Lombardi Might See Hoyer As The Push Weeden Needs
By Steven King
Brandon Weeden continues to be the projected starter at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns this season. But at the same time, GM Mike Lombardi continues to make it as difficult as possible for him.
Lombardi’s lack of love for Weeden is well-documented – he blasted him last season while working for NFL Network – and very little appears to have changed given his comments at the final Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club meeting of the 2012-13 year Monday in suburban Canton, Ohio.
Serving as the guest speaker, Lombardi threw a dig at Weeden for holding onto the ball too long, saying, “It’s anticipation. In the NFL, if you wait for the guy to get open, you’re on your back.”
Lombardi then said more generally of Weeden, “Everything’s an evaluation. You’ve got to keep trying to learn a little bit more and move forward and then, ultimately, you have more of a sample size to make a decision. That’s what we’re going to do.”
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. As such, Weeden had better have a bang-up season in 2013 or else the Browns will dump him and begin looking for his successor. And the plot could thicken – sooner rather than later – for everybody involved.
Brian Hoyer, a local product whom Lombardi has liked for some time, was released by the Arizona Cardinals on Monday. If he clears waivers as expected, then he will become a free agent as of 4 p.m. today. And the Browns could well make a real push to sign him should that happen.
Hoyer, who was born in Lakewood and starred in both baseball and football at Cleveland St. Ignatius High School, played at Michigan State and had a decent career there but was not drafted. He signed with the New England Patriots and remained with them from 2009-11, then spent last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cardinals. He was the backup behind Charlie Batch when the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers lost in Cleveland 20-14 on Nov. 25.
Hoyer has played in 15 career games – with one start last year for Arizona – and has completed 57-of-96 passes (59.4 percent) for 616 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes Hoyer a lot. That probably explains why Lombardi, who worked under Belichick in Cleveland from 1991-95, thinks highly of the former Spartan. If the Browns would bring him in, he would be the youngest quarterback likely to make the final roster. Hoyer is nearly two years younger than Weeden – almost to the day. (Weeden will turn 30 on Oct. 14, the day after Hoyer turns 28.) The presumed backup is 31-year-old Jason Campbell, who was signed in the offseason.
Campbell isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback for the Browns – that much is obvious -- and Hoyer likely wouldn’t be either. But in being three years younger than Campbell and getting into what should be the prime years of his career, Hoyer might be viewed by the team as someone who could at least have a chance to be that kind of player and thus would be worth signing.
The way Lombardi might look at it, if nothing else, bringing in Hoyer would tweak Weeden a little more and put even more pressure on him. And Lombardi seems intent on doing that whenever he can.