While a handful of NFL quarterbacks are doing better statistically than Brian Hoyer, all things considered the Cleveland Browns signal caller may be having the most surprising season.
Hoyer, who had started four games in his career before this season, was not the clear-cut starter coming into training camp (the Browns actually drafted another quarterback, whom you may have heard about). The Browns have a new head coach and offensive coordinator, and their Pro Bowl wide receiver was suspended for the entire season.
Yet Hoyer has a 99.5 QB rating on ESPN (seventh best among quarterbacks with more than 100 passes attempted), and he's averaging 8.22 yards-per-attempt, which is fourth best in the league. Among quarterbacks with more than 100 passes attempted, only Hoyer and Aaron Rodgers have thrown less than two interceptions.
Behind Hoyer's strong start, the Browns are on pace for their most wins since 2007, when they finished 10-6.
As Hoyer was a little-known player coming into the season, he wasn't exactly coveted by advertisers. In fact, Darren Rovell writes on ESPN.com that when Hoyer's agent inquired about an endorsement opportunity before the season, one company told him to call back when his client was named the starting quarterback.
But one business did roll the dice on Hoyer, and the investment is paying off.
The Ohio sandwich chain Mr. Hero inked Hoyer to a modest deal in the spring. Dan Traci, owner of All Media Design Group that has the Mr. Hero ad account, told Rovell that the deal is for less than six figures but includes plenty of free food.
"We gave him some gift cards with this deal," Traci told Rovell. "And let's put it this way: He could eat Mr. Hero every day of the season and would still have money left on those cards."
Mr. Hero has 95 stores, all in Ohio, and is perhaps most known for its Romanburger, a sandwich that includes two patties, Swiss cheese, salami and vegetables. Customers can get a 7-inch Romanburger along with french fries and a drink for $5.55.
Hoyer has done radio and TV spots for Mr. Hero and is featured prominently in billboards and on buses.
Because his backup, Johnny Manziel, has signed deals with Nike, Nissan and MusclePharm, Hoyer may be the only quarterback in the league earning less in endorsement money than the man behind him. But if Hoyer keeps winning (the Browns have won six of his eight starts), that may soon change.
While Hoyer is most likely not too concerned with his sponsorship potential -- the Browns are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002 -- he's got to be satisfied with how his deal is turning out. And Mr. Hero is too:
"Let's just say, as Brian and the Browns continue to do well, the deal gets better for us and perhaps less so for him," Traci told Rovell.