We have absolutely no proof as to how Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett would fare in Tom Brady's potential absence. It's not that they can't succeed, it's simply that we don't know. Neither quarterback has played enough to get a solid read on them.
As of now, the biggest thing going for Hoyer and Mallett is that Bill Belichick has kept them on the roster. That, alone, gives me some form of confidence. But still, I like having Brady right where he is.
In the event that the unthinkable happens to No. 12, the load will fall on the shoulders of Hoyer and/or Mallett. Based on the OTAs thus far, Hoyer and Mallett have showed signs of weakness. According to the PFW blog, these are a few observations of their performance in the OTAs:
"The quarterbacks have performed to the expectations of their spot on the depth chart to this point in the spring, especially on Thursday. Brady had a very good practice, throwing the ball accurately and with a nice zip. Brian Hoyer was OK, although he still seems to have issues with arm strength at times. Ryan Mallett has struggled over the last two Thursdays. He takes way too long to get rid of the ball on nearly every one of his reps. When he does decide to unload it, dumping it off to a guy in the flat, the ball is often off-target or behind the receiver. It’s too early in the process to make any long term evaluations but Mallett right now looks like another former strong-armed, decision-slow, off-target Patriots backups from the SEC named Rohan Davey. In an observation from afar on the grassy hill next to the practice fields, it looks Mallett needs to work mightily on decision making, getting rid of the ball and accuracy."
Here are some further observations from PFW analyst Andy Hart, as he answers a fan's question about what he's seen on the practice field from Ryan Mallett:
"Basing it solely on two OTA practices that we’ve seen, I have been disappointed in Mallett. He’s struggled with his accuracy and reading the plays. He’s held on to the ball too long and just hasn’t had the passing game running smoothly like Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer seem to. The good news is that Mallett still has a very impressive arm. But other than that, he still looks like he has a lot of work to do."
More not-so-good news from the the PFW blog:
"Ryan Mallett seemed to struggle a bit with his accuracy during the practice. He threw a couple bad balls toward the likes of Wes Welker and Hernandez, and then had another throw picked off by Marquice Cole."
It may sound bleak, but there is some good news for Brian Hoyer. According to a very interesting article on ESPN, Hoyer's market value is pretty solid. Here's a snippet:
"In 2013, Hoyer should have no such restrictions to seek starting employment, as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the '12 season. It’s possible that he’ll rank near the top of the quarterback market, and he could be in line for a fancy payday.
While much remains to be seen, ESPN’s Chris Sprow put together his list of “most marketable” backup quarterbacks for 2012, which Hoyer tops.
The list is not simply a calculation of the most talented backups, but also takes into account which backups are likely to be available either via free agency or trade in the near future.
Former NFL executive and current NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi has said on numerous occasions that if he had been hired by the 49ers during their most recent general manager search, he would have pursued Hoyer."
So, as you see, it's not all doom-and-gloom. Maybe Hoyer is fantastic. Maybe Mallett is, too. But as of now, these are only thoughts and theories. As to whether or not these guys are really ready to step in for Brady in a pinch, well, I suppose fate will let us know in its own peculiar way.
Projected Status for 2012: Let's Just Hope That Brady Stays Healthy