Patriots

While backing up Brady, Hoyer learned his lessons well

While backing up Brady, Hoyer learned his lessons well

FOXBORO -- Over the last three days, there has been a familiar scene playing out at the tail end of every Patriots-Bears joint practice session: Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer exchanging hugs and handshakes, and chatting not just about football, but family.

Those moments, those conversations, had Hoyer -- now backing up Jay Cutler in Chicago -- taking a trip down memory lane to his first day in Foxboro as an undrafted quarterback, hoping to survive the day.

“[On] Day One . . . he came to introduce himself: ‘Hey, I’m Tom.’ I knew that already, but that’s the way he is,” said Hoyer, thinking back to the spring of 2009. “He is so humble. A great guy, and (he's stayed) in touch. He’s always been one of the first guys to text me after a game, whether it was good, bad or ugly, or whatever it was. It’s a friendship I've really cherished over the years.”

In three seasons with the Patriots, Hoyer didn’t start a single game, throwing just 43 passes during repeated mop-up duty. Like any young player, he craved the opportunity, any opportunity. But Brady stood in his way, just as he has with every backup to come through these parts -- Damon Huard, Rohan Davey, Matt Cassel, Ryan Mallett and now Jimmy Garoppolo.

Instead of growing impatient, however, Hoyer tried to learn from the master, however he could.

“I think, for me, (it was best to) just sit there and watch,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. But [Brady's] also a guy who goes out of his way to help . . . 

"I remember . . . just trying to sit back and watch and soak up everything, whether it was in the meeting room, on the field, training, whatever it might be. He’s an intense competitor. If you can just soak it all up, you just kind of gain it by being around him.”

That’s easier said than done, however. In Brady, we’re talking about one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- quarterbacks of his era and all-time. His brain functions on a different level. So do his muscles. That was a difficulty for Hoyer then, and for Garoppolo now.

“Sure, yeah, I mean at some point you gotta stop and say,‘Well, hold on, how are you seeing this?' Or 'How did you know that?’ " said Hoyer. "I remember that was the only question: 'How did you know this was going to be the coverage?' And he’d just go, ‘I’ve seen it years and years and years.’ So there’s definitely times you just have to stop and ask him, 'How were you even knowing to take the ball here, or check to this play?'

"But a lot of it was just seeing him operate: The intensity, demanding so much out of his teammates.”

Hoyer would eventually get his opportunity, starting 26 games over the last four seasons with Arizona, Cleveland and Houston. He was viewed as a leader in his last two stops and has wound up forging a perfectly acceptable career, especially when you consider where he came from.

Now Garoppolo, with a greater draft pedigree and potential, gets that chance, sooner than expected, and with Brady’s team. Garoppolo has a chance to put his stamp on this season and be a starting quarterback somewhere, be it with the Pats or, most likely, in some other NFL city . . . where he’ll have to prove he, like Hoyer, learned from Brady and can make at least some of those lessons translate on the football field.

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

The Patriots will face the Detroit Lions Sunday night in the Pats latest matchup against a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Lions hired Matt Patricia after the defensive guru spent 14 seasons under Belichick in New England. But so far, Patricia and the Lions are off to a rough start (0-2), and it could get worse -- it's been well-established that former Belichick pupils have struggled against the Patriots. 

TOM E. CURRAN'S HARD TRUTHS

But what about Tom Brady against Patriots assistants-turned-head coaches? Patricia will be the fifth former coach Brady will face, joining Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Bill O'Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Patricia will join Mangini and Crennel as former defensive coordinators to scheme against Brady, while O'Brien and McDaniels went from calling plays for Brady to trying to stop him. Who has the advantage, Brady or his coaches?

VS. ERIC MANGINI

Belichick first discovered Mangini as a ball boy in Cleveland. Mangini eventually became New England's defensive coordinator for a season before accepting the head coaching job with the New York Jets. Because he was in the AFC East, Brady played Mangini the most of any former coach. Brady and the Pats went 4-2 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against Mangini's Jets. Mangini's defenses picked Brady four times in those six games, but Brady still threw nine touchdowns. He completed 116 of his 190 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,346 yards.

As head coach of the Browns in 2010, Mangini's team beat Brady and the Pats 34-14 for one of their five victories that season. Brady went 19-for-36 for 224 yards and two TDs in that game.

VS. ROMEO CRENNEL

The defensive coordinator for the Patriots' first three Super Bowl champion squads had no answers for Brady and the New England offense in a matchup against the Browns in 2007. The 2007 NFL MVP completed 22 of 38 passing attempts (58 percent) for 265 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. 

VS. BILL O'BRIEN

Bill O'Brien called plays for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011, but is probably most known in New England for his infamous yelling match with Brady on the sidelines during a game in 2011. O'Brien is now in his fifth season as the coach of the Houston Texans and his defenses -- which, for the record, have been very good -- have had absolutely no success against Brady. The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games and 1-0 in the postseason when Brady starts against O'Brien. Brady threw for 1,168 yards in those four games, completing 91 of 142 passes (64 percent) and throwing 12 TDs and just three interceptions. 

VS. JOSH MCDANIELS

McDaniels, who is in his second stint as the Patriots offensive coordinator, has a great relationship with Brady, as shown in Brady's Facebook docu-series Tom vs. Time. But in 2009, the two faced off against each other when in McDaniels' first season as Broncos head coach. McDaniels got the win in overtime, but Brady played solid. He was 19 of 33 (58 percent) for 215 yards, with two TDs and no picks. 

OVERALL

It's been business as usual for Brady against his former coaches, with a record of 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs. In those 13 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,218 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions. Brady will look to continue his success against Patricia this weekend, as the Patriots look to get back on track with a win.

-- Will Lefkovich

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