BEREA — Brian Hoyer is the only quarterback in Browns history to win his first three NFL starts. Unfortunately, he won’t have the chance to extend that streak to four until 2014.
Hoyer will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn right anterior cruciate ligament Thursday in Cleveland’s 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said the North Olmsted native received the diagnosis following an MRI on Friday morning, ending his season after just nine quarters of play.
“I talked to Brian, who obviously is disappointed, but I wanted to let him know how much he meant to us with what he did,” Chudzinski said in a conference call with the team’s beat writers.
“You guys know how positive he is and the type of person he is, so he’s already thinking about when he’s going to be back. I reassured him that, as well. He’ll be back and he’ll make it all the way back. He’s that type of guy.”
Hoyer was injured on Cleveland’s seventh offensive snap against the Bills — 3:27 into the first quarter — as he attempted to slide at the end of an 11-yard scramble. His right cleat got snagged on the grass, which became disastrous a split-second later when Buffalo linebacker Kiki Alonso hit him high.
Though Hoyer’s right knee bent at a grotesque angle because of the force of Alonzo’s hit, remarkably, he did not tear any additional ligaments or cartilage.
The St. Ignatius High graduate will undergo reconstructive surgery as soon as the swelling subsides, but could be ready for the start of training camp because the damage was limited to his ACL.
“Anytime you lose a teammate to injury like that, it’s never good and you feel empty for that player,” safety T.J. Ward said. “Brian is a hard worker and is becoming a great leader for us. I know he’s going to bounce back strong and get ready for next year, and I’m sure he’s going to support us anyway we can.”
The Browns, who lead the AFC North Division with a 3-2 record, return to action Oct. 13 by hosting the Detroit Lions.
Though it was already clear Hoyer had suffered a major injury, he remained on crutches at FirstEnergy Stadium for the rest of the Bills game, cheering on replacement Brandon Weeden.
Weeden — making his first appearance since Sept. 15 at Baltimore — completed 13 of 24 throws for 197 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked five times.
Chudzinski said the second-year pro will be his starter for the remainder of the year.
“Brian is a team guy and he wanted to be there, which says a lot about him and the character he has,” said Weeden, who lost his job after spraining his right thumb against the Ravens. “He was playing outstanding and doing some great things for this offense, so you hate to see it.
“He’s a teammate and a friend. I can’t really put it into words. It’s a tough situation.”
With Hoyer headed to injured reserve, Weeden and journeyman Jason Campbell are the only quarterbacks on the roster. Chudzinski said he would meet with Browns CEO Joe Banner to discuss adding a third quarterback.
Among the veteran free agents available are Josh Freeman (formerly with the Buccaneers), David Carr (Giants), Vince Young (Packers), John Skelton (Cardinals), Charlie Batch (Steelers) and Tim Tebow (Patriots).
“I thought Brandon gave us a gutsy performance last night,” Chudzinski said. “He managed the game, and even though there were some ups and downs, I thought he was resilient. I think he was still a little bit rusty, but he got the job done and was able to help us win that game.”
On the season, Weeden is 0-2 as a starter and has completed 60-of-110 throws for 713 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 69.2 passer rating. He started Cleveland’s first 15 games as a rookie after being chosen in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Hoyer had a 3-0 record on 57-of-96 passing for 615 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions, and an 82.6 rating. Campbell went 1-of-4 for 6 yards and a 39.6 rating in mop-up duty at Baltimore.
“We’ll move on and accept this challenge as a team,” Chudzinski said. “We have no other choice. Everyone that plays, we expect to do well. My expectations are no different for Brandon.”