SANTA CLARA – The first week of the shiny new re-build in Santa Clara ended up being more of the same for the San Francisco 49ers.
Thousands and thousands of empty seats watched on as Kyle Shanahan’s team beat itself up with pre-snap penalties while struggling to put points on the board. Anyone who had dreams of Shanahan arriving on a stallion and taking the league by surprise with a high-flying Brian Hoyer-led offense will have to wait until next week two.
Or maybe a few more than that.
Hoyer had a game you’d expect from the veteran entering his ninth year in the league. Over the course of his career Hoyer has averaged 176 passing yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game, to go with a 84.4 quarterback rating. Sunday’s line was just below average, 193 yards, no touchdowns and a 70.3 passer rating.
When Shanahan was asked about Hoyer’s performance the new coach didn’t throw his quarterback under the bus, but instead pointed to his surrounding cast.
“Brian played solid,” Shanahan told media Monday afternoon. “I know he’d like to play better. I’d like him to play better also. I think that has a lot to do with everyone else around him. I think we got off to an early start. I know [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] wants to come down with that ball which could have changed some things. We hold up in protection on that sack-fumble for half a second longer, we’ve got two explosives there, probably getting 14 points and that kind of changes your perspective a little bit on Brian.
“By no means did he play perfect. He had some bad plays, too. Especially that pick in the third quarter probably being the worst one. But, not just Brian. In order for Brian to do better, we’ve all got to do better.”
Hoyer was also sacked four times on the afternoon. For one of those sacks Carlos Hyde was matched up with Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.
“Running backs have to block linebackers. You don’t put O-Linemen on linebackers. That’s what they’ve got to do. Thomas made a good rush. We had a seven-step drop. WR Pierre Garçon was all alone and he just made a good move and Carlos didn’t get him clean. It was a great move by Thomas Davis.”
Shanahan knows who Brian Hoyer is. Hoyer was the starter for 13 of Shanahan’s 16 games as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator back in 2014. It’s unlikely Shanahan expects Hoyer to evolve into a Pro-Bowl level quarterback, made apparent by the 49ers’ strong courtship of Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins during the 2017 offseason.
With no help at quarterback in sight over the coming weeks (no, we will not see C.J. Beathard starting for the 49ers any time soon) San Francisco’s skill players need to step up in a major way if they want to see any type of offensive success this year, and it seems that Kyle Shanahan knows that.