BEREA — Brian Hoyer overcame surgery 10 months ago to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. If that weren’t enough, he had to beat out the most popular rookie in the league in Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
So Hoyer allowed himself a smile and a few seconds to appreciate the moment after coach Mike Pettine named him the starting quarterback for Week 1 in Pittsburgh.
“I always felt that if I did the things I could do and I rehabbed, I always had the belief in myself that I could earn the starting quarterback job,” Hoyer said this afternoon after practice. “I feel like I have and it’s good to know that my coaches and teammates believe in me. Right now it’s just time to work harder and go full steam ahead.”
Manziel described his feelings as disappointment but not anger. He had a “fair chance” to beat out Hoyer and came up short on the field.
“I feel like if I would have come out and played better, it would have been a different outcome,” Manziel said. “I don’t think I played terrible, but I didn’t do anything to jump off the page. I made strides and got better throughout training camp and that’s what I wanted to do.
“Obviously it’s disappointing, but at the same time I want what’s best for this team moving forward and I’m going to continue to come out here every day and give it my all and continue to get better as a quarterback. That’s all I can do.”
It’s a dream come true for Hoyer, who was raised in North Olmsted and attended St. Ignatius High School. He was undrafted out of Michigan State and has been cut by three NFL teams.
He had one start before last season, then went 3-0 in his first season with the Browns before the knee injury Oct. 3.
“When Coach Pettine told me this morning, I’m sure I cracked a smile,” Hoyer said. “You realize all the work I’ve put in and now here is my shot and just go out and run with it. All you can ask for is an opportunity and then to go out there and seize it and now that it’s here, it’s time to work harder.”
Hoyer disagreed with the theory that the pressure of the competition with Manziel affected his performance in the first two preseason games. He’s 8-for-20 for 108 yards and a 57.9 rating.
“I don’t think I haven’t been relaxed,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think it ever got to me. This is actually the most relaxed I’ve been in a training camp in my career because I wasn’t in the spot to be a starter and that had never been given to me before so it’s good to have a decision and move forward.”
Pettine said Tuesday he would consider everything the quarterbacks have done from the spring until now before picking a starter. For Manziel, that includes several parties and one middle finger flashed at the Washington bench.
“I wouldn’t go back from the point after the draft to now and change a single thing,” Manziel said. “I’m going to continue to live my life and the offseason is the offseason. I’m going to travel places, I’m going to go places, I’m going to do things and that’s going to have no affect. Obviously I need to do it in the proper way, but I’m still going to continue to have fun in my life and continue to live my life and I don’t think any of that really slowed me in this competition.
“I think more than anything, if you come out and play well, it makes the decision a lot easier. If you don’t, it cloudies it up and what happened happened.”
Manziel-mania may be on a break.
“I’m the backup quarterback, I shouldn’t be in the spotlight,” he said. “So who knows if that’ll actually be the case. But it would be nice. It would be nice. I don’t think it’s going to happen, though.”
Pettine picked the experience of Hoyer, a five-year veteran, over the potential of Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the draft.
“He was the clear leader from the beginning,” Pettine said. “We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”
Manziel, who leads the league in jersey sales, will begin his career on the bench.
“He’s certainly made great strides,” Pettine said. “We are pleased with where he is, and he has shown that he has come a long way in his ability to pick up the playbook, be coachable and lead an offense. We are confident that Johnny is going to have a great future, but we just felt that Brian still had a decided edge on him.”