Bill Walsh. Joe Montana. Roger Craig.
These names invoke memories of the innovative West Coast Offense that took the NFL by storm in the 1980s, replacing the old “hand off or throw deep” systems of the 1970s.
As soon as Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract to test free agency this week (which saved the team the trouble of cutting him), the Niners officially had zero quarterbacks on the roster. Are the 49ers starting a new trend once again? A quarterback-free offense that takes the league by storm? Will they sign Ronnie Brown to resuscitate the Wildcat offense?
No, of course not, that was just a ridiculous “click bait” headline I used. Hey, anything’s fair on the web when it comes to getting eyeballs…
This article is really about the options the 49ers have to replenish their empty QB cupboard. New coach Kyle Shanahan seems to know a thing or two about quarterback play. New GM John Lynch started his Stanford career as a QB before moving to safety where he spent the next 15 years trying to stop the passing game on Sundays so he appears somewhat qualified to evaluate QB talent.
So what’s the move? Trading for Kirk Cousins and paying him the equivalent of a small island nation’s GDP for the next 5 years is probably jumping the gun for a young team in a rebuilding phase. Tony Romo probably couldn’t survive the contact of a rush hour subway ride without suffering a disc herniation at this point of his career so he’s out. Jay Cutler’s pouty face act and propensity for throwing touchdowns to both teams clearly eliminate him from any deal. Therefore the trade/free agent market for the 49ers is likely to be limited to the journeyman placeholder type who will come in and take a beating while the rookie franchise QB holds a clipboard for a year or so. Or maybe they hold a Microsoft Surface on the sideline now? Anyway, moving on…
That leaves the draft. The 49ers desperately need a new face of the franchise to fill their still freshly-painted stadium on a day when football players, not Coldplay or U2, are playing. (On a personal note, as someone who lives north of SF, thanks for moving the team almost 2 hours away, Jed, you smug jerk. Still bitter.)
This year’s crop of purported NFL QBs isn’t real exciting. Mitch Trubisky? He couldn’t even beat out Marquise Williams at North Carolina who wasn’t able to stick on the Packers’ practice squad last year. Maybe you take a chance on him in the 2nd or 3rd round but not at #2 overall. DeShaun Watson was very impressive in college, especially in the last two title games where he reached into my pocket and ripped a pile of cash by covering against Bama both times. But again, how well does his skill set translate to the NFL? He’s got the moxie but he’s not an early first round prospect. DeShone Kizer apparently gave a great interview to the Niners brass but I’m sorry, if you couldn’t even beat out Malik Zaire in preseason camp last year you’re not a high first round draft pick. Kizer didn’t look all that motivated to me last year in a lost Notre Dame season. Patrick Maholmes? Davis Webb? Guess what, the NFL actually plays defense on occasion unlike the Big 12 and Pac 12. On Sundays, you don’t get to throw those horrific bubble screens 20 times a game where the wide receivers get to block downfield while the ball is in the air. Those guys may be worth mid-round flyers but nothing earlier.
In the final analysis, the 49ers should be patient, sign a temporary veteran QB, shore up lines, wide receivers and inside linebackers early in the draft, take 1-2 QBs in later rounds and hope to get lucky. But do not, under any circumstances, blow a #2 overall pick on the flotsam and jetsam that is floating in this year’s QB draft pool.