Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley Could Actually Help the 49ers

Hoyer and Barkley aren't long-term solutions, but they could help the 49ers in 2017.

We are just one day into the official start of free agency, and the San Francisco 49ers already have two new quarterbacks.

No, neither of them are a certain Washington Redskins quarterback who has long been rumored to be making the cross-country move from Washington, but the 49ers needed someone to join a roster that previously included quarterbacks with a combined zero starts from 2016.

Can Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley turn things around for the 49ers?

Passing Woes in 2016

San Francisco's offense was awful in their lone season under former head coach Chip Kelly.

Taking a look through our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (which you can learn more about in our glossary), we can see just how bad they were.

Category Value NFL Rank
Adjusted NEP Per Play -0.01 28th
Adjusted Passing NEP Per Play 0.00 28th
Adjusted Rushing NEP Per Play 0.02 13th

Among the 38 quarterbacks to drop back at least 150 times in 2016, 49ers starters Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert ranked 28th and 37th, respectively. in terms of Passing NEP per drop back, resulting in San Francisco moving on from both of them earlier this offseason.

That left a big hole at an already weak position for San Francisco.

Bring in the Bears

San Francisco's first step in rebuilding their quarterback position, was to bring in former Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer, followed by his former teammate, Matt Barkley, joining him just one day later.

Take a quick look at how these two performed last season compared to the two 49ers' quarterbacks.

Player Passing NEP/P Rank Pass Success Rate Rank
Brian Hoyer 0.22 8th 50.74% 7th
Matt Barkley 0.09 23rd 52.25% 5th
Colin Kaepernick 0.04 28th 42.93% 31st
Blaine Gabbert -0.13 37th 37.43% 36th

Right away, you can see that Hoyer represents a big jump in efficiency over the rest of the group. For further context, the average Passing NEP per drop back this season was 0.12 in 2016, and the average Success Rate was 47.02%.

Barkley, despite the highest Success Rate of the group, had a Passing NEP per drop back below the NFL average due to an interception on 10.85 percent of his attempts.

But Hoyer and Barkley played in a combined 13 games, respectively, last season, and Barkley's seven games were actually still three more than his combined total games played through the first three seasons of his career.

Hoyer has a more established résumé, but he has still only played more than six games in a season twice throughout his eight-year career.

And during those two seasons, his Passing NEP per drop back marks were 0.10, and 0.04, which were both under the league average for their respective year.

Now, both Hoyer and Barkley, are moving on to their fourth team in as many years, and the question remains whether or not the 49ers can be successful with either under center.

It's Shanahan's Show Now

The new quarterbacks will have the luxury of playing under the tutelage of new head coach Kyle Shanahan, who led the Atlanta Falcons' offense to the best Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back mark in the NFL last season.

Over the past nine years that Shanahan has spent as an offensive coordinator, his team's offense has ranked among the top 10 in Adjusted NEP per drop back three times but only in the top 16 five times.

And unfortunately, for the 49ers, during his first season with each of his past three teams, Shanahan's new team has actually recorded a worse Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back than they did in the year prior to his arrival.

YearTeamAdj. Passing NEP/PRankPrevious YearRank

Of course, none of those teams had finished worse than 22nd in the year prior to Shanahan's arrival though, which is much better than the 49ers did last season.

Putting It All Together

Hoyer actually started 13 games under Shanahan for that 2015 Cleveland Browns team, finishing with a 0.04 Passing NEP per drop back, and new general manager John Lynch, has said that he is their starter for the time being.

Shanahan and Hoyer bring a reason for optimism in improving San Francisco's passing game from a year ago, but of course, do not expect them to be among the top half of the league's passing offenses instantly.

With Hoyer on just a two-year deal for a total of $12 million, the 49ers have certainly not committed to him as their long-term starter moving forward. They still have the opportunity to draft another quarterback or add someone else in free agency this season.

And of course it remains an option that Hoyer could be a stopgap until the 49ers have an opportunity to sign Kirk Cousins next offseason.