Before we go all in with a QB at #4…

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Even blurry, we can see that this ball cannot be delivered more perfectly.

A consensus is forming among Browns fandom that a quarterback must be taken with this year’s #4 draft pick.  You would think we were entering 2014 with Brandon Weeden and/or Colt McCoy as the incumbent starting QB.

Not so fast.

Brian Hoyer looked pretty good if memory serves.  Scratch that, let’s say really good.  Are we that sure anyone in the draft can give us more that Brian Hoyer?  If not, then why the imperative to get a QB at #4?  Players taken in the top 10 aren’t usually developmental bench-warmers and if Hoyer plays like he did pre-injury, that’s what our top 10 first rounder will be for the second year in a row.  If we want a developmental QB, there’s plenty available later in the draft.  But if we want an NFL starting QB,,, I vaguely think we have one, perhaps even a good one, and maybe we can go a different direction at #4.

But first things first and so I set out to double-check my gut feeling on this.  For now, I’m just taking a second look at the Vikings game.1

If we only look at Hoyer’s stats in that game, it’s pretty “meh:”  30/54, 321 yds, 3 TDs, 3 INTs.  Rating = 68.5.  Only two drops.  5.9 yds/attempt.  That’s not very impressive is it?  I guess it’s not except that you and I watched that game and know Hoyer played great.

So just where is the disconnect between our eyes and these stats?

Let’s find out together.  I screen-capped the Vikes/Browns game and the raw mp3s are available to you here (most of Hoyer’s in-game pass attempts) and here (the game-winning drive snaps). <–If these links don’t give you a video inside your browser, do a right-click on the links > Save As… > and then open up the files locally.  Note also, the raw files from Dropbox don’t buffer so streaming will be choppy; better to download and view locally.2  Along with the clips, here is my rough synopsis by drive:

Browns’ offensive drives vs. Vikings synopsis

[Harlan/Wilcots announcing. I give them high marks for their call.]

Drive #1, 3/out. Bess drop; run stuff; Bess route fail.
Accurate passes and quick releases.

#2, TD. Nice rollout right to Bess; 3rd/10 convert underneath to Cameron; Gordon bomb vs. CB replacement. All passes accurate.
Hoyer (or coaches) pick on a new cornerback on his first play matched up on Gordon.  Hoyer makes sure not to overthrow the wide open Gordon (so pass is slightly behind him).

#3, TD. Bubble screen to Gordon executed perfectly, 30 yds, bad read option keeper, nice 3rd/1 out route, dicey 1st/10 out route; perfect deep throw to Cameron at end zone sideline, probably 35 yards in air.
You can’t throw a better deep corner pass.  

#4, FG. Perfect swing pass; (great fake punt call by Chud); announcers talk about Hoyer learning from Brady: game preparation, film watching, ball placement for max YAC.

#5, TD. Perfect cross route pass, better defense; deeper cross route, another perfect pass; dubious PI non-call; Hoyer calls timeout pre-critical 3rd/4; Bess drop force FG attempt; (great fake FG call by Chud.).

#6, Interception. Looks like just a bad pick, on Hoyer.

#7, Interception. Couple nice catches by Bess; good quick pass to Little; announcer jinx in play as next play is picked. Greg Little fell down on his route.. could be that was the issue.

#8, one 1st down, punt. Three consecutive meh passes.

#9, 4 and out. After great Benjamin return, Browns go for it on 4th down. Hoyer avoids a sack on 2nd down; Gordon should have had third down catch; 4th down pass batted at line.
This was Gordon’s first game of the year.  The non-first-game Josh Gordon converts the first down 100% of the time.

#11, Ugly pick deep in Vikes territory. After McGahee run backwards -6 followed by 12 men on field -5, it’s 2nd/21. Hoyer’s arm hit, pop fly interception ensues. Worth noting, ONeill Cousins (or Alex Mack) whiffs on the Viking who gets to Hoyer.
I have a hard time killing Hoyer on this pick.  If he takes the sack, that’s bad too.  Gotta have a little better interior protection.

Drive #12, 3/out. Sack (McGahee blown up), grounding (Cousins releases for screen, Rainey tries to pick up Cousins’ man… no receiver to throw to.).
The three picks are preying on Hoyer’s head and you won’t see him risk anything from here out.

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Feathery soft touch on this perfectly placed game winning TD.

#13, punt. Decent start to drive with two crisp completions, sack (Schwartz beat), 3rd/19 fail.
#14, punt. Well executed blitz = sack + false start on Thomas = 3rd/20.
Ball control mode again when faced with 3rd/long.

#15, TD. Huge 3rd/10 pickup to Gordon; good YAC pass to Ogbannaya; throws to window to Gordon for 1st down; two throws to the blonde in the first row (ahem, Brian Sipe); perfect game winning flag route to Cameron. Perfect.
Perfect, perfect, perfect coming down the stretch.

.

All about the YAC.

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PFF sort of QBs by “avg time to throw.”

At 2:18 in the long clip I cut off Harlan/Wilcots discussing what Hoyer took away from working with Tom Brady and how precision ball placement allows the receivers to max out yards-after-catch.  Brady is fantastic at this.  It turns out, Brian Hoyer is not too shabby.  I counted nine passes with QB-assisted YAC.  I can’t find a box score that tracks it but I have Hoyer’s YAC at roughly 90 yards and even that doesn’t tell the whole story.  There were at least three 3rd down conversions delivered via YAC.  Remember how we hate five yard routes on 3rd/10?  Welp, it turns out that if the ball is on the money, your receiver might/could get those other five yards for you.

Quick release is big.

PFF keeps stats on QB release times and I find it an interesting stat because it is one of the few stats that sync with what your eyes see.  In other words:  real quick, which QBs has the fastest read/release?  You said Brady and Manning right?  You were correct, see at right.

What is interesting is that the sampling we have of Hoyer’s play indicates that he rates between Brady and Rothlisberger in the ‘Average Time to Throw’ stat.3  Of course correlation does not impy causation because Andy Dalton.  Nonetheless, Hoyer gets rid of the ball fast and decisively.

This *can* lead to turnovers.  I would say his pick at the end of the first half (drive #6) was bad read, quick release.  I can’t tell if the pick in drive #7 was due to too quick release or if Little’s route led to the pick.  But after _x_ many years of the Mangini-Shurmur check-down, no turnover offense… I swear an oath here and now not to bitch excessively if my QB throws a pick or two.  You gotta take the bad with the good, risk/reward, etc., etc.

Here’s an interesting breakdown of the Hoyer’s performance in the Vikings game.

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As with Brady: it’s risky to blitz Hoyer.

 

Here’s what’s not to like.

If I put on my critical bitch uniform, I can find some problems.  To me, Hoyer shows a tendency to throw off his back foot when under pressure.  On one hand, it’s good that he’ll stand in under pressure.  But his internal clock seems a millisecond slow and so his pocket-courage can lead to some balls going up for grabs.  I can think of at least one play were he jammed a ball into a closing window while under pressure (6:55 in first clip) and got away with it… but to be honest, it could have just as easily been another pick.

I think you can ding Hoyer for staring down his targets but on the other hand, since he gets rid of the ball so fast it doesn’t seem to cause a problem.

Other than that,,, I’d be nit-picking with any other critiques.  The arm-strength seems fine-to-good.  He completed a lot of passes outside the numbers.  It seemed like Greg Little was either not running his routes correctly and/or not getting separation, but the view from here says get Hoyer at decent #2 WR and awesomeness will ensue.

About that knee…

Hoyer’s knee and rehab are the wild cards in this.  But we like love that Hoyer appears to be in 100% gym rat mode, doing his training at Berea.  The fact of his being at Berea training when Pettine showed up to sign his contract has got to have him off on the right foot with the new head coach.  (Go to 0:18 in this clip.)  My guess is that’s where Pettine would be if he were in Hoyer’s shoes.  My guess is that Pettine values that sort of work and discipline and will want to hold on to it and make it flourish.

Sidebar:  game ball goes the Chud.

Not that it matters now, but Chud’s calls on special teams won this game.  He’s got an 0-2 team who just lost their starting QB and had their starting RB traded.  He went balls out for the win, trusted his players to execute, they all came through for him.  Chud won his locker room this game regardless of how the rest of the year played out.45

           

Here’s the film in embeds, subject to being pulled without notice…

Minny game #1.

Minny game last drive.

  1. May or may not get into the Bengals win at a later date. [back]
  2. Youtube and NFL are superb at seeking/destroying out clips like these but if you’d like to avoid those downloads, you can also view those clips here until my premium VideoPress subscription expires. [back]
  3. For comparison’s sake:  Weeden was #50, Campbell #52. [back]
  4. The early Kanick pick at #4 continues to move up national draft boards. [back]
  5. And also the subject of a Brent Sobleski exclusive. [back]

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  • zarathustra

    This is very well done. I agree with all of it. I love jff, but decided last season that I just can’t see it working on Sundays. I have wavered a bit on this recently, but still think they would be better served by picking one of the tackles ( doesn’t just solidify line today, but puts the Joe thomas replacement on the roster,) Watkins, or maybe even clowney at 4 and rolling with hoyer. It is definitely a gamble, but you have done a great job making the case for why it might be a worthwhile gamble.

  • eerie.
    the hoyer slide showed up in the cincy game.

  • Hoyer was both the best thing and the worst thing to happen to the Browns last year.

    On the good side, starting with the fourth quarter of the Minnesota game, Hoyer did not turn the ball over again during his brief time as the starting quarterback. Simply not making mistakes goes a long way toward helping a team that seems to consistently struggle on offense, and could be a sign that he was starting to figure things out. More experience could also lead to his internal clock getting better.

    The bad side, obviously, is his injury. Hoyer looked like he was starting to get it before he was hurt, but only seeing him play for 10 quarters makes it so hard to know if the Browns can live with him for another year or if they need to pull the trigger on a quarterback high in this draft.

    The longer-term problem with sticking with Hoyer is while he may be a nice quarterback it seems unlikely that he will be the guy to lead the Browns to any real success – he seems more like a solid 8-8 or 9-7 guy year after year. If the Browns stick with him this year they may be just good enough to not be in a position to take a quarterback in the 2015 Draft, but not good enough to be making a difference.

    Could definitely see the Browns going in a different direction than QB at No. 4, though, especially since Ray Farmer has said he like Marcus Mariotta the best and he unfortunately didn’t come out this year. (I knew there was something about Farmer I liked).

  • Woods

    If given that QB is not an option at pick #4, then there is an interesting approach to the draft that could recast the Browns a power run team that is also flexible enough to go no huddle as the situation dictates.

    Using the Draft simulator at fanspeak.com/ontheclock/ and assuming that Mack and Ward are resigned, I offer the following potential path forward.

    4 – Greg Robinson OT – Auburn

    26 – David Yankey – G – Stanford

    35 – Shayne Skov – ILB – Stanford

    71 – Jared Abbrederis – WR – Wisconsin (Could have selected Donte Moncrief, but I do like JA)

    83 – Jimmy Garoppolo QB – Eastern Illinois (He is flying up the recent draft boards, may be gone at this pick by draft time. Aaron Murrey might be a decent choice to sit and learn behind Hoyer)

    102 – C.J. Fiedorowicz TE – Iowa (I want a clear upgrade over Gary Barnidge as a complement to Jordan Cameron in a one back set)

    123 – Bishop Sankey – RB – Washington

    133 – Ross Cockrell – CB – Duke (I don’t know much about him…but he is 6′)

    164 – Connor Shaw – QB – South Carolina (Two QB’s developing behind Hoyer)

    195 – J.C. Copeland – FB – LSU (This is a flyer pick, I am sure there is a better one. My reasoning is if you want to run a power football set, a hammer of a FB would be nice.)

    • bupalos

      I’m as much of a build the line guy as anyone (well other than kanick) but the 1st pick has to be one of Bridgewater, Manziel, or Watkins. There is close to 0 chance that none of those names are available and you don’t use the 4th pick trying to hit a solid single, certainly not given the current makeup of the Browns.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        Build the line and take the best player available. Jake Matthews! Would you say that the Joe Thomas pick was “hitting a single”?
        Bruce Matthews, Jake’s father, was selected to the Pro Bowl 74 years in a row.
        I like that lineage.
        The other picks are too risky. Flashy/risky picks do not win championships. What if Johnny “Courtside” Ballgame decides to leave the Browns after a few months to expand upon his rap career, spend more quality time with his money or take over the Frackempire? Jimmie Hairhelmet said something about “draft centers and tackles”, the Browns should follow that advice.

        • Petefranklin

          I’d be down with Matthews, but only if we traded down and got him. I’m thinking along the lines of Bup, try to hit a HR! SI mock had Teddy falling to 4. If that happens, the possibilities are endless. If the Browns ever do turn a corner, this might be the year and they won’t ever be able to draft a highly rated QB early in the first again. I’d go for it and take a WR @26 then fill in the Oline.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      “164 – Connor Shaw – QB – South Carolina (Two QB’s developing behind Hoyer)”
      I hate to admit it, but I like this QB. He certainly has a lot of upside and I have him as one of the top QB’s in this draft. I like him better than Murray, McCarron, Carr, Boyd, Morris or Logan Thomas. All of these guys are much higher rated and will need a higher draft pick. The only QB’s I would consider drafting are Smith, Garoppolo or Shaw. Johnny “Best Seats at the” Ballgame, Bilgewater, or Blake Bortles could be good, but the price is too high. Jake Matthews with that 4th pick!

      • mgbode

        acto and I agree on a QB (Shaw). please sticky this thread for historical purposes 🙂 well, I have Shaw about even with Murray, but, close enough.

        I would like to see why you like Brett Smith though. I have him down as undraftable (bad feet, bad decision making, poor accuracy).

        • actovegin1armstrong

          “Brett Smith though. I have him down as undraftable (bad feet, bad decision making, poor accuracy).”
          Bad feet, bad decision, poor accuracy, mgbode, you just perfectly described a Browns’ quarterback, of course they will draft him.

  • first pass at the bengals game shows another good performance in a more conservative (more run game: 30 rush attempts vs 17 in minny) game plan. turnovers eliminated. soul crushing 6:31 minute, 91 yd TD drive to salt it away. game was not as close as it looked, 2 missed FGs.

    i’m shooting to have it up tomorrow. will include some coaches film.

    • bupalos

      Yeah I remember we really kind of crushed them front to back. They were utterly hapless against that D.

      Where did it go?

  • CleveLandThatILove

    Not much that would make me happier than if Hoyer succeeds here, for so many reasons.

  • GRRustlers

    I’ll admit my bias up front. I am a Hoyer fan.

    I am of the get 2 great football players in the 1st round and draft Aaron Murray and let him rehab and learn under Hoyer this year.

    I will admit though to having no problem with Manziel or Bridgewater at 4 though and here is where it gets tough for me. If the adults in Berea (and yes I think we have adults there now with Banner and Lombardi out of the picture) decide to go with the QB at #4 than they have to trade Hoyer.

    There is absolutely no way we can put in a kid in a spot in which every single time he makes a mistake everyone is calling for the hometown hero. It’s just not fair to anyone involved.

    This is the part where I wake up in a cold sweat realizing the Browns can get no value for Hoyer and he somehow ends up in Cincy does none of the stupid shit that Dalton does and the Bengals get destroyed by San Francisco in the Super Bowl.

    • bupalos

      hadn’t thought of that…. I assume the idea would be Hoyer starts no matter what until he loses the job. But yeah, it’s a bit of a tough dynamic, especially with JFF who a lot of people just kind of hate from the start.

  • bupalos

    That pick in drive 7 was intended for Cameron. I encourage folks to look at that one closer. It’s the downside of Hoyer’s upside and one of the most instructive plays you could look at with regard to him.

    Part of what we’re all reacting to with Hoyer is simply the fact that he is a complete inversion of Weeden and Campbell. The reason he’s quick to get rid of the ball is because he makes good pre-snap reads and quick after snap reads and adheres very rigidly and confidently to the read. Weeden and Campbell both do a lot of scanning and confirming and just looking and it kills them. Hoyer does a lot less looking at the field and a lot more throwing to the chess game he sees in his head.

    All-star Chad Greenway jujitsued him on this one. Greenway *should* have been drifting with Obi (who was a little lazy getting wide into his flat route) but he threw a head fake as if he was right at the snap which apparently was enough to take him off of Hoyer’s mental chessboard. Greenway completely left the man he was responsible for and got into Hoyer’s matrix. It ends up looking like a “how in the world can you throw that?” type int, the reality is that it was a perfect Hoyer pass in the perfect Hoyer place and by rights Greenway “shouldn’t” be there. Obi is uncovered and has at least 12 yards, and if I remember a blocker and only 1 defender on that side so maybe more like 25 because Greenway is freelancing.

    The open question is whether Hoyer’s quick ball release is dependent on jumping reads like this, whether he can keep the pace but still react in that last split second, pull a ball like that back, and make the defense pay for going off-script. Brady is a master of that. I don’t know if he can or not, if he can, I think he’s going to be a really good QB. If he can’t, games like Minnesota are his top end.

    • these are good points. based on this and max’s take we’ll just have to take a look-see at the bengals game and see if we see comparable positives.

  • maxfnmloans

    I’m sorry sir, this is where you and I have a divergence of opinions. I’m not going to say that “Hoyer was cut by two teams” or “If he was really that good, he wouldn’t have been available” or anything like that. There are examples that contradict this supposition, however rare they may be.

    I simply haven’t seen enough of Hoyer to form a solid opinion one way or another, and if we have a chance to get a guy who has a higher ceiling, then I think you have to take him (basically, if Bridgewater falls. I don’t know if Manziel can be a “professional” from Monday- Saturday and Bortles scares the bejabbers out of football-fan me for some reason). I do not endorse trading up from 4 to ensure nabbing someone. The reason I like Bridgewater the most right now is because he already knows how to throw guys open, and seems to have a knack for some of the “little things” that some guys take 2 or 3 years in the league to understand (maybe he’s an “old soul” in football terms). P

    If Bridgewater isn’t there at 4, then I’m totally set with forsaking a QB until later (Mettenberger? Garopolo?)

    Counterpoint to the whole “Hoyer looked good in 2 games” argument- Derek Anderson. It’s a whole different world for QB’s their second time “around” the league, once opponents have tape on you and can force you to your weaknesses.

    So, if Bridgewater is at 4, take him, otherwise, why not give the kid a shot and draft a later round QB (or two)

    • bupalos

      I’ll sign on to all of that except I would go ahead with Manziel at 4 if he’s there. I think the off-the-field negatives are the flip-side o–and more than balanced by– an incredibly strong competitive spirit. I have a hard time seeing that guy just flopping, his ego is too big not to put in the work.

      • in sobeski’s part 2 piece with mike evans there’s some positive manziel talk.

      • maxfnmloans

        He’s is a gamer, that is for certain. And that attitude can be infectious. I feel like I flip-flop, or almost flip-flop, or try tot talk myself into coming around on Manziel once a week. There’s all this logic that makes sense, and then yo see him pull some rabbits out and then you wonder. He really is an interesting prospect, from a boom or bust standpoint.

        • bupalos

          I’m almost sure he won’t be a bust bust. His ego is just not going to allow that I don’t think. All of the real high-talent busts (think Weeden) have a significant element of complacency that allows their talents to moulder. Whether or not JF become a very good QB I can’t say, he may have weaknesses he can’t overcome— but I’m just dead certain he is going to work and find ways to let his talent come out.

    • NeedsFoodBadly

      Man, you’re saying everything I’m thinking here

  • Petefranklin

    I just can’t get over the fact that Hoyer was cut by two different teams. Maybe he learned some things along the way. I really hope he just has some kind of Ohio mojo going but the reality is that he was probably just in the right place at the right time. If you were on an opposing defense how legitimately would you have taken Hoyers threat at that time? I believe the Bengals win came the week after they won that crazy game vs. the Packers. I’m rooting for the guy but can anyone name a QB who had a team friendly contract and who was let go twice by 2 different teams and who went on to success?

    • kurt warner? rich gannon? trent dilfer (dont laugh, SB ring.)? fran tarkenton? jim plunkett?

      of course tom brady and joe montana and dan marino are all guys draftniks missed on. bobby rainey got cut in a number-squeeze.

      i dont know that i have the example you’re looking for off the top of my head, but there are lots of players that scouts and organizations miss on because it’s harder to measure discipline, work ethic, desire, maturity, etc. than 40s and verticals.

      i might/could throw it back to you: show me a starting nfl qb who would be doing his rehab/training in berea in the winter.

      • Petefranklin

        Gannon is a great example. Dilfer…lol. I hope Hoyer bucks the trends.
        Also , what do you make of our head scout and Lombardi signing on with Bellicheck? I haven’t seen anything much other than they were picked up. Maybe Bellicheck wants “league sources” to misdirect what the Pats are really intending to do? I definitely hate losing the head scout, even if he was terrible. I mean he had to be extra involved,because of our extra picks, with CFB this past season, right? Now the Pats have our best info to go along with theirs.