With Mac Jones missing his second day of practice on Thursday, signs are pointing toward Brian Hoyer being New England's starter against the Green Bay Packers this weekend.
Since breaking in with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State in 2009, Hoyer has pieced together an impressive 13-year career that has included stops with six other NFL teams, but it's been his bookend tenures in New England that have come to define his NFL tenure. First, Hoyer cut his teeth backing up Tom Brady both from 2009-2011, then in 2017 and 2018. After a one-season stop in Indy, Hoyer returned to the Patriots in 2020 and has remained as New England's backup through the last three seasons.
It's easy to forget that this is a player who has started 39 games, including a three-year stint of winning records. From 2013-2015 Hoyer led the Browns to 10 wins (3-0 in 2013, 7-6 in 2014) and then went 5-4 in 2015 with the Texans. Despite having started just one lone game in his seven seasons overall with the Patriots, teammates expressed confidence in the veteran.
"I will say overall as a team, we've got confidence in every guy in the locker room, Hoyer is no exception to that," said captain Devin McCourty on Wednesday afternoon. "Obviously, a veteran guy that has been in a bunch of different offenses. I will say the biggest thing since he's been back here for a second time, it's just his leadership and ability to help Mac out has been awesome."
Hoyer saw limited reps this summer, sandwiched in between starter Mac Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe. But even in limited work, Hoyer showed himself to be prepared, looking comfortable operating the offense, opening things up with an end-zone strike to Nelson Agholor on Day 1 of training camp that set an early tone. He also had one of the best throws of the summer on a long deep pass to DeVante Parker during the in-stadium practice.
"My approach is the same always," said Hoyer while taking the podium on Wednesday. "Whether I get reps or I don't get reps, you always got to be ready to play. As we saw on Sunday, you're only one play away. I mean, that was the last offensive play of the game, so it didn't really come up that day. But, it's the nature of your job and the business that we're in. Always try to be as prepared as I can, whether I'm taking every rep in practice or I'm taking none. It's just a day-by-day process and how we're handling it and go from there."
Even as the backup, Hoyer's presence has been a valuable one, serving as a sounding board for the young quarterbacks while providing his insight that was honed over his well-traveled career.
"I think guys already feel his brain power and what he's brought," continued McCourty. "I think you already see that on the field from the conversation he has with guys throughout last season, training camp, this season. So it's one of those things where his presence has already been felt."
The starting center echoed a similar sentiment.
"A lot of us have a lot of confidence in Brian, he comes in and prepares every day and I think [we've] really got a lot of confidence just in each other as a whole," said David Andrews.
With a full week to prepare and the starter's practice reps under his belt, Hoyer would be in far better position than his last start which came in 2020 after a Cam Newton COVID diagnosis turned the matchup between the Patriots and Chiefs upside down. Hoyer helped the Patriots offense move the ball, but red zone mistakes cost points on the board and the Chiefs were ultimately able to pull away in a surprisingly competitive game considering the circumstances.
Hoyer acknowledged his disappointing performance but has long since moved on, and should be focused and ready to go in Green Bay if the opportunity does arise.
"I mean look, I've played for 14 years, I have a lot of bad memories," joked Hoyer when asked about the 2020 loss. "I have a lot of good memories, too. One game doesn't define me, one play doesn't define me. I'm excited for any opportunity I get to go play."
The latest opportunity is now knocking, as Hoyer will return to Lambeau Field for the first time since starting there for the Bears in 2016. That game ended with an injury for Hoyer, this time he's hoping for better results.
"It's a unique challenge," said Hoyer of taking on the Packers on their home turf. "I think I heard today they're like 13-2 in their last 15 home games. So it's obviously a hostile environment to go into. But it's always a great opportunity to see where you're at too."