BEREA — Brian Hoyer read the text message and turned into an 8-year-old.
“You look down at your phone and it says, ‘Hey, this is Bernie Kosar,’” Hoyer said Wednesday. “To me, when I used to wear the jersey in the backyard to now getting a message from him is pretty cool.”
Hoyer will have another memorable experience Sunday against the Bengals. For the second straight week, coach Rob Chudzinski announced Hoyer will start and Brandon Weeden has been ruled out with a sprained right thumb.
Hoyer won his Browns debut in Minnesota in thrilling fashion. Start No. 2 will be on the lakefront, just minutes from where he grew up in North Olmsted and practiced for St. Ignatius.
“Sure, it means a lot,” he said. “I think this is the part when you guys ask me, ‘Does it mean more?’ Obviously, playing at home with the Cleveland fan base here, it’s going to be special. But once they kick that ball off and you’re between those white lines, that’s what you’ve got to worry about and then maybe after the game you can sit back and think about it.
“It will be awesome. Our fans are great. They’ll be quiet for us and loud for them, so it’s definitely an advantage.”
Kosar is a Browns legend after growing up in Youngstown, manipulating the system to play for the hometown team and leading three trips to AFC championship games as quarterback. He is the icon for football-loving kids born from Toledo to Warren from 1970-85.
Hoyer was one of those kids, attending games with his dad, Axel, who had season tickets at the old Cleveland Stadium.
“They were behind one of the posts,” Hoyer said. “It was kind of hard to see. I just remember trying to look around the post and seeing if Eric Metcalf made it up the middle.”
Hoyer remembers the tall, awkward sidearmer, even though he was only 8 when Kosar was cut by coach Bill Belichick in 1993.
“Every game my dad and I would go, so I know I saw him play a bunch,” he said.
Fast-forward 20 years, and Hoyer has already done more in the NFL than most expected when he went undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009. After three years as Tom Brady’s backup in New England and then being cut by three teams in nine months, he’s making consecutive starts and getting a lot of publicity nationwide.
“It was a pretty cool experience to come back and look at your phone and see the guys who had texted you congratulations,” Hoyer said. “It’s cool to see how many people are happy for you, but for me, I really don’t follow the media. You can’t get caught up in it. You have to ignore it.
“My main concern is getting better today, getting better tomorrow, getting better for Cincinnati on Sunday.”
Chudzinski stuck to his stance of not naming a starter for the long term. Weeden continued to work on the side with trainers during practice and Chudzinski said he’s expected to begin throwing this week. He’s been in a brace since banging his thumb on a helmet Sept. 15 in the fourth quarter against Baltimore.
“Like I’ve said all along, we’ll just approach it from a week-to-week basis and see where everybody’s at and we’ll make the best decision for what I determine gives us the best chance to win,” Chudzinski said.
Hoyer turned heads around the building, town and NFL with his performance against the Vikings. He went 30-for-54 for 321 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions and a 68.5 rating. He bounced back from a dismal 12-minute stretch that included three interceptions to lead the winning drive, capping it with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron with 51 seconds left.
Poised was a word used often to describe Hoyer.
“I thought he was very poised,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said on a conference call with Browns writers. “He showed that he’s had … the experience he’s had in the NFL, even though he really hasn’t had a lot of starting spots and opportunities, he has been around a long time, since ’09.
“He’s been on a good team, he’s seen how it works, the flow of the game. He wasn’t affected by any negative plays he had in the previous part of the game. He played very poised.”
Brady texted Hoyer after the win. He told reporters in New England he wasn’t surprised to see him play well.
“We have a great relationship and a very close relationship,” Brady said. “It’s great to see him and it’s hard work really pays off and guys that stay at it and are mentally tough, always trying to do the right thing. It’s just a matter of getting opportunity.”
Hoyer connected with receiver Josh Gordon 10 times for 146 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown.
“He has a real fired-up mentality,” Gordon said. “He really wants to go out there and improve himself and work hard. He never seems to get rattled. After the interceptions, sacks, anything, just bad plays, he’d come out there the next drive and act like it never happened. And that’s exactly what we need.”
Gordon wasn’t an option for Weeden the first two weeks while serving a suspension, but they played together last year. Gordon was asked to compare the quarterbacks.
“Hoyer is definitely a little more of a scrappier player out there,” he said. “He just really wants to prove himself. He just doesn’t really care what anybody thinks about him, anything like that, the past, or whatever his situation was about being a backup and how he got into the position now.
“He just wants to take full advantage of it and Brandon, he’s more relaxed, more calm. He’s real, real steady in the pocket kind of athlete. I’m not saying they don’t have the same amount of poise, but the way he stands back in the pocket just looks a little different.”