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NFL

Browns give nod to Hoyer to start at QB in opener vs. Steelers

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 9:54 p.m.

BEREA, Ohio — Brian Hoyer defied long odds — and stiff-armed Johnny Football — to keep his dream job.

Through sweat and tears, he fought his way back from a serious knee injury only to be faced with the Browns drafting Johnny Manziel, college football's dynamic quarterback with the cult-like following.

Hoyer, though, persevered. He endured grueling rehab to get back on the field sooner than expected, stayed focused as Manzielmania consumed the Browns and ignored trade rumors. It will be Hoyer who will lead the Browns, his hometown team, onto the field for the Sept. 7 opener at the archrival Steelers.

For a Cleveland kid cut by three NFL teams and waiting for his chance, it doesn't get any better.

“Obviously it's very special for me,” Hoyer said.

Needing to fix his offense quickly, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine chose Hoyer as his starter Wednesday over Manziel, who wasn't able to do enough during training camp or two preseason games to convince Cleveland's coaching staff he deserved the job.

Manziel is 0-1 as a pro.

“It's obviously disappointing,” Manziel said. “I feel like if I would have come out and played better it would have been a different outcome. I don't think I played terrible, but I didn't do anything to jump off the page.”

Despite a 40 percent completion percentage, 57.9 rating and seeming to buckle under the pressure this month, Hoyer will start the season. However, in Cleveland that usually only guarantees one game. After all, the Browns have had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. Hoyer is the 12th QB to start the opener, a damning indictment of a franchise that has only made the playoffs once in its expansion era.

Pettine knows the best plans can change in an instant.

“Give me a crystal ball, and I'll tell you,” he said when asked if Manziel will play this season. “The NFL season is so long, so much can happen. ... It's hard to tell.”

Pettine's selection of Hoyer finally will allow the Browns to move on to other things, and there's plenty of work to be done.

Pettine had targeted the third preseason game as the drop-dead date to pick his starter, but after both Hoyer and Manziel looked so bad in a loss at Washington on Monday, he met with his staff Tuesday night. He informed Hoyer and Manziel of his decision before a team meeting.

Nothing ever has come easy for Hoyer, and although there was an outside perception Manziel would prevail, the 28-year-old Hoyer wasn't going down without a fight.

With Manziel on his heels, he can't relax.

“My entire career's been looking over my shoulder,” Hoyer said. “The pressure you put on yourself is far greater than anything else, because when you're a rookie undrafted and you're trying to come in and make a team, there's no one to look over.”

Manziel temporarily is pushed aside, and that appears to be OK with the 21-year-old, who draws attention with every move he makes on and off the field.

Manziel hopes the hysteria quiets down a little.

“I'm the backup quarterback,” he said. “I shouldn't be in the spotlight.”

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