By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Mired in an offense that has scored one touchdown in two close losses, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski announced two major changes on Wednesday.
Brian Hoyer is in at quarterback, and Greg Little is out at wide receiver.
Hoyer, listed No. 3 on the team’s QB depth chart, was chosen ahead of Jason Campbell to start for Brandon Weeden.
And Little, who has had two bad games and several traffic incidents since April, has been demoted. Without elaborating, Chudzinski said the starting receivers in Minnesota will be Josh Gordon and Davone Bess.
Explaining why Hoyer leap-frogged Campbell to receive the start Sunday, Chudzinski said, “I feel based on our current situation where we’re at offensively, as well getting into the gameplan for Minnesota, that Brian’s strengths are the best fit for this week and he gives us our best chance for the win.
“We’re 0-2 right now, so we’re looking to shake things up to start winning games. We’re hoping this is a spark we need.”
Chudzinski was Browns offensive coordinator in 2007 when Charlie Frye was yanked after one half of the first game and then replaced as starter the second game by Derek Anderson. That team proceeded to roll up more than 400 points and win 10 of 15 games.
I asked Chudzinski if that experience contributed to his decision now as head coach.
“I don’t think it contributed. I think it’s just evidence that a change can be good,” he said. “It remains to be seen how Brian plays. I’m expecting him to play well.”
Hoyer is a native of North Olmsted who starred at Cleveland prep power St. Ignatius High School. He was undrafted out of Michigan State and signed by the New England Patriots, serving as backup to Tom Brady for three seasons.
After being waived by Bill Belichick in the 2012 training camp, Hoyer was unwanted for nearly three months. He was signed as an emergency substitute by the Pittsburgh Steelers three days before they played the Browns in Cleveland. Hoyer did not play in that game, won by the Browns, 20-10.
Hoyer was waived by Pittsburgh three weeks later and claimed by Arizona. He played six quarters in two games for the Cardinals, starting their final game against Super Bowl-bound San Francisco. The 49ers won, 27-13.
Hoyer was a target of the Browns in the offseason, but his arrival was delayed because the Cardinals used a technicality to maintain his rights as a restricted free agent. They waived him in May and the Browns scooped him up. The Browns signed Campbell as a free agent in March.
Hoyer said he was informed of Chudzinski’s decision on Tuesday and went to bed that night thinking of the gameplan against the Vikings and the challenges of playing them in their home opener in the noisy Metrodome.
“I’m definitely excited,” Hoyer said. “This is the opportunity you practice for, prepare for. I’m going to give this team everything I’ve got to help us try and get that first win.
“When you dream of playing in the professional leagues, you dream of playing for your hometown team.”
Chudzinski painted an optimistic picture that Weeden’s sprained thumb would not be “a long-term issue.” He said he would be examined by a hand specialist on Thursday and then his status would be evaluated day to day.
Yet the coach would not shoot down the possibility of Hoyer maintaining the job beyond Sunday.
“We’ll evaluate that, we’ll evaluate where Brandon’s at, week to week. I’m gonna leave all the options open,” Chudzinski said.
That’s the same thing he said on Monday when it appeared Campbell would be the automatic injury replacement for Weeden. And it turned out to be Hoyer.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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