CLEVELAND – Despite going 21-of-34 for 300 yards and tossing two touchdowns in a 22-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns quarterback, Brian Hoyer is coming under fire from fans wanting Johnny Manziel.
Coming into the Buccaneers game, I wrote a op-ed blog on how the Cleveland-area media and so-called “fans”—i.e. Johnny Manziel groupies—were overly critical of Hoyer’s performance following a close home win over the winless Oakland Raiders, and the need for them to cut him some slack.
To be clear, this is not a case of me allowing my fandom to cloud my objective journalistic values of being fair and unbias, but after the Raiders game—which again was a win—I had decided to call out these so-called Manziel-maniacs because of how many of them were calling for their gridiron demigod to be the 21st sacrificial lamb called being the starting quarterback for the Browns.
Hoyer has the Browns on the cusp of being relevant and a playoff contender for the fist time since the glory days of Bernie Kosar in the 1980’s, now fans want to disrupt that for the new Texas-tinged flavor of the month in Johnny Football?
No offense, but this type of knee-jerk over-reaction is the reason—as I stated in my last blog, that Browns fans are universally mocked in NFL circles. Sticking with Hoyer ensures continuity on offense and gives a perennially dysfunctional franchise a sense of structure for once.
Mind you, this comes after Cleveland matched their win total from last year in seven games, and after another “ugly” performance in a 22-17 win against a one-win Bucs team Sunday, surpassing last year’s win total, nothing short of seeing Manziel under center will be good enough for these “fans”.
In reference to the game itself, this writer thinks that the Ben Tate starting experiment needs to end, as he spends too much time dancing and not enough in taking advantage of the one-cut and go zone-block scheme that Kyle Shanahan brought with him from Washington—and Houston, where Tate played in.
Cleveland would best be served in going back to the “Baby Back” tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, as they are both younger and seem to hit the holes better. For the game, Tate rushed for three yards on ten carries, while West had 48 yards rushing on 15 carries and one catch for two yards and a touchdown.
While Tate added 29 yards receiving on four catches, it just doesn’t look like Tate is getting the job done in being hesitant at the line of scrimmage.
While the defense and special teams showed up for the second straight game with Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner picking off Mike Glennon, blocking a field goal and puntBilly Cundiff kicking three field goals, the play-calling on offense and run defense need to be cleaned up before heading downstate to face the division-leading Bengals.
Anyone who thinks that Hoyer is the problem in Cleveland’s struggles on offense is both blind and lacking in football knowledge, as the loss of center Alex Mack has completely effected the running game, ability for Hoyer to use play-action and the rhythm on offense entirely.
While some can argue that left tackle is the single most important position on offense after quarterback, center is a close second.
In baseball, you have the pitcher-catcher “battery”, same as in football between center and quarterback. In addition to this, centers are responsible for line calls, identifying blitzes and maintaining gap control, with Mack gone, have you noticed just how drastically the Browns once-vaunted running game has hit the skids?
Without an effective o-line a team cannot run the ball, control the clock or effectively execute play-action to keep defenses honest. For all the Manziel conspiracy theorists-supporters, how much better would the Browns offense really be with him under center?
Yes, Hoyer has his flaws such as suspect accuracy downfield, deep balls that have a tendency to either sail high or float–such as his fourth quarter 34-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel, notwithstanding–when it’s crunch time, that is where Hoyer earns his money.
For all the so-called blame that Hoyer gets, some of that criticism should be directed towards the run defense that has allowed a former quarterback-turned-running back in Denard Robinson to shred them for over 100 yards and a former practice squad player in Bobby Gainey to gash them for 89 more.
There are certain fans that will look for reason to nit-pick and refuse to give Hoyer credit for his wins, record or respectable stat line and point out that he is hasn’t gone Joe Madden on inferior teams.
To answer that, Hoyer is 2-1 vs. .500 teams in beating New Orleans(4-4) and Pittsburgh(5-3), and minus a goose egg vs. the winless Jacksonville Jaguars and a failed rally vs. Baltimore, Hoyer has the best record of ANY Cleveland quarterback in almost 20 years.
Yes, this writer will concede that Hoyer needs to play better, considering the upcoming schedule, but so does the re-shuffled offensive line, lackluster running game and suspect run defense, so placing all the blame on Hoyer for Cleveland’s struggles is both invalid and baseless.
To the Manziel “fans” and those who continue to bash on Hoyer, while some criticism is valid—and Hoyer is far from perfect—his play has been a godsend to a franchise in need of a good—not great—signal-caller.
Hoyer is a game-manager, pure and simple, and while his stats will never be confused for those of elite QB’s such as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, be grateful for the fact that Cleveland has a player under center in Hoyer who makes good decisions, plays well in crunch time and knows how to close out wins.
If not, then this writer suggests that these Manziel fan boys turn in their Browns Backers Worldwide card and find another team to root for, if you can’t come to appreciate what Cleveland finally has in Hoyer.
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