Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Three weeks after trading Trent
Richardson and "giving up" on their season, the Cleveland Browns are in first
place in the AFC North.
But the guy who helped get them there, suburban Cleveland native Brian Hoyer,
is gone for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL early in the Browns'
37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
"Tanking For Teddy," as in Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater --
the expected No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft -- never materialized in
the Forest City because of Hoyer, a former undrafted rookie out of Michigan
State who starred in high school at Cleveland's St. Ignatius and spent three
years under the learning tree that is Tom Brady.
No matter what they say or do now, understand the new regime in Cleveland --
led by CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi -- is playing
Neither man was with the Browns when Richardson was selected with the No. 3
overall pick in 2012 and quarterback Brandon Weeden was taken with their other
first-round selection. And neither particularly like either of those players
so they attempted to raise the white flag after an 0-2 start and a thumb
injury to Weeden.
Problem is rookie Browns head coach Rod Chudzinski didn't get the memo or at
least didn't read it and skipped over veteran backup QB Jason Campbell,
inserting third-stringer Hoyer as the starting signal caller.
Unlikely wins in Minnesota and against favored divisional opponent Cincinnati
followed, setting up the Thursday night affair with the Bills.
What should have been a feel good moment for the plucky Browns, however, was
tempered by Hoyer's ACL tear early in the first quarter. The signal caller was
hurt while sliding at the end of a scramble.
Hoyer broke free along the right sideline and picked up a first down, but was
hit by Buffalo star rookie Kiko Alonso and his legs bent awkwardly underneath
"I don't want to be premature," Chudzinski said. "Let's find out what the
status is and see what the MRI says. Anytime you lose a guy who's done what
he's done, it's disappointing.
"He's been a big part of what we've done the last couple of weeks. I think it
was a little bit of a shock for the guys at first."
Chud didn't need to be so coy. The MRI on Friday confirmed what everyone
already knew -- the guy who blew life back into Cleveland's season had all the
air taken out of his own campaign.
"It's a torn ACL," Chud admitted Friday at his news conference.
Weeden, who initially entered to a chorus of boos after replacing Hoyer before
finishing 13-of-24 for 197 yards and a touchdown, will return as the team's
starter for now.
But, Chudzinski admitted that he had not yet spoken to Banner about how the
team will further address the position.
In the short term that could mean Josh Freeman. In the long term it could mean
a dozen other guys not named Weeden.
What we do know is Banner and Lombardi had already moved past Weeden in their
own minds at least and a second-year QB who is struggling with confidence
issues in general isn't about to dismiss that kind of disrespect easily.
That means the Browns' stay at the top of the AFC North is likely to be
measured in days, not weeks.
As for Hoyer, he will go down as the first Cleveland quarterback to win his
inaugural three starts since the legendary Otto Graham was tearing up the All-
America Football Conference in 1946.
But, football isn't fair. Hoyer's pedigree and journeyman status make it
unlikely he'll ever get a chance at a fourth when he is healthy again in 2014.
While Lombardi has always spoken highly of Hoyer and Bridgewater may now be
targeted toward Jacksonville or Tampa Bay, others like UCLA's Brett Hundley,
Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Clemson's Tajh Boyd are in line to be the next
flavor of the month in Cleveland.
The Sports Network