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BEREA, Ohio — Brian Hoyer will open the season as Cleveland’s starting quarterback, barely hanging on to his job by holding off hotshot rookie Johnny Manziel.
Browns coach Mike Pettine picked Hoyer over Manziel to start the Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh. It’s Hoyer’s job for now, but the real test for him will be how long he keeps it from Manziel.
Pettine met with his coaching staff Tuesday night and announced in a release today before practice that he’ll go with Hoyer. The decision ends weeks of competition and analysis, and the Browns are hoping it will allow Hoyer, who started three games last season, to build some chemistry with Cleveland’s struggling offense before they meet the dreaded Steelers, their long-time rivals.
In the end, Hoyer’s experience — however limited — gave him the nod.
“He was the clear leader from the beginning,” Pettine said of Hoyer. “We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”
Pettine delayed his decision after both Hoyer and Manziel played poorly in a 24-23 exhibition loss at Washington on Monday. During that game, Manziel gave the finger to the Redskins sideline, an act Pettine said would be factored into the decision.
Hoyer didn’t win the job over Manziel as much as he clung to it after beginning training camp as the No. 1 quarterback. Hoyer showed glimpses of being a quality starter in 2013 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
Hoyer only completed 2 of 6 passes for 16 yards in Monday’s game and the Browns’ first-team offense was out of sync with him on the field. However, Pettine said in looking at Hoyer’s entire body of work that he deserved the starting gig.
“I think Brian’s been very poised,” Pettine said. “I think he’s handled the situation well. He’s had a lot of things going on. Here’s a guy coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Really, these are his first, essentially, 20-25 plays of live work back from it, and he’s only going to get better.”
Manziel’s offseason behavior didn’t help his cause. He was criticized for spending his weekends away from Cleveland’s facility partying before training camp. Manziel has shown flashes of his Johnny Football form in practices, but he’s still struggling with an offense that’s much more complex than the one he ran at Texas A&M.
“He’s certainly made great strides,” Pettine said. “We are pleased with where he is, and he has shown that he has come a long way in his ability to pick up the playbook, be coachable and lead an offense. We are confident that Johnny is going to have a great future, but we just felt that Brian still had a decided edge on him.”