Brian Hoyer is performing duties that are expected of a franchise quarterback, and the 49ers are paying a small fraction of the cost.
Leadership, not just arm talent, are why NFL quarterbacks command so much money. And essentially, the 49ers aren’t paying for it in 2017 — even though Hoyer’s providing it. Hoyer will make $6 million this season, the 27th-highest paid quarterback in the league.
And after so many August quarterback competitions, he’s the rare veteran who’s still eager to put his stamp on this football team.
The 31-year-old has gathered an array of receivers, running backs and tight ends for a throwing session at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Matt Barrows has the full report of who was in attendance for the three day summer camp.
The 49ers have close to 50 new players, including 12 of the 16 players in Texas. This feels like an entirely different team, a key reason for Hoyer’s arrival. Kyle Shanahan brought in Hoyer partly because he knew the QB would be comfortable taking command of a team that needed a new leader. Hoyer isn’t going to sit on his hands. He’s going to bring this team closer together. He wanted this exact chance.
Again, leadership and communication skills in the NFL at the quarterback position normally cost $20 million per season and that number is only escalating after Derek Carr’s latest deal. A quarterback’s footprint establishes the identity of a team. Hoyer, a Tom Brady disciple, is arguably the best bargain at the league’s most important position, for a team in flux that needs him.
That’s the main point of this throwing event in Texas. Building chemistry on and off the field. Going to dinner. Swapping embarrassing stories. One throwing session isn’t going to push this team into the playoffs, but Hoyer’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting during a rebuild. He’s making teammates more invested in results. At quarterback, that’s normally impossible to find on a bargain price.
What the 49ers’ record ends up being will largely depend on Hoyer. He could stumble out of the gates and the cries for C.J. Beathard could grow, who knows for sure? But it’s telling Shanahan latched his wagon to Hoyer on the first day of free agency and brought in no competition. This is his guy and the influx of veterans show the head coach will do whatever it takes to win right away. If the cards align, it’s setting up Year 1 of the new San Francisco regime to start earning the same respect on the field they are now garnering off it.
So will he? Will Hoyer help right away? Numbers, the film and the way he’s grabbed the reigns of several different teams support that he’s much closer to the middle of the pack than the bottom of the rung.
His resume from 2015 (Houston) and 2016 (Chicago): 25 touchdowns, just seven interceptions, one (disastrous) playoff appearance, one broken elbow. Hoyer’s chapters normally end abruptly, but they don’t go wasted. DeAndre Hopkins had his best season with Hoyer (111 receptions, 1,521 yards, 11 touchdowns). So did Andrew Hawkins with the Browns in 2014. The Bears benched Jay Cutler, essentially ending his career, for Hoyer. His story hasn’t had fairy-tale endings, but that’s part of his appeal for Shanahan and John Lynch in Year 1. They need someone who can battle with limited supplies. If the wins don’t come, hopefully Hoyer’s helping develop George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin into better players.
Meanwhile, Mike Glennon will make $15 million this season in Chicago. Alex Smith will command $17 million with his replacement, Patrick Mahomes III, already breathing down his beck. Brock Osweiler will cash-in $18 in Cleveland, where he might end up holding the clipboard all season. Is Minnesota really happy about doling out $18 million to Sam Bradford? Carson Palmer will pull in a cool $24.3 million from the Cardinals.
An agent told me the only reason Hoyer doesn’t go for more on the open market is that he was an undrafted free agent. He hasn’t been able to shed that label and bad timing has kept him bouncing around the league. This is a smart quarterback with a good enough arm and winning results (a 15-11 career record before last year’s awful Bears team). Had he been a first-round pick, he’d be commanding a lot more cash, at least the same as Glennon.
Other teams are in flux slightly jealous of San Francisco’s quarterback situation. Because of their six-year contracts, Shanahan and Lynch aren’t in the position where they needed to force an answer at quarterback that didn’t make sense. So instead, they have a football guy at the helm for a cheap cost. Shanahan’s prior connection made Hoyer comfortable enough moving his family out west, even with the Jets and Bills presenting similar offers.
You better believe this event in Texas was conceived and executed by Hoyer. This group would not have orchestrated the event without his blessing. Hoyer’s established himself as a person in the locker room people can lean on. He’s navigated through sticky situations in Cleveland and Houston. He’s seen a ton in this league.
No, it’s not a big deal Pierre Garcon or others aren’t at the throwing session in Texas. Trips and other plans are made months in advance. Some players really do need to recharge during this period. I’m sure there are a few 49ers who are bummed they aren’t there.
Getting away from the team facility is often how players form stronger bonds. I asked Shanahan before everyone broke from training camp if he likes the idea of holding training camp away from the facility.
“I definitely would consider it,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes it’s a pain, but sometimes it’s nice to get away. I think it kind of makes your group tighter and makes it a little bit less distractions. One thing that is tough about always staying in the same spot is when camp breaks after a few weeks, or whatever it is, it breaks and everyone gets excited, but then you’re back in the exact same spot the next morning at the exact same time. You start to realize there is no camp. We just are here. That makes the whole season a little longer.”
The Shanahan-Hoyer relationship goes deeper than most understand. The quarterback and coach were both together during a vulnerable time, and they both used each other to further their careers. Now, they both feel like there is unfinished business together.
Washington let Shanahan go and he might’ve been out of football a season if not for the Browns hiring Mike Pettine so late in the process (Jan. 24). Hoyer was coming off knee surgery, the team drafted Johnny Manziel and had very few credible skill players due to Josh Gordon’s suspension. The deck was stacked against Hoyer and he led the team to a 7-4 start to the season. Shanahan used the Browns as a life raft and swam safely to Atlanta. Hoyer made the playoffs with Houston and was by far the best quarterback on Chicago’s roster last season.
Seeds are being established for Hoyer’s success. It wasn’t just a blank canvas for Shanahan and John Lynch. Hoyer has one too and he’s using it.