FOXBOROUGH — Quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jimmy Garoppolo officially traded places Wednesday, with Garoppolo on the West Coast with his new team and Hoyer at Gillette Stadium at Patriots practice.
New England signed Hoyer to a three-year deal Wednesday, a day after he was released by the 49ers, who traded a 2018 second-round draft pick to get Garoppolo. The move brought Hoyer back to the team that first signed him and the place where he began his career.
“He’s all about football,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Wednesday. “Loves the game. Cares about playing quarterback the right way. Smart guy. Works hard. Good teammate. There’s a lot to like. I’m looking forward to working with him going forward to the second half of the season.”
Hoyer, who signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009, spent three seasons here before going on a cross-country tour of the NFL.
After leaving New England, Hoyer had stops in Pittsburgh, Arizona, Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco.
“I mean, wow. You talk about things going full circle,” said Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater. “Brian came in in my second year in the league so I’ve known him for nine years now and it’s been cool to follow his career and see him do some good things, but it’s definitely cool to have him back.”
McDaniels said Hoyer’s familiarity with the Patriots’ system should help the quarterback get up to speed quickly.
“I think the foundation of the system is the same,” McDaniels said. “You might have to learn a new word here or there, which I’m sure Brian would be able to do quickly.”
Hoyer’s experience and familiarity with the Patriots’ offense made him a safe bet to replace Garoppolo as Tom Brady’s backup — if not the five-time Super Bowl champion’s heir apparent. Garoppolo was widely regarded as a quarterback who one day could lead a franchise.
“You’re always sad,” McDaniels said. “There’s a human element to this game that you can’t ever get away from. We understand the business side of it but you had a guy in your room that you really enjoyed being around and coaching. You saw him grow and get better and mature and improve through the course of time and now he’s not here.”
Like coach Bill Belichick, McDaniels is selective with his praise. But McDaniels spoke highly of the 26-year-old quarterback before adding that the Patriots couldn’t offer Garoppolo the one thing he really wanted.
“We understand that depth at a certain position is a blessing for us, but every player wants to play,” McDaniels said. “I understand that. That’s a good thing. They should want to play.”
Teammates knew how much Garoppolo wanted to play, even as he appreciated the situation he had in New England learning behind Brady.
Receiver Danny Amendola said he is happy to see Garoppolo get an opportunity with San Francisco, even if he is disappointed to lose a friend in the locker room. Amendola and Garoppolo share a birthday — Nov. 2 — but Garoppolo left before they could celebrate on Thursday.
“I mean, unfortunately guys come and go a lot in this business,” Amendola said.
Hoyer left as a 26-year-old with only 13 games of mop-up experience with the Patriots in 2011 and now returns at age 32 with a 16-21 record in 37 career starts. He has completed 833 of 1,404 attempts (59.3 perent) for 9,853 yards with 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in his career.
Hoyer was on a two-year, $12 million contract with the 49ers that included $9.85 million fully guaranteed. He does have offsetting language in his contract with the 49ers, so the value of his deal with the Patriots will be subtracted from what San Francisco still owes him.
Hoyer made six starts for the winless 49ers (0-8) this season, completing 119 of 205 passes (58.0 percent) for 1,245 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
“He’s a really smart kid,” McDaniels said. “He’s from Ohio, so I have a fondness for those guys.”