Other than Josh McCown's stellar season in 2013, backup quarterback for the Chicago Bears has been a wasteland for nearly a decade. Names like Jimmy Clausen, Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie haunt Bears fans to this day.
In 2010, Collins played in two games with one start, throwing five interceptions and no touchdowns. Hanie took over a 7-3 team in 2011 and promptly led the Bears to five straight losses, which dropped them out of the playoffs. In Clausen's one start last season, he threw for just 184 yards and no touchdowns.
The recent failures of Chicago's No. 2 signal callers prompted Bears GM Ryan Pace to sign veteran passer Brian Hoyer this off-season.
Hoyer was originally a 2009 undrafted free agent who spent his first three NFL seasons backing up Tom Brady in New England. He played for three teams the next three seasons and finally earned a starting gig for the Browns in 2014. He then signed with the Texans last year and helped lead Houston to the playoffs. In nine regular-season starts for the Texans, Hoyer completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards, 19 TDs and 7 INTs, which was good for a 91.4 QB rating.
No backup QB in the NFC had as much success as Hoyer last season, which is one of the main reasons Pace was quick to sign him following the draft.
In fact, when looking at his career as a whole, it can be argued that Hoyer is the top No. 2 passer in the entire conference. Here's a look at the careers of each NFC quarterback currently slated as the team's backup.
|TEAM||BACKUP QB||CAREER STARTS||TDs||INTs|
Of the 16 NFC teams, six have backup QBs with 10 or fewer games of starting experience. In fact, 10 of the 16 teams have a backup with 20 or fewer career starts. Of the remaining six, only Hoyer and Kaepernick started more than two games last year. Of those two, only Hoyer started a playoff game.
When evaluating the backups, postseason experience is important. Hoyer is one of just three NFC backups to ever start a playoff game:
Kaepernick's last playoff start came in 2013, while Schaub hasn't started a postseason contest since 2012. And Kaepernick may very well earn the starting role in San Francisco, which would leave Blaine Gabbert as the backup, and he's never even sniffed the playoffs.
It can be argued that Kaepernick is a better backup than Hoyer but if Kap wins the starting gig with the 49ers, then Hoyer easily jumps to the top of the list based on career experience, recent success and playoff experience.
This is important for the Bears because Jay Cutler has not played a full 16-game season since 2009, his first year in Chicago. If the pattern of the past five seasons holds steady, Hoyer will be asked to start at least one game this season. For a transitional team like the Bears, the game Hoyer starts could be the deciding factor in whether or not the team makes the playoffs.
So having Hoyer in the fold is a very good thing. In fact, when you consider the importance of the quarterback position in the NFL, signing Hoyer was arguably the best move Pace made all off-season. It didn't receive the same level of attention as free-agent acquisitions Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Akiem Hicks, but when Cutler goes down, the fate of the team will be in Hoyer's hands. That's when signing him will pay dividends, giving the Bears the luxury of inserting an experienced, successful 30-year-old quarterback, instead of an inexperienced (Hanie) or incompetent (Clausen) passer with no history of success.
Hoyer brings veteran savvy and leadership, and had a great season for the Texans last year. He struggled in the playoffs but he has a starter-level skill set and playoff experience. When was the last time you could say that about a Bears backup QB?
Hoyer is far from elite and hasn't always played at a high level but in terms of having a viable one- or two-game fill-in starter at quarterback, the Bears are in a better position than every other team in the NFC.