After not drafting a quarterback with any of their nine picks this weekend, the Chicago Bears scooped up an undrafted free agent to fill in their talent void behind Jay Cutler.
It just wasn’t who most of us expected it to be.
The Bears brought in former Houston Texans/Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer on a one-year, $2 million deal to slide into the #2 quarterback spot behind Cutler. Hoyer originally was signed by the New England Patriots in 2009 after going undrafted out of Michigan State and has since started games for three teams in his last four seasons, posting a 15-11 record in those games.
In 11 regular season games (9 starts) last year, Hoyer completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,606 yards, 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, which was a big step up from his one season as the Browns’ primary starter (13 starts in 14 games played, 55.3% passes completed, 3,326 yds, 12 TDs, 13 INTs).
8. Bears signed what should be 1 of the NFL's best backup QBs in Brian Hoyer. Surprised he wanted to play behind pretty durable Jay Cutler.
— Dan Pompei (@danpompei) May 1, 2016
Hoyer also has experience with current Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains from when both were in the Browns organization two years ago; Loggains was the quarterbacks coach in 2014 before being hired by John Fox in the same capacity in 2015. This gives the Bears the kind of familiarity they like with their players, as Ryan Pace and Fox love bringing in free agents they or their coaches have connections with.
But what Bears fans should like the most about this move—though many won’t—is the fact that the Bears were able to grab probably the best backup quarterback they could have gotten without having to spend a draft pick on someone they didn’t want or need.
The Bears had opportunity after opportunity to pull the trigger on a quarterback in the draft and didn’t. Why? Because they simply didn’t like any of them enough and refused to reach. Drafting quarterbacks on a whim just because they “need” one and hoping they pan out is why teams like the Browns stay at the top of the draft every year.
Also did the Bears need to draft a quarterback this year? No, they didn’t, and they knew it.
The Bears are probably another year away from really having to draft and develop Cutler’s heir apparent (which Hoyer most certainly is not) and chose to stockpile talent in other areas. And even when that time comes, the Bears should be patient in finding exactly the kind of guy they want at that position.
Of course, if you hate Cutler, maybe you hoped that Pace would draft someone, anyone who could come in and play well enough to get the Bears to trade him midseason this year. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. Whoever the Bears drafted would have had just about 0% chance to play barring injury, like Hoyer.
The difference is that unlike anyone the Bears had the option to draft, Hoyer has started 26 games in the NFL (winning 15 of them) and has proven that he can keep a team afloat if the starter goes down. While everyone—especially Bears fans, apparently—loves the idea of the backup quarterback coming in and leading the team to the playoffs or all the way to a Super Bowl championship, that’s simply not how it happens most of the time.
Realistically, you want a backup that has proven he can win football games at this level and can keep things manageable until the starter returns. Hoyer most definitely fits that description. Obviously, you can’t say that about a rookie quarterback coming out of the draft, nor can you say that about most backups in the league (think about Jimmy Clausen last year…).
And I’m sure people have Hoyer’s 4 INT, 15.4% QB rating dud in the Wild Card round against the Kansas City Chiefs on their minds as a reason for why they might hate this pick.
The truth is: who cares? Any quarterback can have one truly awful game. And we’re not asking Hoyer to start and win playoff games here. And even if we did have to rely on him for a playoff start if Cutler couldn’t go, he still has one more game of playoff experience (as well as the rest of his experience) to draw on than any rookie. Having not seen any of them play a down of NFL football as yet, I would start Hoyer over them every single time as of right now.
The Bears are better off at quarterback this year with Hoyer as the backup than they would’ve been drafting someone that didn’t fit their plans and just hoping he developed into the next Aaron Rodgers. We know what Hoyer is at this point at this career and what he can do, and he is exactly what the Bears wanted and needed at their backup quarterback spot. And it was a brilliant move by Pace to go out and get him, capping off a draft weekend that should have Bears fans feeling optimistic about this rebuild.