Brian Hoyer
Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday that Brian Hoyer (pictured right) had an edge on Johnny Manziel (left) in the quarterback competition. Reuters

Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced on Wednesday that veteran Brian Hoyer, not 2014 first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel, would be the team’s starting quarterback this season. The decision was made after just two preseason games, but Pettine stressed that Hoyer was the “clear leader from the beginning.”

“We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player,” Pettine said at a press conference. “Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”

Hoyer won the job despite an unspectacular showing in the Browns’ loss to the Washington Redskins on Monday; the 28-year-old completed just two passes for 16 yards. However, he did lead the Browns to a pair of victories in 2013 before a season-ending knee injury forced him out of action.

To explain his decision, Pettine discussed Hoyer’s previous “body of work,” as well as the manner in which he has recovered from the knee injury (a torn ACL suffered during a victory over the Buffalo Bills last season). “Here’s a guy coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Really, these are his first, essentially, 20-25 plays of live work back from it, and he’s only going to get better.”

The Browns coach said he wanted to name Hoyer starter after two games in order to allow him to establish a greater rapport with the rest of the offense. “I think it’s especially good, as an offensive unit, to go out and play and gain cohesion and chemistry,” Pettine said. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go ahead and make the decision before this third preseason game so that [Hoyer and the starting offense] could play as a unit for a good chunk of it.”

Moreover, Manziel failed to distinguish himself in either of his two preseason appearances. Despite throwing for a touchdown, the former Heisman Trophy winner struggled against Washington, completing just seven of 16 pass attempts. The 21-year-old’s most memorable moment occurred after a play in the third quarter, when he made an obscene gesture toward the Redskins bench.

Still, Pettine made it clear that his decision to name Hoyer as the team’s starting quarterback was not a reflection on Manziel’s play or misbehavior. “He’s certainly made great strides,” the Browns coach 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.”