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Taking a Look at Shaun Hill

The next man up at quarterback is Shaun Hill. What does he bring to the table?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After Eric Sugarman released a statement about Teddy's dislocated knee and ACL tear, it has become clear that Bridgewater will not be playing during the 2016 season.  It's an unfortunate injury and a tough pill to swallow for fans of the Minnesota Vikings, since Teddy was so beloved as a great humanitarian with a rising young career.  All is not lost, and we'll see Teddy on an NFL field again.  But our focus turns to the "next man up", and that happens to be 36-year old journeyman, Shaun Hill.

Shaun Hill entered the NFL in 2002 as an undrafted free agent by none other than the Minnesota Vikings.  He was signed as the team's 3rd string quarterback behind Daunte Culpepper and Todd Bouman.  He remained a member of the Vikings from 2002-2005 having appeared in only 1 game in 2005 where he handled a couple kneel-downs on the final two plays of that regular season.  In 2006, Hill signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent, playing for them from 2006-2008.  He didn't play any meaningful snaps until 2007, his 6th year in the league, when he filled in for a concussed Trent Dilfer.  That year he started 2 games and played in one other, compiling very efficient stats: 54 of 79 for 501 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT with a 101.3 QB Rating.  The 49ers rewarded his high level of play with a 3-year contract and he competed for the starting job against Alex Smith and J.T. O'Sullivan during the 2008 season.

Unfortunately, Hill did not win the competition in 2008, and the 49ers gave the starting job to J.T. O'Sullivan.  This was a tumultuous time for the 49ers as head coach Mike Nolan was fired after the team opened the season 2-5 and named Mike Singletary head coach.  After their BYE week, Singletary named Hill the starting quarterback for the remainder of a lost season.  In those 8 starts he responded by connecting on 149 of 237 passes for 1,656 yards, 10 TDs and 6 INTs.   With a QB rating of 87.1 and a yards per attempt average of 6.98, his average quarterback efficiency helped the team to a 5-3 finish for the remainder of the 49ers 2008 season.

Hill would be named the starter to open the 2009 season for the 49ers, but by week 7, with a team sitting at 3-3, Singletary became frustrated with his quarterback situation and benched Hill in favor of former 1st round pick Alex Smith.  Hill remained the backup for the rest of that season until he was traded after the season to the Detroit Lions.  During his 6 games in 2009 Hill completed 87 of 155 passes for 943 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT.  His efficiency dipped a bit compared to 2008 with a QB rating of only 79.6 and a yards per attempt average of only 6.1.  Hill started a total of 14 games (with an 8-6 record) for the 49ers during that 2-year stretch from 2008-2009 and proved that he was the quintessential "average" NFL quarterback in terms of efficiency.

In 2010, Shaun Hill found himself firmly in the backup quarterback role behind 2nd year quarterback Matthew Stafford.  An unfortunate injury to Matthew Stafford that year forced Hill into action in the season opener.  Stafford would return to action later in the season only to reinjure his shoulder and force Hill back.  On the whole, Hill started 10 games in 2010 after being traded from the 49ers.  In those 10 starts Hill completed 248 of 397 passes for 2,598 yards, 16 TDs and 11 INTs.  His QB rating in those games was right on par with what he achieved while in San Francisco: 83.3 with a yards per attempt average of 6.5. Once again getting extended playing time proved Hill to be a capable backup, but nothing more than an average NFL talent.  From 2011 to 2013, Hill played only sparingly for the Lions starting no games and only throwing a total of 26 passes in three years.

Hill signed a 1-year contract with the St. Louis Rams in 2014, and after a Preseason ACL tear derailed the 2014 season of Rams starter Sam Bradford, Hill once again saw himself being thrust into a starting role.  Hill started week 1 and put up an embarrassingly awful performance completing 8 of 13 passes for 81 yards and 1 interception.  Coach Jeff Fisher promptly benched Hill in favor of Austin Davis.  Davis proved to be a shaky option, and was eventually benched in favor of Hill once again.  Hill ended up starting the final 7 games of the season and was inconsistent, showing signs of brilliance in some games, and stinking up the joint in others.  He finished the 2014 season having completed 145 of 229 passes for 1,657 yards, 8TDs and 7 INTs.  Once again putting up an average QB rating of 83.9 with a slightly elevated yards per attempt rating of 7.2.  The Rams let Hill go after his 1-year contract, and the Vikings signed him to a 2-year deal last year.  In 2015 Hill appeared in 3 games attempting all of 7 passes.

After 14 years in the NFL, Shaun Hill has seen meaningful action in four of those seasons, and served as a backup quarterback in the vast majority of them.  If we focus in on those 32 games he started between 2008-2010 and 2014 for the 49ers, Lions and Rams, it will give us a sense of what kind of quarterback Shaun Hill really is.  And with 32 starts under his belt, we have a sizeable portion of stats in which to make a judgement.  First, here is a table with his combined stats from those 32 starts.



Comp %





QB Rat


Hill Career Starts










Hill Per Game Avg










2015 Teddy Avg










As you can see in the table above, there is nothing spectacular about Shaun Hill's production in his 32 starts, but there is also nothing too alarming either.  When you compare his career, per-game average to Teddy's 2015 game average there are similiarities in QB rating and total yards, but Hill is attempting almost 5 more passes per game, and landing more extremes of TDs and INTs.  Consequently Hill's yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt ends up looking just a little bit lower than Bridgewater last season.

But this is all just looking at overall efficiency statistics.  What about his individual games?  For that we can look to his QB rating in each game.  The following chart plots each of Hill's 32 starts by QB rating to give you a sense of his consistency and the total number of good games versus bad games.

Shaun Hill QB Rating

It's generally regarded that a QB Rating in the mid-80s is considered to be "NFL Average" for production.  Although in 2015, the 41 quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes combined for a QB Rating of 91.3.  So passing efficiency keeps getting better and better.  If we assume that a performance in the 80s is "average" and that anything 90 or above is "good" and anything 79 or below is "bad", then it gives us a benchmark with which to judge Shaun Hill.  As you can see in the chart above, Hill would have earned the following breakdown of Good, Average and Bad games in his 32 career starts:

Good: 14
Average: 4
Bad: 14

That number of games creates an almost uncanny, symmetrical spread of game quality.  While his combined and average career stats imply that Shaun Hill is the "quintessential average NFL quarterback", a closer look shows that Hill is wildly inconsistent.  The chart of his QB rating shows the wild swings with games as low as 45.7 and as high as 142.3.  He has had the same number of "Good" games as "Bad" games, and in fact, has had very few games with a QB rating in the 80s, where he averages out.

So what can we expect from Shaun Hill?  That is a tough question to answer.  On the one hand, his per game averages and career stats imply that we'll get average or slightly below average efficiency from Hill, and will likely get a slight downgrade compared to 2015 Teddy Bridgewater's production.  But in looking at his individual game efficiency, I think the better expectation is an inconsistent quarterback who might play well enough to carry the team on his back to a win one week, and then play so poorly that he single-handedly loses the game the next.  In fact, Hill has never had more than a 5-game stretch with a passer rating above 80.  And his most recent games show a disturbing trend of Good-Bad-Good-Bad games back to back.

In looking to project some differences between Teddy and Shaun Hill, the stat that stands out the most in contrast is the interceptions.  Teddy might not have slung the ball deep down the field, or had a ton of attempts, but he took care of the football very well.  Those extra interceptions are also reflected in their AY/A metric, which shows Hill's drop more than Teddy's compared to their Y/A number.  While age may be a concern with Shaun Hill (he is 14 years older than Teddy!), at 36 years of age and a birthday not until January, he should have enough gas in the tank, especially after having only 32 starts during a 14-year career.  There's not a lot of wear and tear on his 36-year old body, and let's not forget that many other quarterbacks have been successful well past the age of 36.  In fact, there are four starting NFL quarterbacks currently in the NFL who are all older than Shaun Hill (Palmer, McCown, Brees and Brady).  So age in and of itself shouldn't be a concern.

At the end of the day, we should expect the passing game to regress a bit compared to last year.  But this isn't necessarily cause for concern.  The Vikings still won 11 games with one of the least efficient passing games in the league last year.  The Vikings are still a run-first team with a strong defense, and that won't change even with a change at quarterback.