The Patriots announced on Wednesday they have officially signed a new backup quarterback: Brian Hoyer.
After starting six games for the winless 49ers, Hoyer was cut following the team’s trade for Jimmy Garoppolo late Monday night. Hoyer, 32, played his first three NFL seasons in New England and will return to the familiar role of Tom Brady’s understudy.
Here are five things you need to know about the Patriots’ latest acquisition:
The Patriots signed him in 2009
Hoyer was invited to the 2009 NFL Combine, but the 6-foot-2 Michigan State quarterback went undrafted. Immediately following the draft, the Patriots signed him as a free agent. Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, and Matthew Stafford were among the 11 passers that were selected that year.
At the scouting combine, Hoyer’s 40-yard dash time of 5.02 seconds was the fourth slowest out of 20 participating quarterbacks, while his shuttle time of 4.42 seconds was tied for sixth fastest. According to his NFL.com draft profile, some of Hoyer’s strengths included “efficient game manager” and “good overall accuracy, especially in the short-to-intermediate areas.” Some of his weaknesses included that he “doesn’t sense the pocket collapsing and will take the big hit,” as well as a poor performance in his two bowl starts.
As a Patriot, Hoyer played in 13 games over the course of three seasons. Working behind Brady, he did not record a single start and threw just one touchdown pass — albeit an impressive 42-yard hurl to Brandon Tate.
During his tenure as Brady’s backup, Hoyer threw for 286 yards with a 62.8 completion percentage. Since leaving New England in 2012, he has played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, and the 49ers.
After the Patriots cut him, he called his high school football coach for a favor
With nowhere else to turn when the Patriots released him in 2012, Hoyer gave Chuck Kyle of St. Ignatius a call.
“Coach, do you mind if I come to practice and throw the football around with your players?” he asked.
Kyle, who coached Hoyer as a two-year starter at St. Ignatius, agreed to let his former All-State quarterback return for some practices. Hoyer — who was 26 at the time — suited up in his Patriots gear and hit the field with a bunch of teenagers, as he patiently waited for a call from an NFL team.
“It was kind of surreal,” one of the wide receivers told the New York Times.
Hoyer ended up playing two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, whose stadium field is just a mile or two away from that of his high school.
The coaching staff had a good feeling about him, even after the cut
Three years following Hoyer’s departure, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was still speaking rather highly of him. At the time, Hoyer had found his footing with the Texans and started nine games that season, throwing for 2,606 yards, 19 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. When asked about his performance, Belichick was not surprised that his former player ultimately had landed a lead role despite it not being in New England.
“He just never got a chance,” Belichick said. “Had he had the opportunity that Matt Cassel got in 2008, who knows? But he didn’t. That’s the way it worked out. Brian does a lot of things well. He did a lot of things well [in New England]. I mean, the fact that he came in as an undrafted player and made the roster his rookie year at that position in itself is pretty impressive.”
“He did a good job with that when he was here in the opportunities that he had,” he continued. “He’s got a lot of mental toughness. He’s got good quickness and, again, throws a very good deep ball. He’s a quality player that does a lot of things well and helps the team win in a lot of different ways.”
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien echoed this sentiment.
“It was a little bit of an uphill climb for him to be able to make the team,” O’Brien said. “But I remember him getting there and just having a great hunger for learning the game. Then he was able to apply that on the practice field as a rookie. I thought that, in my mind, I saw where maybe this guy would have a future in the NFL, to be able to play for someone. So that was a good beginning for him. Since then, he’s grown a lot. He’s been through a lot. He’s been hurt. He’s been cut. He’s dealt with the ups and downs. He’s a mentally tough guy.”
Tom Brady calls him “a great friend”
After Hoyer earned two consecutive starts with Browns in 2013, his former teammate had nothing but praise and well wishes.
“Brian was a great player who worked hard to develop himself into a starting-caliber NFL quarterback,’’ Brady told Cleveland.com. “Nobody worked harder or committed himself more than Brian. He’s a great friend, and I’m not surprised that he’s succeeded once he got an opportunity.’’
In those back-to-back starts, Hoyer threw for 590 yards and five touchdown passes, with a 60.7 completion percentage. And Brady even sent him a congratulatory text message after his first win. His promising year came to an end in his third outing, however, as he suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
“He has everything it takes physically and mentally to play the position,’’ Brady said. “He loves football and works hard at getting better.’’
The five-time Super Bowl champ also added that the pair talk football “whenever [they’re] around one another” but took no credit for Hoyer’s improvements.
“He was solely responsible for his work ethic,’’ Brady said.
The admiration is by no means one-sided. Hoyer also had kind words for his former role model.
“It’s having a sense of urgency, attention to detail, the little things help you take care of the big things,’’ Hoyer told Cleveland.com. “There’s probably not a better guy to learn from, and I really went in every day trying to take as much as I could out of that situation.”
Having attended rival colleges at Michigan and Michigan State, the pair actually have made friendly wagers on the outcome of football games. After a 28-14 Michigan loss in 2011, Brady found a green t-shirt waiting for him at his locker, courtesy of Hoyer.
He was once a baseball stud
Hoyer played both football and baseball in high school, earning varsity letters in both sports. On the baseball team, he played multiple positions, including pitcher, infielder, and outfielder. As a sophomore, he boasted an 8-1 record with a 1.99 ERA. That year, he went on to lead his team to a Ohio Division I State Championship.
While a member of the Browns, the Cleveland Indians invited Hoyer to throw out the first pitch in a 2014 regular-season game against the Chicago White Sox.