“The No. 1 priority is taking care of the football.”
That was quarterback Brian Hoyer shortly after the Bear’s embarrassing fourth quarter meltdown against, of all teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Before I go any further let me clarify what I mean in the headline. I am in no way saying Brian Hoyer doesn’t care about winning football games. That’s stupid. Of course he does. What I’m saying is that Brian Hoyer is going to avoid taking risks at all costs, even if the cost is ultimately losing the game.
Since taking over for an injured Jay Cutler in Week 2, Hoyer has performed more than admirably. He’s notably thrown for over 300 yards in all four of his starts. He’s getting his passes off efficiently and spreading the ball well to Bears’ receivers.
But perhaps what’s getting the most attention from fans and in the media is that Brian Hoyer has done all of this without turning the ball over once. Impressive, right?
Something less impressive? In those four 300+ yard, turnover free starts, Brian Hoyer is 1-3.
Less impressive still? Two of the three losses came to the Colts and the Jaguars, who are frankly garbage teams with terrible defenses. His lone win? Against the Detroit Lions, who while 3-3, are fairly beatable on any given day.
To take a little more shine off of Hoyer’s sparkling stats, in the Jacksonville Jaguars game he only went 5 for 13 on passes 10 yards or further, and while throwing for 300+ yards each game is an impressive feat, it becomes slightly less impressive when you discover that more than half of those yards came after the receiver has caught the ball.
Lastly, even though the Hoyer led offense is ranked seventh in total yards gained, they are a dismal 31st when it comes to points scored. That’s a huge discrepancy, and perhaps the stat disgruntled Bears fans look to the most when arguing that Jay Cutler should be reinstated as the starter when he’s healthy.
Say what you will about Cutler (and believe me, most Bears fans do), no one can doubt his superior arm strength and athletic ability when comparing him to Hoyer. Cutler has the kind of play-making ability to win games. He’s a difference maker on the field, and the Bear’s 1-5 record this season is making many question whether or not he would’ve been the difference between winning and losing the last two games against the Colts and the Jags.
The obvious downside with Cutler is his career long issue with ball security and costly interceptions, making him, shall we say, a somewhat controversial figure in the city of Chicago. Even with his much-lauded improvement in turnovers last year, it’s still seen as his Achilles’ heel, and the reason why many fans are ready for Chicago to be done with Cutler for good.
Brian Hoyer knows this, and is doing everything possible on the field and in his press conferences to remind fans, the media, and most importantly, coach John Fox that despite his shortcomings, one thing he will not do is turn the ball over.
So far, for Fox, that seems to be enough. Several media reports say that the starting job is Hoyer’s to lose, and Fox, a pretty conservative guy himself, prefers Hoyer’s style of play, seemingly regardless of the team’s actual win or loss record.
In John Fox’s mind it appears that Hoyer’s ball security> Cutler’s dynamic play making abilities.
This is all complicated even more by the fact that Fox and the Bears have provided no real timetable for when Cutler will be healthy enough to play.
Cutler hasn’t seen the field after going down with a right thumb sprain in week 2 against Philadelphia. At the time John Fox said the injury was “day-to-day”, but it’s a month later and he has only officially participated in practice once.
When asked if Cutler would likely be ready to play after the week 9 bye, Fox responded, “That’s like asking what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow.” (For the record, it’s supposed to be mostly cloudy with a high of 53 in Green Bay for the game tomorrow, but perhaps Fox has never heard of the Weather Channel…)
Regardless of Cutler’s uncertain health, and Fox’s preference for conservative ball protection, the Bears are 1-5. They have two huge divisional games coming up versus the Packers and the Vikings, and there is a very real possibility that they go in to their week 9 bye 1-7.
If that’s the case, Hoyer might have a hard time convincing people that he’s still the better option, regardless of how many yards he puts up or how well he protects the ball.
At a certain point the number one priority needs to be winning games, and in that regard Hoyer’s yet to prove he’s the best man for the job.