Many believe that the Browns will head in to next season with an open QB competition between Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, and whichever QB(s?) that they draft in this upcoming draft. Many, myself among them, expect the Browns to release Brandon Weeden shortly after the season ends, and either put Alex Tanney on the practice squad or release him directly as well. So, that leaves Hoyer and Campbell as the incumbents to duel it out, and you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think a Top 10 draft pick at QB isn’t going to have a real shot at starting immediately, regardless of what we all may want.
Now, that being said, I’ve been a vocal supporter of Jason Campbell’s from the second the Browns signed him. I felt he should be given the starting job over Weeden immediately. Though he’s had some bad breaks in his career, Jason Campbell has often been a very good quarterback on very bad teams, particularly with the Redskins, where he spent the majority of his career. And, during his time with the Browns, he’s shown moments of great skill and dependability (vs the Chiefs and vs the Patriots both spring to mind). Jason Campbell, despite what his critics may say, is a starting caliber quarterback, hands down.
That being said, I’m going to get on record early as saying that I think Hoyer should get the nod next year. I just want to be clear that it’s not a snub to Campbell, my saying he should be the back up. The difference in results is pretty clear. The Browns were 3-0 in games Hoyer started, and are 1-9 in all other games with every other QB. There is a reason for that that I think is deeper than the numbers indicate (Hoyer’s stat averages are similar to or behind Campbell in most categories). Think back to those two full games Hoyer played, against Cincy and Minnesota. The feeling of the entire team was different. It was more urgent, more pressing, almost more desperate. Not desperate in a bad way, desperate that in every series, offensive or defensive, the entire team felt like it was playing a two minute drill. Whatever it was, the offense and defense both responded with vigor every time Hoyer was starting. They played like there was something on the line. While I like Jason Campbell a lot, his cool, calm demeanor seems to put the rest of the team too much at ease. Hoyer was playing for his shot at a real opportunity to be a starter, he was playing against everyone who’s passed on him or cut him, and very much competing against the other QB’s on the roster as well as the other team on the field. You could feel it, and the rest of the Browns clearly felt it. The pushed. They played with more intensity and more effort, and it translated in to wins.
A lot of Browns fans make the case for Tim Tebow by stating that he has some magical x-factor that translates to winning. I would counter by arguing that we have that guy on our roster right now. Brian Hoyer has something that, for whatever reason, urges the rest of the team to play well around him. It could be his personal passion. It could be the way he includes everyone in his offense. To that point, while it has been a lot of fun to watch Josh Gordon explode these past 4 weeks, it hasn’t translated to wins. When Hoyer was playing, everyone, including guys like Greg Little and Davone Bess, got involved in the offense. They made plays. Jordan Cameron made plays. Travis Benjamin was making plays outside of returns. Hoyer elevated them.
And, for whatever the reason, the defense played its best when Hoyer was running the offense. Remember when he got hurt against the Bills? I posted on our Facebook page to watch for the retaliation on E.J. Manuel. I had a feeling that the defense was going to make a statement by putting Manuel in some serious pain. A few series later, TJ Ward and Tashaun Gipson put him out of the game. Not that I’m saying they were targeting, but rather, you could see them get angry and you just had to know they were going to start laying guys out.
So, basically, Hoyer gives the Browns the best shot to win, which is always how you should determine your starter. Not because he’s some statistical giant, but because the Browns, for whatever reason, play better around him. The offense, the defense, every series, they play like it matters when Hoyer is on the field or sidelines. They trust him. And, when it matters, they step up when he’s there.
Long live HoyerNation.