Brian Hoyer auditioning for a long-term contract with Cleveland, or elsewhere
By HUNTER KOSSODO
College Contributor Network
Brian Hoyer deserves a statue in Cleveland after his performance on Thursday Night Football. The numbers weren't spectacular, only 198 yards and no passing touchdowns, but given the jersey Hoyer was wearing it's a special moment. The Cleveland Browns are now 6-3, reaching six wins before Week 11 for the first time in 20 years, and in sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
Hoyer game-managed the hell out of the prime-time clobbering over the division-rival Bengals. He completed 65 percent of his passes, didn't turn over the ball once and didn't get sacked. Keep in mind that the Browns didn't have the services of Pro Bowlers Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron for that game, so Hoyer had the likes of Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge to work with.
It didn't matter, as Hoyer found Benjamin for a 20-yard gain to set up an Isaiah Crowell touchdown in the second quarter. In the third, Hoyer made a pinpoint throw to Barnidge between two Bengals defenders for 28 yards and another rushing touchdown soon followed.
Even if the Browns' front office agrees with me that Hoyer should get a statue, what he most likely won't get is a long-term contract extension to stay with Cleveland past this year.
In today's NFL, teams either want a franchise quarterback or a prospect with potential shooting out of his ears. Anything in the middle, namely journeyman career-backups such as Hoyer, are expendable and unwanted. And unfortunately for Hoyer's job security, the Browns might just have the prospect they think can be the face of the franchise in Johnny Manziel, whom they just drafted in the first round.
So while Hoyer, an Ohio native himself, is at the helm of the first feel-good Browns team in seemingly forever, it won't mean much for him in terms of staying with the team. Cleveland won't give up on the Manziel experiment before it even starts, and even if they would look for a trade it's incredibly unlikely they would get a first-round pick for him so any deal would be a net loss.
If the Browns do give Hoyer an extension, Manziel doesn't seem like he'll be the Aaron Rodgers to Hoyer's Brett Favre and sit for an extended period of time. Manziel probably thought he'd be starting by now. Browns general manager Ray Farmer also made it pretty apparent that Johnny Football is the future.
Hoyer's the odd man out, but he's having a great audition year and is building quite the resume. He has wins over the Saints and the Steelers, and in the game against New Orleans, he caught the entire Saints defense sleeping for a 28-yard bomb to Andrew Hawkins that set up the game-winning field goal.
Hoyer has shown that while he needs a strong defense and running game around him, he won't make a lot of mistakes and he will, here's that term again, manage the game well. He won't lay waste to opposing secondaries, he's had seven games of one or zero touchdown passes, but he has only four interceptions on the season and two of those came in a win against Tampa Bay. In more passing attempts, he has fewer interceptions than Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton.
The million dollar question still stands, which team will take a chance on Hoyer next season? Taking teams that already have franchise quarterbacks, highly touted prospects and quarterbacks they are either comfortable with or have invested too much money on to pull the plug already (sorry, Cincinnati and Chicago) that leaves six possible teams. The Bills, Jets, Texans, Titans, Buccaneers and Rams.
Of those six, one will almost assuredly draft Marcus Mariota and another will take Jameis Winston. Outside of those two, Hoyer is a better option than an incoming rookie, a case could even be made that he's a better short-term option than Winston.
The Titans seem more ready for a full-on rebuild than trying to make a playoff push with Hoyer, and the Jets are about to sweep their front office clean and will probably want to draft a quarterback to signify that they're going in a new direction.
That leaves the Bills, Texans, Bucs and Rams. Each team is an interesting case, and each has the supporting cast that could make Hoyer a winner.
The Rams would be the most surprising destination. Between Sam Bradford and Austin Davis, they will probably give it one more shot with the quarterbacks they already have, namely Bradford who will be on the last year of his rookie mega-deal.
Tampa Bay could be scarred from going the veteran journeyman route again after the Josh McCown debacle, but it seems they have also given up on Mike Glennon. If the Buccaneers have any will to make the playoffs next season, and if Lovie Smith wants to keep his job, Hoyer should be at the top of the wishlist if they miss out on Mariota.
The Bills have had some success with Kyle Orton after benching EJ Manuel, a first-rounder in 2013. Orton is still on the books for $5.4 million in 2015 but it can be voided if Buffalo so chooses. If that happens and the Bills still feel Manuel isn't ready to start, they could be interested in Hoyer's familiarity with the Patriots.
The most intriguing possibility is the Houston Texans. The Texans just benched Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of Ryan Mallett, so this all really depends on if Mallett proves himself as a quality starter. The Texans certainly have the running game and defense that they need to surround Hoyer with, and unlike Fitzpatrick, Hoyer isn't a turnover machine.
Hoyer and Texans coach Bill O'Brien were also together on the New England Patriots for three years, including 2009 and 2010 when O'Brien was the quarterback coach for New England. O'Brien said last year that he and Hoyer are "very close" and that the quarterback has a really bright and creative football mind.
Houston is a quarterback away from being a shoo-in for the postseason, but with Carson Palmer re-upping with Arizona the market is dry. Houston could take a flier on Jake Locker and hope he stays healthy, but that's a lot to bank on for a team with playoff aspirations. Other free agent options include Mike Vick and Christian Ponder, and now you see why Hoyer is the best bet.
Of course all of this flies out the window if Hoyer can manage to lead Cleveland to the playoffs. Johnny Football notwithstanding, the Browns would be crazy to let him walk if he takes them to the postseason for the first time since 2002. Forget the statue, they'd have to name the stadium after him.
Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo