San Francisco 49ers Must Decide If Hoyer Gives Them The Best Shot To Win

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Brian Hoyer
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Brian Hoyer /

The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their exhibition season with a win, though the nature of the win raises the question – who actually gives this team the better shot to win?

The San Francisco 49ers have been breezing through the offseason free of the distraction, controversy, and drama of the past few years. And now, as they kicked off their exhibition season with a win over Kansas City, the good feelings are flowing even more.

But in watching that exhibition season opening win, one has to ask the question – does Brian Hoyer give the 49ers a better chance to win games than Matt Barkley?

Of course, of course – it’s an incredibly small sample size, it’s exhibition football, Hoyer played just two series, and Barkley played against mostly the Chiefs’ twos and threes. Of course.

But that doesn’t really change the fact that Hoyer didn’t look all that great in his brief time under center. In his two series worth of work on the night, Hoyer managed to go one-of-four for a total of three yards. The offense, as a whole, gained just twelve yards of total offense with him under center.

Most will argue that the game was sloppy, that it’s just exhibition football, and that he didn’t have enough time to get into a rhythm to explain his poor stat line.

To those who aren’t sold on Hoyer as being the one to give the 49ers the best shot to win, the counter-argument seems clear enough – he’s taken the vast majority of the first-team reps throughout OTA’s and training camp. Not only that, Hoyer took it upon himself to organize a training camp of sorts with teammates during the offseason downtime.

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So, if he’s not in rhythm with his teammates after an offseason full of work, what can we expect when the regular season rolls around?

Barkley entered midway through the first quarter and played – relatively well. For the night, Barkley went ten-of-seventeen for 168 yards. And though he led the team to just six points total, he was able to help keep the chains moving.

Most will write the game off last night. It was exhibition football, they’ll say. And of course it was. But you still want to see your presumptive starting quarterback be able to do – something. And three passing yards – among the twelve total yards – of offense isn’t really doing much of anything.

Compare it to Alex Smith, who played just one series on the night. Smith went four-of-six for 48 yards. He also led the Chiefs to a touchdown on their opening drive of the game.

One series of work. Exhibition football. And Smith still managed to get something done. Something Hoyer wasn’t able to do.

HC Kyle Shanahan has been pretty steadfast in his conviction tht Hoyer is his guy. That he’s going to be the team’s starting quarterback. That’s how he’s operated all offseason long – Hoyer is one, everybody else is fighting for the understudy role.

But is that doing right by a team that could potentially be better than some people might otherwise think? Does Hoyer actually give this team the best shot to win?

Over his eight seasons in the league, we’ve come to understand why – although he’s passionate and a competitor – Hoyer has been a career journeyman backup. We’ve seen Hoyer’s ceiling and it’s not all that high.

He’s good in a backup capacity, but he’s not going to be that guy who can take over a game and will his team to a win. That’s just not him.

Barkley is three seasons in and we still don’t know what he’s really got to offer because he’s never had a chance to show it. In 2013, the year he was drafted, he landed in Philadelphia during the Nick Foles renaissance. And in 2016, he ended up in Chicago behind Jay Cutler and – Hoyer.

Now, both quarterbacks are in San Francisco, and though neither one really stood head and shoulders above the other in the Windy City, Hoyer was annointed the starter by Shanahan.

With Barkley, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what he can do. He was a great talent coming out of USC and he’s showed some flashes – but he’s never gotten the opportunity to show how high his ceiling actually is.

Most people don’t have much in the way of expectation for the 49ers this season. Most think they’re writing the year off as they wait and hope to win the great Kirk Cousins sweepstakes of 2018. But this is a team with some really nice pieces. And this is a team that could potentially be more competitive than people think.

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It would be a shame if they didn’t fulfill the potential they do have because of mediocre quarterback play. This is not to say that the 49ers can win it all or that Barkley would for sure be head and shoulders above Hoyer – not at all.

This is simply to say that if he continues to look a little sharper than Hoyer and move the team better throughout the preseason, the question needs to be asked – does Brian Hoyer give this 49ers squad the best opportunity to win a few games?