As the 49ers begin the first full day of the Jim Harbaugh era, it's easy to forget that they have no real quarterbacks under contract for 2011. David Carr is signed through 2011 but if somebody can convince me he's more than a backup at best, please feel free. If you'd prefer I can qualify the previous statement but stating that the 49ers have no legitimate starting QB options under contract heading into 2011.
This is a subject that will be appearing in numerous posts through free agency and the 2011 NFL Draft, but I wanted to bring it up today to take a first look at the new Harbaugh 49ers. After the jump I've posted all the comments from yesterday's press conference that are related to the quarterback position. Given the 49ers need to find a new quarterback, I am curious how this will affect the long-term success of the Jim Harbaugh (and Trent Baalke) 49ers.
Andrew Luck has a lot of reasons for his success at Stanford, and from what I've read Harbaugh deserves some of the credit (although how much of it remains to be seen). The 49ers have some incredibly skilled position players in place to institute the west coast offense he plans to institute, but he'll need to find the right QB for the job. It seems safe to say that the Harbaugh hire will not be able to take the necessary steps forward until the right QB is in place.
Both he and Baalke emphasized the importance of the position and repeatedly discussed how the QB touches the ball every single time on offense (no Wildcat then I presume?). This is a departure from Mike Singletary's apparent belief that the QB is not necessarily as important. I think Singletary realized the general importance of the QB position, but simply thought he could get by with what he had.
Until the 49ers figure out the QB position it's hard to assess where they're going on the field as a franchise in the immediate future. We're all excited they hired Jim Harbaugh, but we still need a QB in place to make things happen. I'd imagine if anything captures the NN imagination anywhere near the level of Harbaughgeddon, it will be the upcoming periods of player acquisition. We'll focus on specific targets in the coming weeks and months, but for now, how about we put together a list of legitimately possible acquisitions (free agency, trade, draft).
Ignore the labor issues at this point, which could delay the start of free agency. Although, if free agency ends up after the draft because of a lockout, how does that affect draft strategy?
On what he will look for in a starting quarterback:
[Jim Harbaugh] "Well, I mean there's so many qualities that go into that position and I'm excited to get started on the process. And that process is going to be evaluating the guys on the current team, and talking to them, and maybe it's going to be on the phone, hopefully it will be in person, hopefully I'll be somewhere where they're going to be or they come into the facility and we have a chance to sit down, talk and get to know each other, talk about the quarterback, all the men on the football team. And also see the avenues to upgrade that position - like we want to do with every position, by coaching the players that we have, and then through the draft and free agency, those avenues. Those are ways to improve any football team. Better players. And it's our job to coach the ones we have, coach them up, that they are so good that there's nobody that we could bring in that could be better, and at the same time, the job is to draft, recruit free agents, and make the team as strong as possible, because that's what wins in the national football league."
On the specific characteristics he looks for in a quarterback:
[Jim Harbaugh] "Athletic instincts, accuracy, timing, decision making, leadership, intelligence, and you could keep going on and on here, and they're all important. They're important like to a carpenter, the hammer, the saw, the nails, the ruler - you need ‘em all. So we're trying to find those men and develop those characteristics and those abilities."
On what kind of value he puts on the quarterback:
[Jim Harbaugh] "Well all the positions are important on a football team, everybody's role is important, but the quarterback does touch the ball every single play, so maybe I'm a little biased, but I think it's the most important position on the football team, and I think it's the most difficult in all of sports. If you ever had the opportunity to go to a practice, and you can't really do it at a game, just to stand ten yards behind the line of scrimmage and ten yards behind the quarterback where he's taking the snap, and watching as he drops back and the chaos that is going on all around him and in front of him and all the things that he has to think of simultaneously, and in a split second, real time, you realize that that is the toughest position in all of sports."
How important in finding a coach was the ability to develop a quarterback:
[Trent Baalke] "Well I think the first part of that question, I think without question it had an impact on that decision, I too believe that the quarterback position is as important if not the most important position on the field. That's not to take anything away from any of the other players or the positions, but that guy does touch the ball on every play on the offensive side. So it's extremely important, and what I saw in Jim was the ability to develop quarterbacks, obviously his vast experience as a player at every level was important. He obviously understands the position, but yet, it isn't always the "X" players that play the position that can coach it, because sometimes what they can do naturally, some of the other guys can't do. He's a great teacher, I've watched him. Being in the Bay Area and being so close to the campus I've had a chance to go to a lot of the games. I've had a chance to watch him interact at practices with the quarterback and he's just got it. I don't think you can teach it, some guys just have it. His ability to relate to them, to get them to play with confidence, play with passion, understand the game. I have seen all that and he's developed and he developed one in QB Josh Johnson down in San Diego, obviously has a great one at Stanford. That did play an important part, but that wasn't the only draw."