Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer 352d

Kyle Shanahan sticking with Brian Hoyer but he 'needs to play better'

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Even after failing to lead a touchdown drive for the third time in four games, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer is still the starter, according to coach Kyle Shanahan.

One day after Hoyer and his pass-catchers struggled to do basics like throw and catch in a three-point overtime loss to Arizona, Shanahan was asked whether he was going to consider replacing Hoyer with rookie C.J. Beathard.

"No, I wouldn't," Shanahan said. "I look at each game where, I know we're 0-4 and it feels extremely bad when you're 0-4, I've been in that situation in the NFL and it doesn't feel good, but you don't want to lose perspective. So you try to look at each game as it is, and I know we're 0-4 right now, but when you lose a total of three games by eight points -- I know we very easily could be 3-1 -- and you don't want to make drastic changes just for one reason, as there's a lot of things that go into losing games. It's never just one guy, and I try to put all that into thought."

Shanahan has taken note of some of Hoyer's struggles, but he's also keeping in mind that Hoyer hasn't gotten much help from pass-catchers not named Pierre Garcon and has also had inconsistent protection upfront, particularly on the interior.

None of which is to say that Shanahan feels like Hoyer is playing as well he can right now, just that it would help Hoyer if he had guys around him helping out.

"I think he needs to play better, and I think we need to play better around him," Shanahan said. "It's similar to what I said [Sunday] night, when you have the time and you've got guys open, you need to hit them. And I thought he struggled with that at times last night, which I know he can do better, and he does also, but I also know when he did make some key throws, guys weren't great at catching them for him, either.

"I think it's a two-way street. I think it takes everyone, coaches included. We all need to do better, and that's what we've got to do."

Hoyer's misfires on Sunday resulted in a 24-of-49 for 234 yards with an interception performance that left the Niners able to muster just five field goals in a game that was there for the taking.

The loss to Arizona had to be a bit disheartening for Hoyer after he took a big step forward in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams. But through his first four games as the 49ers quarterback, that effort against the Rams has been the outlier, which probably shouldn't be a surprise given Hoyer's journeyman status.

“Obviously, I probably missed a few throws," Hoyer said. "I have to get that figured out and then just keep going."

Hoyer is completing 58 percent of his passes for 858 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 67.9 and a QBR of 23.7 this season. Among 32 starters, he ranks 30th in completion percentage, passer rating and yards per attempt and is 31st in total QBR.

After a strong preseason and training camp, it's fair to wonder if Hoyer's confidence has been shaken by the lack of that translating into real games.

"Real confidence is from experiencing success, and that's when it's real," Shanahan said. "If you're not, you're kind of trying to talk yourself into it and that, to me, isn't very real. When we haven't played great in these games, and he hasn't played his best in these games, you don't have the same type of confidence.

"It takes some plays to get out of that. I thought that happened a little bit against LA. I thought we had a number of opportunities of that versus the Cardinals, especially in the first half, and we didn't come down with it, and I think that makes everyone press a little bit more."

With Hoyer staying in the lineup, what can the Niners do help him get that confidence where he wants? For one, having a more consistent run game would allow them to use Hoyer on play-action more. It's clearly the thing Hoyer is most comfortable doing and the numbers bear that out.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Hoyer has a 97.8 passer rating and a QBR of 54.8 when he attempts a pass off of play-action. When he has to throw from the pocket without the benefit of play-action or a screen pass, those numbers dip to a 55.8 passer rating and a QBR of 18.6.

Of course, those numbers would already be better if Hoyer was getting the necessary help from the skill positions. The Niners had four drops on Sunday and now have 12 for the season, most in the NFL.

“You just keep throwing," Hoyer said. "I am not always going to throw the perfect ball. I don't expect those guys to be perfect. You always strive for it, but to me, I have never been one to say 'Oh, this guy dropped a ball I am not going to throw to him.' I am going to try to go through the progression the best I can, the way I am coached to do and throw the ball to the guy that hopefully is the open guy. We all have to do better. I have to throw it better, we have to execute the plays better."

At 0-4 with the chance of a massive turnaround seeming increasingly unlikely, there likely will come a time for Beathard to play this season. If Hoyer continues to struggle and Beathard is believed to the better option for the long and short-term future of the team, Shanahan says he won't be afraid to make a change.

"I don't look at it just as it's Brian versus C.J. right now," Shanahan said. "I look at it as what's the best for our team right now. And if I did feel that was the best thing for our team at this time, I wouldn't hesitate at all. That would be an easy decision for me if I thought it was the best thing for our team right now.

"So I look into the big picture of where we're at right now, four games into it, where our offense is, our defense is and really just our whole building, and I don't feel it is the best thing for our team right now, so that's something that I haven't started to consider."

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