But while we hugged strangers in the streets, bought “Return of the King” and “Bronny Basketball” T-shirts and were provided a constant stream of pictures of Johnny’s A-list lifestyle, another person with was quietly working hard to fulfill a lifelong dream.
The summer of 2014 in Cleveland will be remembered as the moment when Northeast Ohio’s sports landscape shifted. It will be remembered as the time when LeBron came home and made Cleveland the center of the sports universe. Some believe that it will also be remembered as the time when Johnny Football came to town and forever changed the fortunes of our beloved Browns. But while we hugged strangers in the streets, bought “Return of the King” and “Bronny Basketball” T-shirts and were provided a constant stream of pictures of Johnny’s A-list lifestyle, another person with was quietly working hard to fulfill a lifelong dream.
Like James, Brian Hoyer is a local kid. He grew up in Cleveland, attended St. Ignatius and understands what it’s like to be from Northeast Ohio. Like Manziel, Hoyer is fighting to become the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. His shared position and local roots are where the similarities end, though. Brian Hoyer does not come with the star power and media attention LeBron and Manziel bring. In fact, the only reason national media bother to say his name is because he’s competing with Johnny Football and he is ratings gold. People are quick to point out Hoyer’s lack of experience and his injury last year but what they aren’t mentioning is his football IQ, leadership and on-field talent. Hoyer won’t admit it, but I’d bet if he had his way this wouldn’t be the summer that a local kid brought a team back from the ashes; it’d be the summer that two of them did.
Cleveland is a football town. Sure, we’re passionate about basketball and we love our “Indian Summers” but make no mistake, this city lives and breathes football. Sports talk radio shows spend more time discussing college pro days and the NFL combine than they do on actual Tribe games. Don’t get me wrong, If LeBron is able to bring a title to Cleveland his legend will grow even larger. He’ll have statues built in his honor as well as wings of buildings and babies named after him. We’ll love him forever. If the Browns ever win a Super Bowl they will be gods in this city. Forget never paying for a drink again, they’ll probably never pay taxes again. I kid…but only a little.
When the Browns drafted Manziel it was assumed that he would take the reins of the offense and everything would be highlights reels and primetime games. Thus far in training camp, however, Hoyer has looked miles ahead of Johnny both in grasp of the new offensive system and talent on the field. He has the respect and backing of his locker room as well as the coaching staff. Johnny has looked like an exciting rookie at times but Hoyer has looked like an honest to goodness NFL quarterback. For a team who has searched for a starting QB since 1999, all of the sudden it appears we may have two.
In any other circumstance Manziel would have the full support of the fan base. This is different however. The guy he’s competing against isn’t just some aging veteran. He is a local kid who won all three games he started for us before getting injured. Brian Hoyer showed this city just enough to make us believe that he could be both the present and the future. Maybe this is simply Cleveland (and myself) being eternally optimistic about our players. Maybe Hoyer just looks great to us because we’re seeing him through Weeden-colored glasses. Or maybe, just maybe, we have not one but two prodigal sons who have returned to save the city.