For wobbling Bears, Brian Hoyer brings different kinds of experience

For wobbling Bears, Brian Hoyer brings different kinds of experience

The fate of the Bears with backup quarterbacks stepping has been, well, mixed. With a record of 0-2 after two weeks of wobbling on offense, the 2016 Bears need more than “mixed.”

It was with that in mind when the Bears chose to sign Brian Hoyer as Jay Cutler’s understudy and not cast their fortunes into the hands of an unknown quarterback prospect as a replacement for Cutler.

The Hoyer the Bears are getting now is not the same one that filled in with the New England Patriots (2009, 2010 and 2011), the Arizona Cardinals (2012), Cleveland Browns (2013) and Houston Texans last year, when he was in and out as the starter for a team that opened 0-2, fell to 1-4 and then recovered to make the playoffs.

“The one thing I have now that I didn’t those first years is playing experience,” Hoyer told before Cutler sustained the thumb injury that now puts Hoyer again in a starting lineup for a fourth NFL team since coming into the league as a Patriots undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2009.

“If I’d had to go in those first couple years, without having played before, I think I’d have been a little overwhelmed. Now I’ve been a starter for two different teams, played in a lot of games, and you just prepare the best you can and go out and play."

[MORE: Bears need to avoid internal strife as on-field problems mount]

Hoyer has a 15-11 record as a starter, a better win-loss percentage than Jay Cutler. But since the Bears rallied to the 2005 playoffs when rookie Kyle Orton took over when Rex Grossman was injured, results have been generally poor when a second-stringer has had to step up.

The Bears are 10-15 in games started by No. 2 quarterbacks, and most of those with veteran backups, not developmental prospects:

2007 Brian Griese 3-3
2007 Kyle Orton 2-1
2008 Rex Grossman 0-1
2010 Todd Collins 1-0
2011 Caleb Hanie 0-4
2011 Josh McCown 1-1
2012 Jason Campbell 0-1
2013 Josh McCown 3-2
2014 Jimmy Clausen 0-1
2015 Jimmy Clausen 0-1

Now comes Hoyer, who has worked to be a student of the offense and understands, “it’s about realizing your role,” Hoyer said. “When I was in Cleveland, Houston, that was my job to job, to be the starting quarterback. Here, Jay’s the starter and it’s up to me to be the best backup quarterback I can be and help him, and help our team win.”

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Hoyer came off the bench to completed nine of 12 passes for 78 yards in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Now the lead role to turn around a slipping Bears season is all his. And he has forcefully made one point already:

“I was on a team that 0-2 last year, too,” Hoyer said, recalling the 2015 Houston Texans. “At one point, we were 2-5 and we made the playoffs. I think a lot is made early on, trying to get things together. But it’s a long season.

“That’s the biggest thing to stress. You know what, don’t panic, go out and have a great week of practice and go out there on Sunday night and improve and get better. I think that’s the main thing. Sure, the first two games didn’t go the way we wanted them too. But there’s 14 left. I think that’s the way you got to look at it.”

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”