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Raiders offseason: Brian Hoyer holding down the fort

Veteran quarterback elevates to top spot with Jimmy Garoppolo on the mend

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
Brian Hoyer, a 15-year veteran, is taking the starting quarterback snaps in early OTAs for the Las Vegas Raiders. If presumed starter Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t good to go in the future, the 37-year-old Hoyer is likely QB1 for the Silver & Black.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To hear the Las Vegas Raiders tell it, there’s no surprises when it comes to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo being on the mend and unavailable during the early organized team activities (OTAs).

“... he’s going through his process like we knew he would. Nothing has happened that would surprise us based on the information we had,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said when asked about Garoppolo last week post OTA session.

Foot issues aren’t relegated to just the presumed starting quarterback. It’s an ailment prized 2023 first-round pick Tyree Wilson is navigating, too.

“Same thing with Tyree,” McDaniels began, “We know we don’t play a game for over 100 days, so they’re doing everything they can do to get right, and when they’re all ready to go, then eventually they’ll be back on the field.”

But unlike Wilson, who is expected to develop into a pass-rush terror alongside edge rusher Maxx Crosby eventually after being taken No. 7 overall, the Raiders don’t have the luxury of having proven talent on its quarterback depth chart.

Or do they?

Enter super veteran Brian Hoyer. With Garoppolo on the mend, the 15-year veteran — who was the early odds-on favorite to be the prime backup quarterback — assumes the role of QB1 from here on in and is holding down the fort — until Garoppolo’s presumed return. In turn, that means 2022 undrafted free agent (UDFA) Chase Garbers and 2023 fourth-round pick Aidan O’Connell elevate to the backup roles behind Hoyer.

Not necessarily the most encouraging group of signal callers, however, this is the situation Las Vegas finds itself in. And the team will have to make the most of it — for better or worse.

NFL: Combine
Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell, taken in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, elevates into a fight for the Las Vegas Raiders’ QB2 spot behind Brian Hoyer with presumed starter Jimmy Garoppolo on the mend.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What works in the Raiders’ favor is Hoyer is scheme familiar when it comes to McDaniels and his assimilation process — much like Garoppolo’s — won’t be as extensive as say NFL neophyte O’Connell. Hoyer has 76 career games under his belt (40 starts) playing for a total of seven teams in his 15 seasons. The most of which were eight years with the New England Patriots (he arrived to the league as an undrafted free agent in 2009) with a two-year stint with the Cleveland Browns being Hoyer’s second-longest tenure. He had a cup of coffee (one-year stints) with the: Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers. Hoyer’s past three years were spent primarily holding a clip board and being a sounding board for other quarterbacks in New England.

Hoyer’s most productive portion of his career was 2014 with the Browns. He threw for a career-high 3,326 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a 13-game starter going 7-6. Add the three starts and wins he had in 2013 and Hoyer’s two-year stay in Cleveland produced a 10-6 win-loss record.

But that was nearly 10 seasons ago.

During the offseason, Hoyer is a good place holder for Garoppolo as the veteran is familiar with the concepts and can pass down the knowledge and help facilitate the offense. He can even help Garbers and O’Connell develop as a player-coach hybrid due to his vast years of experience in not only the league, but the offense McDaniels orchestrates.

However, realistically, Hoyer is on the downward slope of his lengthy career and is very much a backup at this stage. Depending on him to be a multi-game starter in 2023 can be viewed as a fool’s errand. In the past three seasons with the Patriots, Hoyer has appeared in seven games (two starts) throwing for 394 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

McDaniels didn’t have an exact timeframe for Garoppolo’s return thus meaning Hoyer’s first-team snaps may continue into training camp — which is slated to happen in mid-July.

“Could be. I mean, I’d say with all these guys it’s about the same. Like I said, when they’re ready,” McDaniels noted. “Some of them may be ready before the spring is over, some of them may not. And we’re always going to err at this time of the year on being smart.”

Being smart. Time will tell if the Raiders are indeed intelligent in terms of the quarterback position. Las Vegas did well to sign Hoyer as a free agent this offseason to be an experienced backup and sounding board for Garoppolo, along with drafting a developmental-type signal caller in O’Connell. Ditto for signing Garbers as an UDFA last offseason. And Garoppolo may report healthy and be the starting quarterback the Raiders envisioned and this could be a much ado about nothing situation.

But this thing got off on the wrong foot — pun intended. That much is clear and undeniable.