FOXBOROUGH — It was a coincidental meeting that has blossomed into one of the most substantial bonds in New England.
Brian Hoyer was walking through the players’ lot at Gillette Stadium following his mid-May physical, the first step of the start of his 13th season when he spotted the future.
Mac Jones, the Patriots’ top draft pick, was getting out of his car for his latest day at the office.
“I just went over and introduced myself. And I said, ‘Hey, I’m here to help you. Whatever you need, just let me know,’ ’' Hoyer recalled Thursday. “And he’s a very quiet kid, but a very mature kid. And he goes, ‘All right, great.’ And since then, I feel like he’s felt like he can ask me anything. And I go to him with things that I think that can help him. So, it’s been fun, and to see his success has been fun.”
Jones said Hoyer has become “a really close friend of mine” and he’s clearly appreciative of the veteran’s tutelage.
“He’s super-supportive of me and tries to help me in any way he can, and, you know, he’s hard on me sometimes, which is good, so he holds me to a high standard,” said the rookie. “Then, he also has fun and enjoys the game … Brian is just a great example of a great team leader and great team player.”
The benefits of the relationship have been mutual.
“For me, it’s great because he keeps me young, first and foremost,” said Hoyer. “I’m 13 years older than him. I always joke with him, I said, ‘I’m 13 years older than you. And you’re 13 years older than my son [Garrett].’ And we kind of get a kick out of it.”
Hoyer had a front-row seat for the biggest story line of the summer — the quarterback competition between Cam Newton and Jones. Both the battlers often credited Hoyer with his steadying presence and sage advice. He provided a shoulder to lean on for both as he prepared himself for the season, as well.
“I think the reason that I was here was to let those two take as many reps as they could, and then, whenever I would get one, I’d just be ready to go,” said Hoyer. “And luckily for me, for the most part, especially during training camp where you’re running all your core things, it’s a lot of stuff I’ve already done. So honestly, I didn’t need the reps, but I would’ve loved to have practiced them. But it was more important to give it to those two guys.”
The Patriots couldn’t have a better mentor for Jones than Hoyer, who by his estimation has been running some form of this offense for nine of his 13 seasons, whether it be in New England or in Houston with Bill O’Brien.
“I’ve seen a lot of things, and I’ve practiced a lot of things. And so, for me, for us to succeed as a team I was trying to do whatever I could to help. Not only Mac, but anyone else who’s in that room,” said Hoyer.
Hoyer’s approach to this season has impressed Bill Belichick, whose faith in the quarterback is obvious going back to 2009, when he signed him as a rookie. The coach appreciates the professionalism and perspective Hoyer brings.
“It’s one thing, as a coach, to coach the players and all that, but in the end it’s always helpful to have somebody who has actually played it to be able to also talk about it because, as a player, you get told a lot of things, and as an experienced player, you can sometimes help the younger players with understanding what’s really important and what to put at the top of the list,” Belichick said.
Josh McDaniels has similar sentiments about Hoyer, whom he calls “a good friend of mine.” The offensive coordinator has a lot of respect for Hoyer for his commitment to thrive in the NFL for as long as he has.
“I think he’s a great example for our young players of what to do. And he prepares as if he’s playing every single play, every single week. I think that is a great example to follow, as well,” said McDaniels. “But he’s an unselfish guy. He’s given a lot of himself relative to time and wisdom that he’s gained over many years.”
Hoyer said Jones’s maturity has stood out and that he’s “earned the respect and trust, certainly, of me and all our teammates” in a short time.
Hoyer cited Jones’s “meticulous” note taking and quest for perfection as reasons the former Alabama star has enjoyed early success.
“He doesn’t want to mess things up. He doesn’t want to get things wrong. And to be honest, it sets him off when he does,” said Hoyer. “There’s a lot of determination there to get things right. Not just get them right, after messing up, he wants to get them right, and get it right the first time.”
Hoyer does have to remind his young grasshopper to have a short memory.
“I feel like he’s very even-keeled, and there’s times when I can tell that something maybe is lingering. I say, ‘Look, you’ve just got to flush it, move on, move on,’ “ said Hoyer.
Hoyer also has to remind Jones to enjoy himself, which is why he enjoyed seeing Jones so animated during last Sunday’s win over the Jets.
“I’m like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to smile sometimes, OK? Like, this is supposed to be fun,’ “ said Hoyer. “So, to see him coming off and see a little emotion, energy this past week, we’ve just got to keep improving and keep that going.’’
The Patriots elevated defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale from the practice squad for the second straight week. He had a sack last week … Hunter Henry has a touchdown catch in four straight games. The record for consecutive games with a TD grab by a tight end is nine, held by Henry’s former Charger mentor, Antonio Gates … J.C. Jackson has three interceptions this season and is tied with Miami’s Xavien Howard for the most picks since he entered the NFL in 2018 with 20 … The Patriots lead the all-time series with the Chargers, 23-14-2. The first tie came in 1965 at Fenway Park, the second two years later at San Diego Stadium.