San Francisco 49ers: Who is quarterback Brian Hoyer?

Aug 15, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer (7) directs his team in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in a preseason NFL football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 15, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer (7) directs his team in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in a preseason NFL football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

In this installment of Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players, we take a look at journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer and his 2017 fit.

The San Francisco 49ers closed the book on the Colin Kaepernick era in 2017 and opened anew with free-agent pickup Brian Hoyer.

Hoyer, an eight-year NFL veteran, joins his sixth team since the New England Patriots signed him as an undrafted free agent back in 2009.

A long term option for San Francisco, Hoyer is not. But he has familiarity with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense from their days with the Cleveland Browns back in 2014. And this puts the quarterback in position to hold onto the starting reins in Santa Clara this season.

Brian Hoyer Passing Table
3 yr3 yrNWE130274362.828611426.76.110.622.080.2
2 yr2 yrCLE171610-6-029953456.039411716817.46.713.2231.877.6
1 yr1 yrARI210-1-0305356.633012536.24.911.0165.065.8
1 yr1 yrCHI651-4-013420067.0144560647.27.810.8240.898.0
1 yr1 yrHOU1195-4-022436960.72606197497.17.211.6236.991.4

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/2/2017.

The Niners went to great lengths this offseason to find free agents familiar with Shanahan’s complex scheme. It’s worth pointing out Hoyer led the NFL in average yards per completion (13.7) under Shanahan’s tutelage back in 2014 on a bad, bad Browns offense.

San Francisco may be slightly better this year, which might improve Hoyer’s chances to be a decent starter.

So let’s see if the journeyman quarterback may actually help improve the team’s chances this season.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Why He’ll Improve

Shanahan trusted Hoyer enough to start 13 games in 2014, and it’s worth pointing out he had career highs in both passing yards (3,326) and attempts (438).

And one of the major differences between Hoyer and Kaepernick is the former is much more of a pocket passer — a more distinct element in a Shanahan-led offense.

It’s not likely Hoyer will wow, statistically, but he does have the tools to be both efficient and smart under center. And it’s something NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport pointed out to KNBR 680’s Murph and Mac Show a few months back:

"Look Brian Hoyer is not Tom Brady, but he is a very good quarterback. I mean when he has played, he’s been really good. I think the problem with Brian Hoyer is, and I hate this, but he was an undrafted free agent. And you just cannot get over that in this ridiculous world.I think if he was a second-round pick, nobody would be all about Brian Hoyer. But he had the Browns at 7-4 until Josh Gordon came back in the mix, poisoned the well, and they ended up going back with Johnny Manziel.He played really well for a bad Bears team last year before breaking his arm, which is not his fault. Brian Hoyer has played some really good football. I think he’s going to be fine. I really do."

The Niners are clearly hoping Hoyer can emulate either his moderate success with Cleveland back in 2014 or, better yet, something similar to the 98.0 passer rating on a similarly bad Chicago Bears team in 2016.

Why He’ll Regress

One of the main concerns with Hoyer is an injury history.

This is capped off by a broken arm last season, and San Francisco’s depth behind him isn’t exactly stellar.

On the field, things aren’t exactly ideal.

Some of Hoyer’s issues can be broken down here, as illustrated by Rich Madrid of Niner Noise’s film review.

Related Story: 49ers film room: Who should start at quarterback in 2017

Madrid points out a notable stat, courtesy of Football Outsiders, from Hoyer’s 2014 campaign under Shanahan. Hoyer was worst in the group with one interceptable pass per every 12.2 passing attempts, according to the metric.

Not a good look.

Equally amusing, and worth considering, is Hoyer’s six touchdowns versus zero interceptions with the Bears last season.

That Bears team boasted an offensive line ranked seventh in pass blocking, per Football Outsiders, whereas San Francisco’s O-line — relatively few changes entering 2017 — was 30th.

Needless to say, Hoyer will be under much more pressure this season compared to last year. And he still doesn’t have an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.

What to Expect in 2017

Madrid argued Barkley, not Hoyer, should actually be the starter this season. But Madrid also admitted this won’t happen simply because Hoyer knows the scheme. None of the 49ers’ other quarterbacking options do, at least not to the same depth.

The Niners certainly aren’t looking at the veteran QB to solve their positional needs for the long run. He’s a stopgap option until a better choice presents itself in 2018 or later.

More from Niner Noise

It’s possible Hoyer has a nice season under center. Nothing stellar or eye-popping, but a year good enough to get San Francisco’s otherwise anemic passing offense back to some realm of possibility.

And yet it’s equally possible Hoyer’s 2017 campaign reveals why he’s been little more than a backup option for most teams throughout his career.

Next: Which NFL teams will need a quarterback in 2018?

Regardless, Hoyer is the lone legitimate choice San Francisco has right now. And the Niners will be forced to take the bad with the good for the time being.