Bears coaches awarded Brian Hoyer the offensive game ball for his performance in the Bears’ 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions, a game in which he methodically directed the Bears offense to 408 yards and controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes.
With many more efforts like last Sunday’s – 28-for-36 passing, 302 yards, 2 touchdowns, zero interceptions – he will be awarded the Bears starting-quarterback job, which would make the Bears the third team he has started for in his career. Hoyer, who’d started 26 career games before joining the Bears on a one-year contract last offseason, may have gotten his Chicago shot because of injury but is now positioned to keep the job through performance.
His first task, however, is keep it simple and direct, because that is precisely what has put him in this position.
“With every situation that I’ve dealt with in my career, dealing with the quarterback situation, at this point I’m just trying to keep doing what I’m doing,” said Hoyer, whose NFL record as a starter is 16-12 going into next Sunday in Indianapolis. “Keep doing what I’m asked, and when I get a chance to play, play the best I can. That’s really all I’m trying to focus on.”
That’s not always easy. Quarterbacks are centerpieces of football teams, Chicago is a Bears town, which makes Hoyer the primary non-Cubs story rippling through sports coverage. Even if Hoyer is living in a cone of silence, others close to him aren’t.
“I try not to pay attention to the media, but when friends, family members reach out to you, you kind of figure it out,” Hoyer said. But for me, I’m not putting too much into it. I’m just trying to prepare the best I can and do what I’m asked of.”
Hoyer’s strength in coaches’ evaluations is obvious: He has thrown zero interceptions in 97 pass attempts spanning the last two games and part of a third (Philadelphia). The offense has incurred no delay-of-game penalties on Hoyer’s watch.
“He’s been very efficient moving the offense, done a nice job getting us in and out of the huddle, and distributing the ball to the right guy,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
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Maybe none of Hoyer’s success, however small the Chicago sample size so far, should be a surprise. He suffered through some of the Johnny Manziel quarterback circus while with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 and was 10-6 in starts for the Browns over 2013-14.
Hoyer is older now (31) but “he’s not a different player,” Loggains said. “You know, he had a really good year for us in 2014. I think he’s a little more confident because he’s played more, and taken a team to the playoffs. I see his personality coming out a little more. He’s just excited to be out there with the guys and helping us win a game last week.”
Interestingly, Hoyer’s Bears course has roughly paralleled that of Josh McCown, whose career high point came in 2013 when he replaced Cutler on two injury occasions. McCown approached the one-season heights of his 2013 (101.0 passer rating) once in his career, ironically in Cleveland as Hoyer’s successor in 2015 (93.3 rating).
Hoyer play over his two-plus games has produced a lofty 103.3, like McCown’s the reflection of being nearly interception-free. For his career, Hoyer has a respectable interception rate of 2.4 percent. By comparison, Cutler had a solid 2015, with a pick-rate of 2.3 percent but is a below-average 3.3 percent over his career.
The Hoyer mission statement is precisely matched with Loggains’ notion of a quarterback’s job: Facilitate and enable the other 10 members of the offense to do theirs.
The approach that has worked is virtually identical with that of McCown: “Just trying to go out and execute the game plan,” Hoyer said. “I think Dowell has done a good job of coming up with plays and knowing where our strengths are and I think really the offense kind of coming together.
“The offensive line really kind of jelling together. They’ve been playing better, giving me some time to throw the ball. And you know, a bunch of receivers, tight ends, everybody making plays, the running game going. So I think it’s just the total of the whole offense improving each week and that’s what we touched on. Just learn from the mistakes, keep doing the things we’re doing well, keep doing those and keep progressing.”