On Friday NFL teams had to cut their rosters down from 75 to their final 53. One surprising move the New England Patriots made was to cut backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. The move shows the faith that the team has in the young Ryan Mallett.
In 2011 Hoyer and Mallett were both backups to starting quarterback Tom Brady. Hoyer had originally been signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Patriots in 2009. Mallett was the team’s third round selection two years later in the 2011 NFL Draft. Both quarterbacks were expected to make the final 53-man roster and continue battling to backup Brady into the regular season.
The battle between Hoyer and Mallett had been going on since the beginning of training camp. At one point or another, both Hoyer and Mallett seemed to have the advantage but it was too close to call. Most pundits and fans agreed that both quarterbacks would be on the final roster with the battle for the backup quarterback continuing between them into the season.
The importance of the backup quarterback on the Patriots cannot be overstated. In 2008 Brady suffered a season ending injury during the first drive of the season. His backup, Matt Cassel, had not started a football game since high school but was forced to take over. Though Cassel led the Patriots to a surprising 11-5 record, it showed the Patriots that Brady was not invincible and that the team would need a viable backup plan should Brady suffer another major injury.
While everyone had their opinion on who was leading the battle between Hoyer and Mallett, no one was sure what head coach Bill Belichick had in mind. Hoyer’s release shows that, despite some struggles during preseason, the coaching staff has confidence that Mallett can lead this team if disaster strikes and Brady does get injured.