By: Mike Messner (@teachermike72)
Final Edit: @Zachhernan
Just weeks away from the beginnings of the 2017-2018 football season, it’s probably a good time to take a look at what the 49ers’ prospects are, and why they will achieve those prospects. We’re treading on shaky ground, of course, because no one knows with absolute certainty what the future holds.
But let’s assume for the moment that the team touched bottom last year. Since the end of the worst season since 1979, Colin Kaepernick and Blake Gabbert have been sent packing, Trent Baalke has been expelled from Santa Clara (and maybe from football completely), and the team had what most observers would call an excellent draft. A new coach, a new GM, and a new attitude have taken up residence; Joe Staley said he’s actually enjoying himself again.
The tough thing is that, despite all that, no one I have read thinks the team will resurrect itself completely this season. They call it rebuilding, improvement, baby steps, retrenchment, or the first step on the Quest for Six. (Okay, we’ve heard that last one since Steve Young was our quarterback, but you get my drift.) And frankly, there are too many unknown quantities on the team as we sit here to make really outlandish predictions.
So let’s say the team makes it to…take a breath…7-9 this next season. And miss the playoffs. Again.
It isn’t great. It isn’t good. It isn’t even dignified. But it would be progress. Don’t forget, even Bill Walsh didn’t manage 7 wins in his second season with the Niners. Steve Mariucci had two seasons where the team didn’t win that many games. And Jim-by-God-Tomsula only bagged 5 wins as head coach in Santa Clara (although I still feel he was set up for failure from the beginning).
A year from now, the team will have a lot of reasons to feel like it is, finally and blessedly, on the right track. The defensive line will have cut the yards gained by opponents’ running games by 40% or more; Deforest Buckner will be an all pro and Solomon Thomas will have had the best rookie season in team history since the 1981 secondary. Reuben Foster will inflict not just tackles but occasional injuries on any running back who manages to get in his way. Carlos Hyde will at last have a 1,000 yard season, and the wide receiving corps will actually score touchdowns.
And a tight end from the team will pull down some catches and hang onto them. (Guess which one? Hint: it’s not Vance McDonald.)
But no one will be talking about the new quarterback. Brian Hoyer will serve his purpose, don’t get me wrong. He just won’t be the real reason for our moderate improvement.
Hoyer will be a bit player this coming year, not because of his doggedness, but because he has been asked to do too much for most of his career. Four years, four new teams, four new offensive schemes, and nary a conference championship in any of them. It’s not entirely his fault; that’s more changes than you’d see at the typical fashion show. I’m not persuaded that Hoyer (or any other quarterback, including Tom Brady) can keep up.
The numbers don’t help Hoyer’s case either. Have a look:
2011: Hoyer saw only limited action during the 2011 season as Tom Brady’s understudy in New England, and only made 1 pass attempt
2012: As a Cardinal, Hoyer replaced Ryan Lindley in Week 16 against the Bears, and threw his first interception. A week later, he threw another one, this time as a starter.
2013: After 3 games playing in Cleveland, Hoyer tore his ACL and sat out the rest of the season.
2014: Hoyer did get the Browns off to a 6–3 start, but in next 4 games threw only one touchdown while being intercepted eight times. Enter Johnny Manziel, and we know how that ended up. That season, Hoyer threw 12 picks — more than the number of touchdowns he threw.
2016: Hoyer broke his left arm during the a game against the Packers, and did it so completely that he required season-ending surgery
What it comes down to is that, for one reason (or another just like it), Hoyer has yet to start an entire 16-game NFL season. He has injured himself out of two chances to do so, and in the seasons he has participated in, he has been inconsistent at everything but injuries and interceptions.
Brian Hoyer has been through a lot. He has earned one more chance for NFL success, and he will have that chance with the 49ers. He will get the team where it needs to be for the rebuild/improvement/add your own noun, and then he will be phased out — maybe in favor of Kirk Cousins or some other field general. It won’t be heroic, but he will have played a part.
Just don’t look for him to be lauded as the mastermind behind a modest season
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