As the coaching and general manager searches are (hopefully) coming to an end, it is time to start focusing on the next big issue with this franchise: The Quarterback! Let’s face it, you are not going to win anything in this league without really good quarterback play. Even if you are blessed with an elite defense, you are going to need a quarterback to win games for you. The quarterback is not only the field general, but is usually the face of the franchise. Unfortunately, the 49ers are currently lacking in that department. 49er fans were spoiled to go from Joe Montana, to Steve Young and even to Jeff Garcia. That’s a pretty solid run of quarterback play right there. However, I will try not to make you sick by bringing up all the bad times with Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett , Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, J.T. O’Sullivan, Troy Smith and bad, before he was good, Alex Smith.
Jim Harbaugh brought out the best in Alex Smith. He turned Colin Kaepernick into a phenom. However, like all good things, it couldn’t last forever. Smith was shipped off to Kansas City. Harbaugh filed for divorce from the 49ers and Kaepernick regressed quickly. Forgetting all political issues, Kaepernick hasn’t proven to be a consistent quarterback in this league. The Blaine Gabbert experiment did not work. Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis are nothing more than training camp arms.
As of today, not one quarterback will be under contract going in to next season. Kaepernick can and will opt out and become a free agent. Gabbert, Ponder and Lewis are all free agents. So what should the franchise do? First, they will need to bring in a veteran to stabilize the position. The 49ers are at least two drafts and two free agency periods away from competing at a high level. It wouldn’t be prudent to sign a Kirk Cousins, who will want way more than he is worth, when you are so many pieces away on offense. It also would not be wise to trade away high draft choices for Jimmy Garoppolo. While young, he has less experience than Matt Cassel had with New England. I have seen this type of Rob Johnson/Craig Erickson trade before. Rarely does it work out well.
The best move for the 49ers would be to sign Mike Glennon and explore options in the upcoming draft. While Glennon is not the sexy name most want to have as their starting quarterback, he has starting experience, very good size and would do well under Kyle Shanahan’s tutelage. Realistically, he is a bridge to the quarterback the 49ers select in the draft. There are plenty of talented, yet raw quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The 49ers would be wise to draft one, at the right spot, and let him learn. Forcing a rookie to play, with the limited weapons the 49ers have currently, will spell certain doom. As it did for Alex Smith.
As Steve Young once said, it is easy to get to 8 wins in the NFL. It’s harder to get to 10 and 12 wins. The good news is the 49ers currently have a few nice pieces on the roster. The have zero bad contracts. The have a ton of salary cap space and a number of high draft picks. With the right coach and general manager in place, the rebuild might not take as long as most think it will. The key is getting the right guy to lead the team on the field and be the face of the franchise for years to come. He is out there. Time for this organization to go find him.