Let's please stop pretending Brian Hoyer is any good

Tomase: Let's please stop pretending Brian Hoyer is any good originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Consuming some extremely optimistic Patriots coverage this week made me wonder if there were two quarterbacks named Brian Hoyer and I was only familiar with the nondescript veteran backup.

The lifelong holder of clipboards I thought I knew would never be confused with an NFL starter at this juncture, and he certainly wouldn't be given a chance of going into Green Bay and beating Aaron Rodgers.

Yet everywhere I turned, someone else popped up to say the Patriots would be no worse with Hoyer than starter Mac Jones; that Hoyer knew the offense just as well and could be a safe, effective game manager; that Hoyer might actually be preferable at this particular moment because he's not pouting about anything.

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So I paid a visit to Football Reference and it turns out there's only one Brian Hoyer and it's the one I remember. He will probably make an excellent offensive coordinator someday -- I'd give him the job right now -- but he's not a good quarterback, at least if the last seven years mean anything.

So what are we doing?

With every year that Tom Brady recedes further into our collective memories, Patriots fans begrudgingly recognize that their franchise is not, in fact, different. They cannot win through the force of Bill Belichick's will alone, even if they pledge to take things day by day with a smile straight out of Wes Craven.

But if there's one area where they hope maybe the magic remains, it's quarterback. Belichick turned the 199th pick into the greatest of all time. He won 11 games with Matt Cassel. He went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett while Brady served a suspension. He squeezed seven wins out of Cam Newton cosplaying Tim Tebow. He took Jones to the playoffs as a rookie.

Cassel: What will Pats offense look like in Mac Jones' absence?

This isn't any of that. Hoyer has started 13 games since 2016 and lost 12 of them, most recently a 2020 effort that featured a lot of similarly overheated rhetoric about how he might exceed expectations. The inevitable 26-10 loss to the Chiefs that followed saw Hoyer not only throw for just 130 yards and an interception, but also deliver the worst play of that forgettable season when he took a sack inside the red zone as the clock expired on the first half.

If you'd like to believe that Hoyer has improved since then, I mean, yeah, sure. Even though he couldn't win games between the ages of 30 and 35, he's sure to flip that switch just a couple of weeks shy of his 37th birthday, in hostile territory, against a Hall-of-Fame quarterback and one of the league's best defenses, right? Right?

The obvious rejoinder would be that Hoyer's prior teams lost because they stunk in ways that transcended him, but even that's not entirely true. Remember the 2017 49ers? They started 1-9, with Hoyer losing all six of his starts. Then they acquired a handsome fella by the name of Jimmy, who closed the season with five straight victories before taking the Niners to the Super Bowl two years later.

Hoyer is Jones's backup for a reason, and it's not because Belichick honestly believes he can go 4-2 if the starter needs tightrope surgery. On the scale of Patriots backups, Hoyer slots a lot closer to Doug Flutie or Vinny Testaverde than Garoppolo, acting more as an unpaid assistant who should probably join the staff the day he retires.

I'll leave the X's and O's to the experts like our guys Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry, but it doesn't take a Shanahan to see that Matt Patricia's new offense asks the quarterback to take more downfield shots than the ball-control scheme that plays to Hoyer's strengths. The 25-yard tippy-toe back shoulder dime that Jones zipped to DeVante Parker last week probably isn't in Hoyer's repertoire, if it ever was.

Expecting that guy to beat the Packers is the definition of wishful thinking. It's like staring down a 7-10 split and ignoring your previous 100 gutter balls in the hopes of suddenly going all Pete Weber of, "Who do you think you are? I AM!!!" fame.

We know who Hoyer is. He's a career backup, and that narrative almost certainly won't change on Sunday, which is probably for the best anyway, because what does it say about Jones if the two of them are actually interchangeable?

So forgive me if I'm not loving Hoyer's chances this weekend. While the Patriots haven't officially ruled Jones out, it's unlikely he plays just a week after suffering a reportedly "severe" high ankle sprain. If he needs a reminder of the risks associated with playing hurt, his college teammate, Tua Tagovailoa, can text him.

That leaves the offense in Hoyer's hands. Unfortunately, there's only one of him, and he's long past the possibility of surprising us.