Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. A native Ohioan, quarterback Brian Hoyer has only fooled opposing defenses thus far. He is poised to make his third straight start for his hometown Cleveland Browns on Thursday against the visiting Buffalo Bills.
"He played well again yesterday and for the past two weeks," Chudzinski said. "Obviously, we've been able to win in those games and in a short week we'll get ready and be ready to play Thursday."
After Brandon Weeden's poor play (and sprained right thumb), Hoyer got the start in Week 3 on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite throwing three picks, the St. Ignatius High School product's prolific performance led the Browns to their first win of the season and, down 27-24 at the time, his final touchdown pass hit Jordan Cameron in the back of the end zone to give Cleveland the lead with only 51 seconds remaining. The Browns held on to win 31-27, and his final line included completing 30 of 54 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
Then, on Sunday, in front of a home crowd and in the stadium where Hoyer had always dreamed of being the starting quarterback, he went 25-of-38 for 269 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
With just under five minutes left in the ballgame, Hoyer hooked up with Chris Ogbonnaya on a one-yard touchdown pass to pad the Brown's lead to 11. They went on to win by the same margin, 17-6.
Heading into Hoyer's first prime-time gig against the Bills Thursday, the Browns are 2-2 and in a three-way tie atop the AFC North. Though he has not been named the permanent starter in Cleveland, he has the opportunity in the shortened week to boost the Browns above .500.
Brian Hoyer is a local guy who was born and raised in the Cleveland area, ventured away from home for college, went undrafted, bounced around a few NFL teams and has since found his way back to Ohio.
He attended Cleveland's St. Ignatius High School and played football and baseball. He attended Michigan State in 2004, where he redshirted his freshman year and eventually played four seasons. He played in four games in '05, seven games in '06 and played the full 13 in both '07 and '08. In 2007, his best collegiate season, he compiled a 59.3 completion percentage and threw for 2,725 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Every NFL franchise passed on the 6'2", 215-pound quarterback in the 2009 draft, and he ultimately signed with the New England Patriots, where he was Tom Brady's backup for three seasons.
Brady did not overlook the young quarterback while in New England. In fact, he regards Hoyer so highly that he praised his former teammate this past week (per an email to Cleveland.com, h/t NFL.com).
Offering his personal compliments, endorsement and congratulations to the most recent Browns starter, Brady said: "He has everything it takes physically and mentally to play the position...He loves football and works hard at getting better. We talked football whenever we were around one another, but he was solely responsible for his work ethic and improvements over the years."
After Hoyer's first Cleveland victory, Brady texted him. "I just congratulated him on the first of many, except when we play them," Brady joked.
Hoyer was released by the Patriots and went on to spend 2012 in Arizona as a backup, only appearing in two games—Weeks 16 and 17.
In May 2013, though, the Browns signed Hoyer to a two-year contract to back up first-found draft pick and future of the franchise, Brandon Weeden. For now, however, Weeden is sidelined and all the buzz is about the present state of the team—in Hoyer's hands.
Hoyer has always done more than wait in the wings. He has always been ready so that he doesn't have to get ready.
He not only learned from arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, but he also gathered some of the game's best football coaching and knowledge from Bill Belichick. He was effectively a three-year disciple and sponge.
On Tuesday, per ESPN, Hoyer said, "I learned how to prepare and cover all the bases," and, "I believe in luck. And the harder I prepare, the more luck I have."
Tight end MarQueis Grey reflected some of the Brady comparisons to Cleveland.com, saying, "He's out there holding his players accountable, just keeping everyone in the game. Even when we're on the sidelines, he's harping on guys, and cheering on his teammates."
But Hoyer's success is much more than luck and goes well beyond his past studying of Brady and Belichick's methods and system.
He has not stepped onto the field as a deer in the headlights. He has relished the opportunity and has earned the trust of, and instilled supreme confidence in, his offense, the defensive unit and his coaching staff.
Cornerback Joe Haden told Cleveland.com, "He comes off to the sideline and comes over to the defense and comes slapping us on the helmet...He's just really involved. When you have a quarterback walking around that’s super-confident. It makes you feel better."
And Hoyer keeps it all in perspective—it is the idiosyncratic result of his pedigree growing from a patient and diligent backup into a starter for his hometown. "For me, it’s just another week to go out and another opportunity to help this team win," Hoyer said of his upcoming Thursday night start. "
He went on to explain his priorities in light of having received the starting gig for the third straight week but not the permanent role in Cleveland—as of yet:
That’s not my concern. This league, it’s literally an hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week business, so I can’t get caught up in that. The only thing I can worry about is what I can control, and that’s my preparation and play.
[The Bills are] a complicated defense. You’ve got to try to figure it out quickly and be ready for what they throw at you and get your pre-snap read and confirm it on your post-snap. There’s definitely guys around the ball. Our coach has done a good job of breaking down it to us and setting up a game plan that’s manageable on a short week.
The sky's the limit for this native Ohio kid and, right now, it is safe to say that Cleveland rocks. There is finally an excitement within the Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium and a palpable enthusiasm around the city.
Head coach Chudzinski celebrates Hoyer and his ability to have quickly adapted, thrived and led by example (per ESPN): "He's a fiery guy. I think our whole team was that way about that game yesterday. The fans were awesome. It was loud. Guys were really excited about that and playing in front of them. Brian typified that."
On Thursday night, Hoyer continues his metamorphosis against a resurgent Buffalo Bills team (2-2), anchored by another first-time starter, EJ Manuel. Should he win his third game in a row in front of the home crowd, he could very well head into the weekend as a hometown hero.