Next season's QB is already on the roster

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
1:57
PM ET
The speculation about the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback in 2014 will be endless this offseason.

Sort of like it’s been every offseason since 1999.

But the speculation may be unfounded. Because the guy who could and should be the team’s starter heading into training camp met with the media Wednesday.

That would be Brian Hoyer, who spoke of how aggressively he would attack his rehab as he comes back from a torn ACL in his right knee. Hoyer talked of how disappointing the injury was, and how hard it was for the local kid to suddenly see things end in just his third start for the Browns.

[+] EnlargeBrian Hoyer
AP Photo/Tony DejakQB Brian Hoyer provided a spark to the offense, leading the Browns to two wins before he was injured.
His demeanor and attitude left little doubt that he intends to come back stronger than ever, and in this day and age when players seem to come back better after serious surgery his attitude should not be dismissed.

Nor should the way he played. In his two starts in which he stayed healthy, Hoyer won both games and energized the Browns' offense. He played two games, but he is tied for the team lead in touchdown passes (5) and leads the team in completion percentage (59.4). Had Josh Gordon not knocked a catch out of his hands with his knee early in the Buffalo game, Hoyer probable would lead the team in touchdowns.

Hoyer was decisive and quick to get rid of the ball. He threw two bad interceptions against Minnesota, but came back to throw a game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

“I hope that I was able to bring a spark and get this team going,” Hoyer said. “I think that was accomplished.”

The caution, of course, is that the Browns really haven’t seen a lot of him. But the lift he gave the team and the way he played should ease concerns about finding an immediate answer at quarterback.

Hoyer showed he can play. He watched Tom Brady for three years and obviously something soaked in. He’s not Brady, he doesn’t have the strongest arm and he’s not the biggest … but he had something that worked. His maturity, poise, intelligence (Saint Ignatius guy) and attitude seem to mesh the right way.

The Browns still can evaluate and draft a quarterback if they choose. That’s simple common sense. Former Packers GM Ron Wolf wanted to draft a quarterback every season.

But too often in the time since 1999 the Browns have forced a rookie to play and start merely because he was the draft pick. The negative effects were many. Go down the list: Tim Couch, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden all were victims of constant change compounded by playing too soon.

The new regime led by Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi promise they are building for the long term. If so, the best quarterback should play, not the rookie drafted the highest.

If the rookie wins the job, play him.

But until that happens, a quarterback trio of Hoyer with a drafted and developing rookie and Jason Campbell as backups should work.

Signing a free-agent quarterback is fool’s gold.

Forget the frenetic offseason search for “the guy.”

Let the young guy learn, the way Hoyer did.

As long as Hoyer’s rehab goes well, he should go into next season as the guy.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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