Brian Hoyer has experienced disparate facets of life as an NFL quarterback. He spent three seasons learning from the ultimate competitor in the Patriots’ Tom Brady. And he has both won and lost starting jobs to two knuckleheads – Johnny Manziel with the Browns in 2014 and Ryan Mallett with the Texans early last season.
Hoyer was a starter in Week 1 with the Texans last year and lost the job six minutes into the fourth quarter. He quarterbacked the Texans to a division-clinching victory in Week 17 and was all but out of a job six days later after a disastrous performance in the wild-card game against the Chiefs — four interceptions and a 13.7 passer rating in a 30-0 loss.
So all things considered, backing up Jay Cutler with the Bears is not a bad gig for the former undrafted free agent from Michigan State. In fact, Hoyer seems well-suited to play an under-appreciated role in the NFL — being the good soldier as a back up to an established quarterback, but still being prepared to lead a team into the playoffs and beyond.
“My role is to be ready if something happens to Jay,” Hoyer said. “And that’s the thing you realize in this league — you have to know what your role is and be really good at it.”
Hoyer is a willing back up who thinks like a starter — and has the resume to back it up. He is 15-11 as a starter in the NFL. He led the NFL in yards per completion (13.7) with the Browns in 2014 — when current Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was his quarterback coach. His career-best 91.4 passer rating with the Texans last season (19 touchdowns, seven interceptions) ranked two spots below Cutler.
“If you don’t have that [starter’s] mentality, it’s like throwing the sheep to the wolves. This league will eat you alive,” Hoyer said. “I know I’ve proven I can do that. But [the Texans] were holding on to me and holding on to me and released me and the opportunities just kind of dried up.
“So this was the best opportunity that was available. And I’m excited to be here. It’s a great organization. A great coaching staff. Knowing the coordinator. Knowing the quarterback coach [Dave Ragone went also went to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland]. You walk into the quarterback room from Day 1 and have a comfort level.”
That comfort level was a key factor in Hoyer’s decision to sign a one-year, $2 million contract with the Bears. “Dowell’’s doing a lot of things that are similar to what I was doing with him in Cleveland,” Hoyer said. “He’s also doing a little bit what [Adam] Gase did last year. And Adam worked under Josh McDaniels [Hoyer’s coordinator in New England]. There’s a lot of melting pot things I’m familiar with. So it’s a good fit.”
Hoyer gives the Bears a back-up with NFL experience. The Bears ended last season with second-year pro David Fales as Cutler’s back-up. Fales and Matt Blanchard are the other quarterbacks on the roster.
“I couldn’t ask for a better room in terms of not just physical ability, [but] you’ve got guys with different experiences,” Ragone said. “Guys with different personalities that blend well together. Guys that understand their role and — the biggest thing for — love to compete.”
At 30, Hoyer is trying to make the most of a difficult career situation after the debacle in the playoffs. “It was a terrible game,” he acknowledged. “But prior to that I had the best season I’ve ever had as a starter. One game isn’t going to define my career. If you have one great game and several poor ones after that — does that one [great] game define your career?
“So to me, I was just excited to get out here [Tuesday] and just play football. One game does not define me as a player or my career. I’m over that. I’ve learned from the mistakes and you just keep coming out and getting better every day. Unfortunately it ended [in Houston], but it opened a new door for me here and I’m going to make the most of it.”