As the 49ers make their way towards what right now is a mythical 2011 NFL season, the quarterback position remains a high priority. The team other needs as well, but I'd have to imagine the team is putting a ton of resources into figuring out possible options in this year's draft class. It's not exactly the most awe-inspiring group of quarterbacks, but there are some intriguing possibilities.
Recently, Trent Baalke chatted with ESPN's Mike Sando about his first complete offseason as general manager. Head over to that link to check out the entire interview. They discussed a variety of topics, but I wanted to focus in on Baalke's comments about the quarterback position. Now that Baalke and Coach Jim Harbaugh are working to build up the current roster, every comment they make about the position is going to be dissected for further meaning.
Mike Sando: Harbaugh has said some nice things about Alex Smith. You were quoted as saying your next quarterback isn't on the roster. How do you and Harbaugh differ on Smith?
Trent Baalke: First of all, the comment I made was probably taken a little out of context. The question was asked of me, what my feelings were as to the quarterback position and Alex Smith in particular. You have to remember, at that time, Alex Smith was only under contract for 2010. He is not under contract for 2011. At that time, it was obvious what my answer was. How Jim and I differ, I don't think we differ. I think we want to make this team as competitive as we can. In order to do that, we have to create competition at every position, and certainly to do that we're going to have to create it at the quarterback position when you don't have an incumbent quarterback. That is all we are hoping to do.
Mike Sando: Harbaugh played quarterback for years. He coached Rich Gannon with the Raiders. How do his experiences shape what you'll want in a quarterback?
Trent Baalke: Jim understands exactly what he wants in a quarterback. He played it, he has had success developing everywhere he has been. He has had success identifying quarterbacks, when you go back to the reports he wrote when he was at Oakland relative to the quarterback position, the guys that came out at that time. Does anyone have all the answers relative to the quarterback position? I think that has been proven. The answer to that is no. All we can do is take a hard look at our system, a hard look at what we are going to ask that player to do and then go get the very best fit for our team.
I think the semantics argument about Alex Smith being under contract is pretty funny. It's really hard to tell how much of the Alex Smith comments from Harbaugh and Baalke constitutes a smoke screen and how much of it is legitimate interest in having him return. I'm not saying it's all BS, but the context of this particular offseason make it virtually impossible to tell what's going on in that regard.
In the second question, Baalke made it fairly clear that Harbaugh has the lead on finding a quarterback at this point. This isn't shocking news, but it's always nice to get further clarity. Although, I am curious how involved Baalke will be in the process. It's a unique experience this year given the fact that free agency and trades aren't happening for the foreseeable future.
The last line in the above set of questions goes back to the idea of fitting a quarterback into the west coast offense style of play we're expecting to see during the Harbaugh tenure. This is only slightly related, but in the draft we hear about drafting for need versus just drafting the best player available. When it comes to quarterbacks, do you just look for the best overall potential quarterback, or do you look for the best fit for your specific system? A lot of times that will overlap, but there are some quarterbacks that are ideal for a system but not quite so ideal in the grander scheme of Big Boards and positional rankings.