BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Brian Hoyer has waited over a year, if not his whole life, for this opportunity.
It’s why he signed with the Browns in May of 2013 – for a chance to start for his favorite childhood team in the town he grew up in.
Hoyer was named the Browns starting quarterback on Wednesday, ending a near 3-month competition with hot-shot rookie and first-round pick Johnny Manziel that began in May.
“It was exciting,” Hoyer said. “When coach Pettine told me this morning, I’m sure I cracked a smile but 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.
“As much work as I’ve put in, I have to be even better and work harder.”
On the surface it appears to be the perfect fairy tale, but for Hoyer the journey has been anything but story book.
After going undrafted in 2009 he signed with New England as a rookie free agent where he sat for 3 years behind Tom Brady but did appear in 8 games. The Patriots cut him on Aug. 31, 2012.
He sat at home for nearly 3 months before he was signed by Pittsburgh on Nov. 20. He was waived 2 1/2 weeks later on Dec. 9. Arizona claimed him the next day and he started the season finale for the Cardinals, who waived him on May 13, 2013.
Hoyer carries that adversity from early in his career with him now.
“I feel like I’ll carry that chip with me forever,” Hoyer said. “Every day I come out here, I’m just trying not to get cut and when you have that mentality, you push yourself to the limit.
“The pressure you put on yourself is far greater than any pressure the media or your teammates or the coaches can put on you. For me, for most of my career it was about keeping my career alive and doing anything it took to make a team.”
An injury to Brandon Weeden’s thumb opened the door for him to start last year before a torn ACL ended his season 3 weeks later. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and the Browns won all 3 games he started.
“If anything last year the biggest thing was I proved to myself that I could play in this league,” Hoyer said. “You always think you can and then to get out there and play and have success it proves to yourself and I think it’s paid dividends this year as far as my mental preparation and how I am going into games where as last year I was pretty anxious and nervous.
“This year knowing I’ve done it on the field against real NFL competition, not just preseason games, does give you a boost of confidence.”
This year he earned the job by impressing head coach Mike Pettine, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the front office and coaching staff. The new regime admired the time, effort and hard work he put in day in and day out at the facility to prepare himself to return to the field in April – in time for the offseason program to begin and 6 months after surgery.
“This is what I worked for for a whole year to get back to,” Hoyer said. “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. I feel like I have and it’s good to know that my coaches and teammates believe in me. One day I might look back and appreciate for what it is, but right now it’s just time to work harder and go full steam ahead.”
Hoyer beat out Manziel, but Pettine has made no guarantees for the entire season.
“I don’t want to make a permanent commitment to any starter,” Pettine said. “I just don’t think you can do that. I think you make more of a commitment to your quarterback because of the unique circumstances that surround that position. But I think you need all your guys on the roster running scared a little bit, that hey listen, if I don’t perform, this is a performance-based business, if i don’t perform, i’m not going to be in there.”
With that made clear not just to Hoyer, but the entire team, how long he will keep the job with Manziel lurking on the sidelines remains to be seen.
“This is Brian’s job,” Pettine said. “I never think of it as whether it’s a leash or we want a guy to be a game manager. We want him to be confident and go out and play.”
Hoyer isn’t the least bit worried about having to look over his shoulder.
“My entire career’s been looking over my shoulder,” Hoyer said. “The pressure you put on yourself is far greater than anything (else) because when you’re a rookie undrafted and you’re trying to come in and make a team, there’s no one to look over (at). You’re just trying to get on the team.”
He’s come a long way from his high school days at St. Ignatius. He now gets to lead the Browns on Sundays.
How long that will be is up to him and in his hands.
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