As a boy, Brian Hoyer spent many chilly Sundays with his dad sitting in cavernous Cleveland Stadium rooting for their beloved Browns.
For the youngster, there was no place better — even if their seats weren’t so great.
“They were behind one of the posts,” Hoyer said with a smile, remembering the challenge of cheering on idols like Bernie Kosar and Ozzie Newsome. “It was kind of hard to see.”
On Sunday, Hoyer’s family, countless friends and Cleveland fans will have an unobstructed view of the hometown kid, who was always the hero while wearing his No. 19 Kosar jersey in the backyard.
Hoyer, who rallied the Browns to a shocking win last week at Minnesota, will make his second straight start at quarterback against the rival Cincinnati Bengals and in front of 73,000 fans.
“It means a lot,” he said Wednesday. “It will be awesome.”
With starter Brandon Weeden still sidelined with a sprained right thumb, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski will again turn to Hoyer, who threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 51 seconds left, as Cleveland beat the Vikings 31-27.
In just his second NFL start, Hoyer overcame three interceptions, threw for 321 yards and rallied the Browns (1-2) to their first win to close a tumultuous week that included the trade of star running back Trent Richardson.
Hoyer’s encore wasn’t guaranteed as Chudzinski said he would leave his options open. The decision became easier with Weeden still unable to throw since getting hurt two weeks ago against Baltimore. Chudzinski said Weeden is progressing and could resume throwing this week.
Hoyer, who jumped from No. 3 on the depth chart, is starting for now. Chudzinski doesn’t have to make any long-term plans at quarterback and intends to keep things fluid.
“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,” he said.
Hoyer earned a second shot with his performance in the ear-piercing Metrodome. The 27-year-old, who spent three seasons as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, displayed Brady-like poise and confidence while leading the Browns to the comeback win.
“He came in and played with great composure,” Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Obviously, this was his first live snaps with the No. 1s and he did a great job just seamlessly coming in and throwing the ball on time where it needed to go, saying the play in the huddle confidently, directing the offense. Those are the type of things that were impressive.”
Hoyer was much more critical, and he was especially disappointed by the three picks.
“Bad decisions,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer watched the game tape by himself and with his offensive teammates. He came away somewhat satisfied.
“It was OK,” he said. “I was really disappointed in myself with those decisions that I made because those are kind of easy things. Usually, that’s not in my game to make bad decisions, so those are things that kind of stuck with me. But now you move on because in this league if you take too much time to dwell on last week, then you’re going to screw yourself up for next week.”
Hoyer benefited by wide receiver Josh Gordon’s return from a two-game suspension. Hoyer targeted Gordon 19 times and connected with him on 10 passes for 146 yards. That combo was perhaps the biggest reason Cleveland won, and Gordon said he and Hoyer are developing chemistry.
“I’m very confident in him,” Gordon said. “He’s got a real fired-up mentality. 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.”
Hoyer said he received a text message from Brady following the game, but would not reveal the contents.
Brady always saw potential in Hoyer and isn’t surprised by his success.
“We have a great relationship and a very close relationship,” Brady said.
Not long after he was named starter last week, Hoyer heard from Kosar, the QB he once worshipped.
“He sent me a message and a text,” Hoyer said. “That was pretty cool. You look down at your phone and it says, ‘Hey, this is Bernie Kosar.’ To me, when I used to wear the jersey in the backyard to now getting a message from him is pretty cool.”
LB Jabaal Sheard didn’t practice because of a sprained knee. If he’s out, rookie Barkevious Mingo will start. ... K Billy Cundiff (quad) also sat out, and if he’s not ready, P Spencer Lanning may double as kicker. Lanning was named AFC special teams player of the week after punting, kicking an extra point after Cundiff got hurt and throwing a TD pass. ... Gordon said Chudzinski reassured him the Browns have no plans to trade him. “The fact that he said there wasn’t, I guess it makes me feel a little more comfortable,” Gordon said. “At the same time, anything can happen.” ... Thomas will play in his 100th career game Sunday. He has played in 6,054 consecutive snaps, the NFL’s longest active stretch.