SANTA CLARA – The team’s most-proven offensive weapon is the reason Brian Hoyer decided on the first day of free agency to sign a two-year contract with the 49ers.
Kyle Shanahan served the past nine seasons as an offensive coordinator before the 49ers hired him as head coach. Hoyer knew Shanahan well from their season together with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.
“That was a big reason why I came here,” Hoyer said. “I knew, having played for Kyle before, how great he was piecing things together. Then, you watch him go to Atlanta and do the same thing, even to a bigger stage really, taking them all the way to the Super Bowl.
“For me it was probably the deciding factor coming out here was just to play for Kyle and knowing that his scheme and the way he game plans games, that was what I wanted to be a part of.”
Hoyer was targeted to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback. He strengthened his grip on the job throughout the offseason program and training camp. The Hoyer-led 49ers open the regular season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers are Hoyer’s seventh team in nine NFL seasons. But this is the first time he has entered a situation as the only reasonable option to be the starter.
“It helps Brian knowing that we believe in him,” Shanahan said during an interview for “49ers Game Plan,” which will debut Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.
“He knows we believe in him. He's done a good job. We don't believe in him just because we say that. He's earned it with us. I think he's earned it with the players out there. They get to see him on the practice field every day. Players aren't just going to believe in someone just because you say he's your starting quarterback.”
Hoyer took command of his leadership role. He organized a get-together for 49ers quarterbacks and receivers for three days of work and camaraderie at Southern Methodist University in Dallas three weeks before training camp.
The 49ers might not have any Pro Bowl players at the offensive skill positions, but there appears to be plenty of options for Shanahan. Depending on the specific matchup, Shanahan could feature such players as running back Carlos Hyde, versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk, possession receiver Pierre Garçon, speedster Marquise Goodwin or rookie slot receiver Trent Taylor.
On the practice field, Hoyer was one of the standouts of the summer, as he distributed the ball in nearly equal portions to all of his targets. His ability to throw the deep ball appears to be a great match for Shanahan’s system, which is predicated on using the run game to set up play-action passes.
“One of skills that really stands out to me is as a play-action passer,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said on the “49ers Insider Podcast.”
“The thing that I’ve been incredibly impressed with – and maybe I didn’t see on film – is how good of a deep ball thrower he is. We have a guy in Marquise Goodwin who can go get it. Aldrick Robinson can go get it; Victor Bolden is the same way. You need someone who can put it out there, and he has that in a big way. That has been a pleasant surprise.”
The future of the 49ers’ quarterback situation remains unsettled. But Hoyer gets the first opportunity to prove to Lynch and Shanahan that he is the franchise’s best long-term option – rather than investing big money in a veteran, such as Kirk Cousins, or spending a high draft pick on a quarterback.
Hoyer is not looking ahead because he is having too much enjoyment with his current situation.
“This has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing football,” Hoyer said. “It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever been. Being able to come in day one and kind of be handed the reigns and to having the control and implement the offense and do those things and get all the reps, I think it’s been huge.
“I feel really good about where we are heading into Week 1 and we’ve just got to keep improving. We’ve improved all offseason. I feel like we got better each day in training camp and we’ve got to keep that same mentality heading into the regular season.”