BEREA, Ohio (AP) — There won’t be a parade and there’s not a sponsor lined up, but Sunday’s Browns-Texans matchup will be a pseudo bowl game, the Tom Brady Backup Bowl.
Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer and Houston’s Ryan Mallett, who will be making his first NFL start this week, both began their careers as backups with the New England Patriots under Brady, the star QB with the GQ good looks, supermodel wife and three Super Bowl titles.
“He’s the guy I look up to,” Hoyer said. “He’s the guy I always strive to get to his level and it will always be that way.”
Hoyer spent three seasons sitting behind Brady, and Mallett held the No. 2 job for two years. Hoyer and Mallet spent one season together, soaking in all they could from Brady, who is looking forward to seeing his two understudies face off.
“It speaks to their work ethic and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Brady said. “They’ve both overcome quite a bit in their careers. It’ll be fun to see.”
For Hoyer and Mallett, the opportunity to learn from Brady was priceless. Whether on the practice field, in the meeting room or at the podium, there was no one better for the two young quarterbacks to perfect their crafts. Once Hoyer and Mallett accepted their roles, there was really only one thing to do, be like Brady.
“We both knew at some point that it probably wasn’t going to be in New England because Tom is going to play until he wants to stop,” Hoyer said. “But at some point you just gotta take the knowledge you learned there and put it to use somewhere else. You learn the right way. You learn from a great player. As long as you’re not dumb and you don’t just sit there and not pay attention to anything, you should soak up something.”
Texans coach Bill O’Brien saw it firsthand. O’Brien was an assistant with New England from 2007-2011, coaching the quarterback for three seasons. O’Brien always felt Hoyer had the makeup to be an NFL starter, he just needed someone to give him a chance. Same for Mallett, whom Hoyer said “has the strongest arm I’ve ever seen.”
“That was a great (quarterback) room, smart, talented guys,” O’Brien said. “Obviously, Brady being in there, those guys took a lot from watching him prepare and hopefully took some things from my coaching. Brian deserves everything that he’s getting right now. He’s just a guy that I’m very proud of.”
There was some awkwardness back in New England between the QBs. In Hoyer’s third season, the Patriots drafted Mallett in the third round with an eye at him possibly replacing Brady one day. Hoyer could have been threatened by the newcomer, but instead of rejecting Mallett, he took him under his wing.
“He helped me when I asked questions and he was very welcoming,” Mallett said. “He wasn’t trying to hide anything. He was a good teammate. He’s a good football player, a great guy, a great person on and off the field.”
Things changed in 2012, when the Patriots cut Hoyer. The move shocked Hoyer, who would be waived by Pittsburgh and Arizona before signing as a free agent with Cleveland, his hometown team, in 2013.
Hoyer’s his own man, but he does have some Brady-esque qualities and his teammates don’t miss a chance to kid him about it.
“He’s like Tom’s little brother that will do anything,” Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. “He tries imitate him, so we tease him about that he kind of idolizes Tom.”
Hoyer may not have Mallett’s arm, but he’s got his own strengths. One of them is a knack for winning. In 12 starts for the Browns, he’s 9-3. Now that’s like Brady.
“At the quarterback position, a lot gets made of stats, yardage and touchdowns and things like that, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about winning,” he said. “That was the one thing I learned from Tom Brady the most is, yeah, he had great stats but there were games where we ran the ball 40 times and we won and he didn’t complain. He didn’t care. He cared about the team and putting the team first and winning.”
NOTES: Browns S Tashaun Gipson and TE Jordan Cameron both remain sidelined with concussions. Coach Mike Pettine has not ruled them out for Sunday, but it doesn’t look promising. … DE Phil Taylor (knee) also missed practice. … Browns coach Mike Pettine is “under the assumption” suspended WR Josh Gordon will practice on Monday.