Finally a winning mentality has returned to the San Francisco 49ers, restoring a winning mentality and expectations for our once dominant franchise. How has this happened so suddenly (besides a coaching staff that just gets it)? How has this team risen from the ashes to soar above any expectations and land on a whole new plane?
Depth. Simply depth. Despite their inabilities to get all of our horses pulling in the same direction our former staffs at least were great at evaluating talents and particularly talents that fit our scheme(s). It seems the 49ers have managed to accrue depth at nearly every postion, both offensive and defensive. This puts the team in position to be successful for years to come without financial woes. The most important position where it seems young talent has been stockpiled is probably the most crucial position possible. The signal caller. Field general. Our QB depth has so much potential that it is amazing the national media hasn't talked more about it. Granted the Alex Smith saga has probably overshadowed our young arms and rightly so. Don't get me wrong I have and will continue to be a Smith supporter and think his better years are ahead of him, I just like looking at the big picture albeit at times with visions of grandeur.
So excluding Mr. Smith let's consider the ceiling of our current stable of back-up QB's. I am going to include (after the jump) everyone's 26-27-60 numbers which in case you were unaware is the standard number for evaluating potential from a simple formula. It doesn't include freakish physical tools like Colin Kaepernick or chemistry from a former college coach like Josh Johnson. It simply gives us a measuring stick that can give us an idea of a QB's potential and if he will be NFL material. A quick break down of the numbers and their significance:
- 26 - Their Wonderlic test score must exceed 26
- 27 - Number of collegiate starts must exceed 27
- 60 - Completion percentage must exceed 60
49ers Back-up QB's 26-27-60 Scores
- Josh Johnson 24-34-68.0
- Colin Kaepernick 37-46-58.0
- Scott Tolzien 38-26-68.0
* Worth noting Alex Smith's score - 40-22-67.5
So as you can see all of our guys have nearly acceptable scores according to this standard. Johnson's Wonderlic score was sub-par. Kaep was close on percentage points and Tolzien a game short in games played. Mr. Smith having been drafted early was well short of games played but it's clear what path he was on.
I know the Wonderlic is not the say all end all of a QB's ability yet looking at the link above that helps understand the 26-27-60 rule you can see the QB's that didn't at least meet that standard usually don't have NFL success. That is one reason I look at Josh Johnson and his body of work so far and it is not very comforting. How high is his ceiling? What is he going to be able to do for us if he has to go into a game due to an injury (let's hope this doesn't have to happen)? I think he has the lowest ceiling of all our back-ups.
We know Colin Kaepernick has the physical tools and many speculate he is just a special talent altogether. Time will tell and of course he will have to get the playing time. I am happy with him getting to take his time (like it used to be before QB's ran pro style offenses in college and got rushed into a starting position) learning all the ins and outs of the offense eventually getting his chance to prove himself when he is ready.
Tolzien is the wild-card here. Though he was a game short in games played he had great scores in the other two areas. Don't ask me why (I said don't ask) I just have a feeling about this guy. Unproven in the NFL and undrafted but this guy has a look to him that reminds me of Tom Brady or Joe Cool himself, Joe Montana. There just seems to be something special about him. It's possible that because we took Kaepernick in the second round Tolzien will never get to even take the field or show what he has. Still I think teams might be onto this guy and if he goes to the practice squad it's quite probable that the San Diego Chargers or another lurking team will return the favor and steal him IMMEDIATELY. I am of the mindset that we keep this guy. Let Josh Johnson go to the practice squad and keep leverage to possibly trade Tolzien later. Who knows, cream does rise to the top. Maybe he becomes the successor when Smith's run is over. We need to make sure that we get something for him though and don't just give him away.
I know this even Smith is young in QB talk. We all know what he has been through to get to this point. I don't know about you, but I am so looking forward to seeing Alex in the same system in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. I fully expect him to exceed expectations. Sure turnovers are going to go up. That number might not be as high as some expect. What will be up is touchdowns, Red Zone scores and 49ers Super bowl expectations which haven't been here since Young and Rice were still dominating the league. After this season we will know if Alex Smith will be leading our team into the future or if one of these other young arms will need to rise to the occasion. Until then let's just enjoy where we are heading and hope for the best.