49ers QB Brian Hoyer won't — and shouldn't — be banished to the bench

Last season with the Bears, Hoyer was sacked only four times in six games, and his passer rating was 98.|

Didn't we learn our lesson when we ran Alex Smith out of town?

Every time a 49ers quarterback doesn't play well, we say, 'Bench him.' When Smith didn't play well, we said, 'Bench him for David Carr.' Then for Troy Smith. Then for Colin Kaepernick. And when Kaepernick struggled, we wanted Blaine Gabbert. And when Gabbert struggled, we wanted Kaepernick again. And now that Brian Hoyer hasn't played well, we want C.J. Beathard.

Are we going to do this every year?

I understand the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the QB is the focus of every team. But he isn't the whole team. He can't make up for everyone's deficiencies. He isn't God.

Most good quarterback's wouldn't play well on the 49ers now. Even good quarterbacks need a supporting cast, which the 49ers lack. And when they get a supporting cast, they flourish, just as Smith is flourishing in Kansas City.

Don't you wish the Niners still had Smith?

Let's not run Hoyer of town. Here are five reasons he should remain the 49ers starting quarterback.

1. A new quarterback wouldn't fix the pass protection.

How did Hoyer score three touchdowns and pass for 332 yards against the Rams, then score no touchdowns and pass for just 234 yards the next week against the Cardinals? What changed?

He didn't take a stupid pill.

The difference was pressure and hits. Against the Rams, Hoyer got hit seven times. Against the Cardinals, he got hit 18 times. I counted the hits myself while watching the coaches tape. You can do the same.

Hoyer took hits before and after throwing passes. He even took hits during plays that didn't count because penalties negated them. And as you remember, he had to leave the game for one play after Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones knocked him to the ground and wrenched his head backward. That was just the ninth hit Hoyer took against the Cardinals. He came back and took nine more.

Every hit diminishes a quarterback's skillset. Every hit has a cumulative effect physically and mentally. These hits are like body blows to a boxer. All those shots drain a boxer's ability to deliver punches — they begin to have less impact and accuracy. Same goes for the quarterback and his passes.

Hoyer is good when he gets protection. Last season with Bears, he got sacked only four times in six games, and his passer rating was 98. This season, he has gotten sacked 13 times in four games, and his current rating is 67.9.

Protecting the QB is a team effort. The 49ers won't have good QB play until they can block.

The Miami Dolphins are going through the same issue with their quarterback, Jay Cutler, and Dolphins fans want the team to bench him. Here is Dolphins head coach Adam Gase's response to the public outcry:

'If we protect (Cutler) and give him a second to throw the ball, we'll be all right. If he is going to get hit from start to finish, I don't care who you put back there. We need to do a better job of protecting him and being where we're supposed to be…We can't just let him take hit after hit after hit after hit and expect him to stand in there. It's not going to happen.'

2. A new quarterback wouldn't prevent the rest of the players from making mistakes.

The 49ers lead the league in dropped passes with 14. Had they caught those passes, Hoyer's quarterback rating would be a respectable 86.2 and he would be on pace to pass for 4,272 yards. The last 49ers quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards was Jeff Garcia in 2000.

The 49ers also lead the league in penalties. Against the Cardinals, Hoyer threw a touchdown pass to running back Matt Breida that didn't count because rookie wide receiver Trent Taylor committed a needless offensive-pass-interference penalty. If Taylor hadn't committed the penalty, Hoyer's QB rating would be 88.7 and the 49ers probably would have beaten the Cardinals.

3. Whom would the 49ers turn to if the new quarterback gets drilled?

Let's say Kyle Shanahan benches Hoyer for the upcoming game against the Colts. Shows he thinks Hoyer is inept and can't function in the offense. Replaces him with C.J. Beathard, the rookie. Then Beathard gets drilled 18 times and gets injured.

Then who would be the next quarterback?

Nick Mullens, the guy on the practice squad? Get real.

It wouldn't be Hoyer all over again. Shanahan already would have given him a vote of no-confidence.

Who would it be? Someone off the street? Matt Barkley, the guy the 49ers already cut because he isn't as good as Hoyer or Beathard? Colin Kaepernick, the guy the Niners didn't wanted in the first place?

The answer is no one. The Niners need Hoyer.

4. Shanahan hand-picked Hoyer.

Shanahan didn't inherit Hoyer, as Chip Kelly inherited Gabbert and Kaepernick. Shanahan wanted Hoyer. Hoyer is Shanahan's guy.

Those two knew each other coming into this season. They worked together on the Browns in 2014. Shanahan is comfortable coaching Hoyer and Hoyer is comfortable working in Shanahan's offense.

They had success together in Cleveland. Hoyer led the league in yards per completion that season. He and Shanahan won seven games and lost only six.

That's why Hoyer is here. If Shanahan were to bench him after just four games, Shanahan would be admitting he signed the wrong guy, admitting he made a colossal error in judgment. There's a certain amount of pride at stake.

5. Shanahan wants to win.

As Marcellus Wallace nearly said in Pulp Fiction, 'forget' pride. If Shanahan thought Beathard would give the 49ers a better chance to win than Hoyer, Shanahan would make that switch right now, make it a New York minute. He owes nothing to Hoyer. He made this clear at his Monday press conference.

'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…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.'

End of discussion.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the 'Inside the 49ers' blog for The Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at

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