Good news for Brian Hoyer fans: The veteran is "securely ahead" of Johnny Manziel to be the Browns' 2014 starting quarterback, coach Mike Pettine said Thursday, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
Now, the bad news: Pettine said Hoyer's lead was in no way "insurmountable." Which means that nobody will be surprised if Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in May's draft, ends up under center by, say, Week 5. (The Browns begin the season with games against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens before a Week 4 bye. If the team limps to an 0-3 start then god help us all because everyone will be calling for Manziel to play.)
"It's been hard to evaluate because Brian hasn't been able to take the 11-on-11 reps, but when we put the depth chart together, Brian will be No. 1," Pettine said.
And while the coach agrees with general manager Ray Farmer that Hoyer is better than Manziel right now, he's confident the rookie can catch up in the coming weeks and months.
"I think when Ray made the comment, he talked about the lead being just because of the circumstances, that Brian had been here for those seven, eight weeks before the draft even started,'' Pettine said. "That was essentially a head start and I don't think it's insurmountable. Brian is securely ahead of him right now, but we will compete and we will decide.
"The issue for us as a staff is finding the right time to name a starter. If you wait too late, then nobody's ready for the opener; if you do it too soon, then it wasn't a true competition. That will be part of our discussions as well as far as okay, here's the plan, here's a date that we want to go ahead and name him.''
Pettine admits that any quarterback competition has yet to begin but once August arrives it's go time.
"We haven't really been in the mode of thinking, 'He's this far ahead today. How much was the gap closed?''' Pettine said. "They're still learning the basics of the offense. The rookies haven't been here very long. They're playing catchup from a playbook standpoint. So at this point, we really weren't keeping score. We'll be much more apt to do that once we get to training camp.''
Hoyer said the day after the Browns drafted Manziel that he welcomed competition and that's exactly what he'll get. If it's any consolation to Hoyer and his supporters, ESPN's Ron Jaworski predicted this week that Manziel wouldn't beat out Hoyer for the job.
“Johnny just needs experience," Jaws said. "He had a two-year college career. I think these guys need to mature mentally and physically with more college reps. This is totally different. This is your life now. You compete against guys married and have kids and they compete like hell. The more experience you have I think the better chance you have of being successful at this level.”