When you think about Kyle Shanahan, you think about offense and a scheme that set NFL records in 2016 with the Atlanta Falcons. Everyone is anxious to see how Shanahan's offensive pedigree presents itself with the San Francisco 49ers.
But Shanahan's playbook is merely the high-performance vehicle, and as is the case with any luxury car, it's nothing without a capable driver. Pierre Garçon is the man who has been given the keys and tasked with making it hum.
The veteran quarterback is no stranger to being an NFL starter. Hoyer has 31 career starts spread across stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Chicago Bears. Yet this is the first time he's walked through the doors as QB1 without competition. It's been Hoyer's show in San Francisco since he arrived on March 9.
Positive reports out of practice evolved into cautious optimism when the 49ers hung a quick 14 points on the Minnesota Vikings starting defense in the third preseason game. After years of offensive futility, there is finally hope that things are headed in the right direction. Hoyer is Shanahan's guy, handpicked by the head coach. That said, even Shanahan has been impressed by the way Hoyer has grabbed the reigns and taken control of the offense.
The quarterback has matured since they last joined forces in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns.
"He's more battle-tested. His ability is the same. I just think Brian's in a good place," Shanahan said. "I think he believes in himself and I think it's real because he's developed a confidence through adversity through overcoming it. I just see a more confident guy who is up for anything."
That confidence might not be displayed outwardly – Hoyer is known for being even-keeled – but the quarterback won't deny that this feels different.
"I think for me this has been the most fun I've ever had playing football. It's the most comfortable I've ever been. Being able to come in day one and kind of be handed the reins and to having the control and implement the offense and do those things and get all the reps, I think it's been huge."
Hoyer finished the preseason with 197 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He posted a 65.6 percent completion rate and a quarterback rating of 99.5. Most of that production came in Minnesota.
Following the bout against the Vikings, Hoyer immediately shifted focus to the Carolina Panthers. He knew he wouldn't be playing in the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. Those extra days pouring over the initial game plan helped Hoyer enter this week with a firm grasp of how Shanahan hopes to attack the Panthers.
Hoyer explained that he is a part of building the game plan. He and Shanahan examined specific plays through the lens of two criteria. For starters, does the offense feel comfortable with the play call? That comfort comes through success in practice. Secondly, is it something that could work against Carolina's defensive scheme?
"It's good to have a guy who's willing to get your opinion," Hoyer said. "The worst thing you could do is go out there and have a play you're not really sure about and it gets called and you don't feel great about it. I think the good thing we do is we get a lot of reps, whether it's walk-through or practice.
"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."
Everyone is eager to see how that script plays itself out on Sunday against the Panthers.