarterback situation, the Browns could end up going 0-4.
With that one hit, the Browns season went from fun to watch and a great story with a chance to go 3-2 and make things interesting in the division to everything standing still. They still managed to get to 3-2 but suddenly the team is in a position where many are going to be looking ahead to the offseason again with 11 games to play unless Weeden or Campbell are able to play at a level they have never shown capable. The team is going to attempt to make the best of a bad situation, but there is only so much they can do in this scenario. Hoyer will be back, will fight for the quarterback position again, but he is going to be doing it against the handpicked quarterback from Joe Banner, Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski.