Manziel vs Hoyer – statistics are on the side of Johnny Cleveland


Who will start for the 2014 Cleveland Browns at quarterback? Who should start for them? The Johnny Manziel versus Brian Hoyer competition has very vocal believers on both sides, and the pros and cons of starting either one have been reported to the point of boredom.

I’m going to take it a step further, project each of their statistics based on previous playing history, and compare them that way. Let’s start with Brian Hoyer.

Brian Hoyer:

Hoyer has a very small sample size of statistics in his NFL career. Prior to last season, he had 96 pass attempts in 4 seasons from 2009 to 2012. I’m going to throw all those out as noise, and focus solely on his 3 starts last season before he was injured.

In 2013, Hoyer had 57 completions for 615 yards and 5 touchdowns. This was offset by 3 interceptions in those 3 games. As far as running the ball, Hoyer rushed 6 times, for 16 yards and 0 TD’s. I know he actually played more like 2 ½ games, but I’m just going to stick with 3 as a base (this is all an estimate, after all). Taking those stats for the three games he started, and projecting them out to a full 16-game season, Hoyer’s “theoretical” stats look something like this:

304 completions for 3,280 yards, 27 TD’s and 16 INT’s; 32 rushes for 85 yards, 0 TD’s.

Not shabby. Let’s see how Johnny Manziel compares.

Johnny Manziel:

Manziel is a little bit trickier, as he has never played a snap in the NFL. But we do have his stats from college to go off of. In order to keep things even, I will only consider the year of 2013 (as I did with Hoyer). His stats from his sophomore year were 300 completions for 4,114 yards, 37 TD’s and 13 INT’s. Rushing, he had 144 attempts for 759 yards and 9 TD’s. That’s in 13 games, including the Chick-fil-A Bowl. So my first step is adjusting up to a 16-game projection.

But here’s where things get tricky – those were college stats, and therefore don’t project 1:1 with the NFL. There are a lot of professional statisticians who spend years of their lives deriving complex prediction algorithms to this very cause, but I don’t want to go there. So I did a little bit of digging, and based on recent (and very general) trends for NFL rookies that started their rookie season, I came to a rough conclusion: a rookie’s first statistical season is about 2/3rds the quality of his last year in college. This means decreasing a player’s “good” stats by 1/3rd, and at the same time increasing a player’s “bad” stats by 1/3rd.

All that adds up to a 2-step process: first, projecting the stats up to a full 16 games, and then applying the college-to-pro fudge factor. It ends up like this:

246 completions for 3,375 yards, 31 TD’s and 21 INT’s; 118 rushes for 623 yards, 7 TD’s.

Good enough for guesstimate work. Now let’s compare.

BH: 304 for 3,280 yds, 27 TD’s, 16 INT’s; 32 rush, 85 yds, 0 TD’s.

JM: 246 for 3,375 yds, 31 TD’s, 21 INT’s; 118 rush, 623 yds, 7 TD’s.

The thing that really hit me was how similar their passing stats are. Manziel has a few more touchdowns, a few more interceptions, slightly fewer completions, and slightly more yards. Where Manziel shines (or fails, depending on your perspective) is his running ability. No surprise there – one of the reasons Manziel fell to #22 was because most view him as too reliant on his legs.

I know this is all speculation. I know there were a few reaches as far as estimations were concerned. But numbers never lie, and to me, the scales are tipped in Manziel’s favor.


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  • pbohara

    This guesswork was fun to read, thanks for doing it

  • Browns4Ever

    hahahahaha great article even though its guesswork I think its still really close to what actually could really happen……

  • Dan D

    Throw Johnny M out there and let him learn by fire. It’s not like he’s lacking in confidence or anything. And it’s not like a few early losses are going to derail what would have otherwise been a Super Bowl season.

  • Dave P

    Fun stats to try and project, but do you really think Hoyer would only attempt 6 runs/scrambles in a season? I’m not a glutton for punishment, but maybe compare them both based on total college games.

    • Eric Johnson

      Dave, great points. Here’s my reasoning: 1) Hoyer’s college stats were many years ago. To me, it felt more accurate (although only slightly) to compare both players with the most recent stats available. 2) My mistake on Hoyer’s predicted rushing (I forgot to project over 16 games). That should have been 32 rushes for 85 yards and 0 TD’s. Still much inferior to Manziel, but a great catch!

  • Don H

    Hoyer’s stats would be even better if you would have used 2.5, rather than giving him 1/2 a game having no completions, attempts, runs or yardage passing or running. Especially with such a small sample.

  • Kevin Gillikin

    I’m shocked how many fans seem to stick up for Hoyer. I like it and I like Hoyer but I would have thought the town would go all in on JFF and it really hasn’t been that way at all!