SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Entering training camp and the preseason as the clear-cut starter for the first time in his professional career, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer had allowed himself to envision the type of breakthrough season that had eluded him in his eight years in the NFL.
Before the real games started, Hoyer looked like a player about to turn those hopes into reality. Throughout training camp, Hoyer impressed with his command of coach Kyle Shanahan's offense and his willingness to cut it loose when he saw an opportunity.
Just six weeks later, Hoyer finds himself on the bench behind rookie C.J. Beathard.
"What I had anticipated just didn't come to fruition and sometimes, it's just the collective work of everybody just not being on the same page," Hoyer said. "We talk about executing one play here, one play there, but one guy is off. It didn't work out the way I thought it was going to, but it's still a long season. There's 10 games left, so you never know what's going to happen. You've just got to keep building and I'll do my job every day when I come into work."
In his previous opportunities as a starter, Hoyer had a knack for performing well early in the season before struggling down the stretch. That didn't happen this time around. The Niners were 0-6 in his starts. He did enough to keep them in most of those games, even posting 330-plus-yard games against the Rams and Colts before coming up short.
To be sure, Hoyer didn't get much help, either. He often was under duress, particularly up the middle, and faced a blitz on 37.8 percent of his dropbacks, the second most in the league. And when Hoyer was on the mark with his throws, his pass-catchers didn't offer much help. The Niners dropped 7.3 percent of Hoyer's pass attempts, the highest of any quarterback in the league by more than a full percentage point.
Despite all of that, Hoyer was ever the professional after being taken out against Washington, even going so far as to compliment Beathard and make it clear that he intends to continue tutoring the rookie moving forward.
"I've been in this situation before and C.J. is a great kid, so I'll be there every day trying to help him as much as I can," Hoyer said. "Also, the other thing is, you never know what's going to happen -- injuries and things like that.
"Obviously you never wish that upon people, but that's what happened to me in Houston and I was right back in a few weeks later, so you've always got to stay ready and just be ready to do your job. Being a competitor, you always want to finish what you started, but I've got to come in every day and be professional and do the best I can."
Circling back to when the Niners signed Hoyer in March, there was never any pretense that the job would be his permanently. In fact, he would have had to have a pretty spectacular season for the 49ers not to seek a long-term solution in 2018. It's still worth noting that when they evaluated their options for that placeholder job, there might have been players with more talent available.
But part of the reason that signing Hoyer was more prudent than others is that he's a consummate professional who has seen and done just about everything in this league and can be counted on to maintain that approach regardless of what happens.
"Right now, it's just doing his job," Shanahan said. "He's done a good job and everything I've asked him to do, how he's carried himself. Brian's gone out and done his best. I know it hasn't been perfect. I take responsibility for that, too. I wish I could have made things easier on Brian and helped him more, and I know the guys around him wish they could have done the same. Brian hung in there, did everything we asked him to do. Didn't play at the level we wanted him to, and I know we didn't help him much from the players around him and myself. Brian's been great about it. He handled it great. I think he will handle being a No. 2 quarterback very well, also."
Indeed, while Hoyer would have ranked toward the bottom of the league on any list of the league's best starting quarterbacks, you could do a lot worse than having him as the backup. Even after he'd been pulled from Sunday's loss, Hoyer could still be seen cheering on his team and helping Beathard on the sideline.
Don't expect that to change just because Hoyer's role has.
“Those are my teammates," Hoyer said. "Those are my guys. Those are my brothers. So for me, personally, it stings and you're disappointed, but it's not just about yourself. I think that's the biggest thing for me. I've learned over the nine years, just come in and do your job the best you can and if they take it away from you, stay ready and try to help the next guy up."