CLEVELAND - The weekly wait for Browns coach Rob Chudzinski to name Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback has strayed into the area of comedy.
Following two good performances in wins over the Vikings and Bengals, Hoyer was assured a start Thursday against the Buffalo Bills at First Energy Stadium. At least it seemed that way in the immediate aftermath of the 17-6 win over the Bengals last Sunday.
Chudzinski, however, decided to keep the media hanging another day when asked if Hoyer would get the call. The tight-lipped smile on his face gave away the answer. It was going to be Hoyer from the moment the game ended. It's just that Chudzinski needed to follow company policy and keep the worst-kept secret in Cleveland in the bag.
Chudzinski made it official at his Monday press conference when he named Hoyer the starter. The difference this time is that Brandon Weeden, who started the first two games before suffering a sprained right thumb, is healthy and has been cleared to play.
For the first time it can be said that Hoyer has earned the start based solely on merit and not injury. It also can be said that Weeden has dug a hole so deep that Chudzinski wouldn't even commit to him as the backup ahead of Jason Campbell.
Does this sound like an endorsement of Weeden when Chudzinski was asked if he would be the backup?
"We'll work him back into practice and see where he's at," Chudzinski said.
"It's getting close to the point of no return with Hoyer, barring an injury. He's done more than won the hearts of fans. He's also won the hearts of teammates with his energy, confidence and leadership skills."
Weeden has taken the high road in what can now be called a demotion.
"I'm the ultimate team guy," Weeden said. "I want to win games. It makes this business a lot more fun. Brian is playing well. The offense is playing well. The defense is playing outstanding. It's fun to watch, and so I'm happy for this team."
It remains to be seen if Hoyer will be a fit beyond this season, but for now there can be no turning back to Weeden.
The differences between the two are striking. Weeden has a stronger throwing arm, which gives him an advantage on difficult throws like comebacks and deep crossing routes. Hoyer is quicker of feet and mind. He has decent arm strength and is more accurate on bread-and-butter throws like fades, wheel routes by backs and slants.
One of the last images we have of Weeden was leading Chris Ogbonnaya too much on a wheel route in the opener against the Dolphins. Ogbonnaya might have scored if he had made the catch.
"I'd be lying if I said it was the ideal situation," Weeden said. "I want to be out there. You never draw it up that you're going to get hurt in week two and stuff like this happens. It's life. You can't feel sorry for yourself. I'm treating it like this is still my football team. I'm not discouraged."
Hoyer has shown an ability to make plays when they are most needed. He completed his first nine passes against the Bengals and then went through a period during which he had some errant throws. He then regained his touch and led the way on a 91-yard drive that produced the game-clinching touchdown.
"I just hope Brian keeps playing well," offensive tackle Joe Thomas said. "He's done a nice job the last two games. He's getting more comfortable every week."
If Hoyer gets any more comfortable, he might decide to move in.