Cup of Joe: A starting standard

Cup of Joe: A starting standard
Chicago Bears quarterbacks Jay Cutler (6) and Brian Hoyer (2) enter the field before a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Chicago. The Chiefs beat the Bears 23-7. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Written by Joe Tidei/Special to Bears Backer

I know what you’re thinking; not another Brian Hoyer vs Jay Cutler article, but this one is different. So before you click off, first hear me out. This is less about Hoyer vs Cutler as it is about holding Hoyer to a higher standard; a starting quarterback standard.

This all assumes that Cutler returns fully healthy this season, which there is no guarantee of.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Cutler comes back. John Fox has indicated that he’s thinking that far ahead. When Cutler is available and healthy, he’ll cross that bridge, but he has to have some sort of plan when that moment comes.

Hoyer is a journeyman backup and a good one at that. He took the Houston Texans to the playoffs last year and in his 4 games this season with the Bears, he’s looked sharp and the offense has had rhythm.

Hoyer has performed better than I predicted based off what I saw from him in preseason. He’s done his job and what he was brought in for; hold down the fort until the commander returns.

Here’s my issue, though.

Hoyer’s performances are being held to a backup standard. The bar is low so when he does play well, he looks better than it actually is. A sliding scale isn’t applicable if the variables are the same, as they are in this case.

A co-worker of mine called Hoyer a 20-20 quarterback and he’s spot on. Hoyer can move the ball between the 20’s, but inside the redzone he has some difficulty. Throwing lanes are smaller, defenses tighten up. Check downs and efficiency usually don’t net 6 points. We saw that on Sunday.

The Bears put up over 500 yards of total offense, yet they only scored 23 points against a bad Colts defense. Some of that can be attributed to missed field goals, self-inflicted wounds in the red zone, etc. Some of it can also be attributed to Hoyer’s lack of ability and being risk averse, which limits the reward.

Hoyer didn’t lose the game on Sunday. He also had an opportunity to win it on the final play and didn’t come through. With 1:04 left, the Bears faced 4th and 6. Hoyer’s pass to Cameron Meredith was off target and that was the game.

Upon further review, Alshon Jeffery had beaten Vontae Davis by at least five yards and was wide open in the end zone, but Hoyer never looked his way. It would’ve been a touchdown. Jeffery was visibly frustrated after the play, throwing his hands in the air and slamming his helmet on the sideline.

Hoyer admitted after the game that he pre-determined his read thinking there was no way the Colts wouldn’t double team Jeffery. Hoyer misread the coverage.

Not throwing or even looking at Alshon the last play is like taking the ball out of Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade’s hands on the last shot. You give the ball to your best player with the game on the line and let him make something happen, especially when he’s wide open.

Is it unfair to boil the game down to one play? Yes, but it’s an example of the double standard I’m trying to get at. When the game was on the line, Hoyer went away from his best receiver because it was less risky.

This is the part where Cutler matters in the conversation. Why? Because Cutler would be held accountable had he missed Alshon on that play and I can guarantee that Alshon would’ve been his primary target. Cutler likes to give his best players opportunities to make big plays in big moments, even if they aren’t open.

It’s hypocritical to say Hoyer should start and then absolve him of not even looking Alshon’s direction in a moment like that because he’s ‘only a backup quarterback.’

If you want to call Hoyer the starting quarterback, I’ll disagree but ok, so long as he is getting held to the same standard Cutler does. If you aren’t willing to do that, Hoyer shouldn’t be under center when Cutler is healthy. That’s the nature of the business and of the quarterback position.

Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.

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