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Brian Hoyer May Be Overplaying His Hand In Cleveland

For a guy that was no lock whatsoever to win the starting job with the Cleveland Browns this season, quarterback Brian Hoyer certainly isn’t hurting in confidence.

That’s not to say it’s completely unfounded—it’s not. At 3-2 the Browns are just one game back in the AFC North, meaning they are still going to be in playoff contention—like actually in contention, rather than just ‘not mathematically eliminated’—at midseason for the first time in what feels like forever.

Cleveland is riding high on a two-game winning streak after a dramatic come from behind victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 and dominating the division foe Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6. In fact, the Browns almost came from behind to beat the Steelers in Week 1 too.

So it’s safe to say that things may finally be looking up in The Cleve. At least they were, until Hoyer decided now would be the best time to start spending the modest capital he’s earned, having started a total of eight games over two seasons.

Born and bred in the Buckeye State, Hoyer was named the starter in late September 2013. He showed promise, winning his first two games before going down with a season-ending ACL tear early into the third. But promise aside, the fact is that Hoyer, who will be 30 in October, has stats that currently put him in the lower third among all NFL starters.

Of the quarterbacks who have started every game, Hoyer has the fewest pass attempts and completions. Only Geno Smith and Nick Foles have a lower completion percentage than his 60.4 percent. Like Aaron Rodgers, Hoyer has only thrown one interception this season, but his seven touchdowns are less than half that of Rodgers’ 15.

What all that illustrates is that Hoyer has been good, not great. He has shown promise, but to this point hasn’t done anything on the field that would be impossible to replace. Which is why it’s so curious that he’s already taking a hardline stance with the first team to give him a real shot.

This week Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole reported that Hoyer would not sign a long-term deal with the Browns while Johnny Manziel is in the picture. It’s no secret that he and the former Heisman winner are not exactly best friends—Hoyer has said as much on several occasions.

Hoyer was given the opportunity to refute the report, or even walk it back a bit, when pressed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but dodged several opportunities to do so:

He said even if the Browns offer Hoyer a deal that averages $10 million to $12 million a year, “he’s not going to accept that deal if he still thinks there’s a challenge coming from Johnny Manziel.”

Pressed a third time if he’d sign a long-term deal if Manziel were still here, Hoyer — fresh off a 31-10 rout of the Steelers — said, “I’m not going to answer that question.”

Asked if he’d like to get the contract done during this season, Hoyer said, “I’d rather focus on playing. That’s my main emphasis right now. Like I said, I’m focused on Jacksonville.”

He said he doesn’t check in on his contract situation “unless my agent calls me. It’s not anything that I’m concerned about.”

The Browns, for their part, don’t seem particularly interested in dealing with the situation, opting instead for a wait and see approach. And considering how long it’s been since they were legitimately competitive at midseason, that’s probably for the best.

It’s simply too early to declare Hoyer the longterm future of the franchise—even one that has struggled at the quarterback position as much and as long as the Browns. Especially if doing so means having to pull the plug on the Manziel experiment before it even began.

After the season ends and regardless of whether or not Cleveland makes the playoffs, Hoyer’s body of work will more than have doubled from where it is now. That will give the Browns a much clearer picture of exactly what they have on their hands and how much they’re willing to part with in order to keep it.

But Hoyer really needs to stay patient too. It’s hard to fault him for not wanting to always be playing in the shadow of Manziel, but there’s a fine line between concerned and disgruntled. Crossing it could make him look ungrateful and then finding another starting job might not be as easy as he thinks.

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