Brian Hoyer faces tough new reality

May, 14, 2014
May 14
12:00
PM ET
Brian Hoyer is a local guy, a Cleveland guy, a guy who has done not one thing wrong since he joined the Cleveland Browns. But he’s a guy who had a Mack truck drive into his living room last week, a Mack truck with a Manziel logo driven by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine.

It happens in the NFL.

It happens a lot.

And a player such as Hoyer should not have been totally surprised that the Browns brought Johnny Football to town, even if he plays the same position as Hoyer.

But Hoyer had his dream within reach. He was poised to be the Browns' quarterback. He was the talk of the town.

[+] EnlargeBrian Hoyer
Zumapress/Icon SMIBrian Hoyer has overcome a season-ending injury against the Bills in Week 5 last season, but may face a more difficult obstacle in Johnny Manziel.
Now he might be sacrificed to the Steelers in the opener to protect the rookie.

Hoyer himself has talked in the past about competition being good and all that stuff. But at the team’s last minicamp, Hoyer’s face went near blank when the question was posed: “What are you going to do if Johnny Manziel walks through that door?”

Hoyer said all the right things, about being himself, about competing, about being a teammate.

But amid all the jubilation Thursday night had to be the stark reality to Hoyer that a dream he has been pursuing might be sliding down a mud hill.

It’s a bit reminiscent of a few years ago when local kid Charlie Frye spent a year talking about his dream of playing for the Browns. Frye was the starter. The next draft, the dream was transferred when the Browns traded up to the same spot in the draft Manziel was taken to select Brady Quinn. That story is part of the flotsam of Browns history since 1999, but it was really odd to see “the dream” so easily moved from one player to another.

Hoyer has done everything right since he became a Brown.

He competed. He waited. He played. He succeeded. He energized the team and the city when he won twice. He was the guy.

And it all came to a cruel, sudden end when he scrambled trying to make a first down and tore a knee ligament.

Hoyer, though, attacked his rehab. He was back faster than anyone expected. He never wavered. He entered the offseason reading about how Pettine kept saying he has the “it” factor.

Now he hears that Pettine and Farmer have told Manziel to prepare to be a backup. Yet every bit of attention will be focused on every move Manziel makes. The Browns will try to manage it, but managing the expectations of fans will be another. If Hoyer struggles, the cry will go up for Manziel, and it will get louder and louder with each three-and-out or tough throw.

Those who were around the Tim Tebow circus in Denver and New York say that the pressure on those competing with the center of attention deal with an enormous weight. For a guy playing for his dream, to lead his hometown team, that weight might be heavier than the quarterbacks in New York and Denver faced.

Hoyer might be able to handle it. And if he does, good for him.

If the Browns stick to their word and make Hoyer the starter, he also has the chance to keep Manziel on the bench. Drew Brees did that for San Diego for two years, but when he hurt his shoulder, the door opened for Philip Rivers. Brees was traded, and Rivers is still starting.

But let’s be real -- barring Hoyer leading the Browns to a Super Bowl title, the team is not going to draft a guy such as Manziel to be a career backup.

Just think -- had Hoyer taken the sack and not scrambled to try to gain a first down against Buffalo, this entire conversation might not be taking place.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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