BEREA, Ohio — Brian Hoyer defied long odds — and stiff-armed Johnny Football — to keep his dream job.
Through sweat and tears, he fought his way back from a serious knee injury only to be faced with the Browns drafting Johnny Manziel, college football’s dynamic quarterback with the cult-like following.
Hoyer, though, persevered. He endured grueling rehab to get back on the field sooner than expected, stayed focused as Manzielmania consumed the Browns, and ignored trade rumors. It will be Hoyer who will lead the Browns, his hometown team, onto the field for the Sept. 7 opener against the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers.
For a Cleveland kid cut by three NFL teams and waiting for his chance, it doesn’t get any better.
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“Obviously it’s very special for me,” Hoyer said. “Did I believe this could happen after I got hurt? There was no doubt in my mind, but there were days when rehab (stunk) and I hated what I was doing. It’s amazing how you appreciate the game when it’s taken away from you.”
Needing to fix his offense quickly, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine chose Hoyer as his starter Wednesday over Manziel, who wasn’t able to do enough during training camp or two exhibition games to convince Cleveland’s coaching staff he deserved the job.
Manziel is 0-1 as a pro.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Manziel said. “I feel like if I would have come out and played better it would have been a different outcome. I don’t think I played terrible, but I didn’t do anything to jump off the page.”
The first major decision of Pettine’s coaching career wasn’t easy. He chose Hoyer’s experience over Manziel’s potential, and he may have to make another switch. Pettine knows the best plans can change in an instant.
“Give me a crystal ball, and I’ll tell you,” he said when asked if Manziel will play this season. “The NFL season is so long, so much can happen. We don’t want Brian looking over his shoulder thinking one bad throw and I’m out. But over time, if you feel you have to make a change, time will only tell.
“You could foresee a scenario where he doesn’t play this year and there are other scenarios that are absolutely possible as well. It’s hard to tell.”
Manziel hopes the hysteria quiets down a little.
“I’m the backup quarterback,” he said. “I shouldn’t be in the spotlight.”
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