49ers third QB spot: Are these simply extended-tryouts?

USA TODAY Sports

With the 49ers having a carousel at the third QB position, we try to look at why they can't seem to decide on one guy for very long.

Over the last ten days or so, there have been three different quarterbacks occupying the third spot on the depth chart. Last week the 49ers chose to waive B.J. Daniels and sign Jon Skelton, but that didn't last long. Skelton was waived this week as the 49ers claimed prodigal son McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who spent time with the team in training camp two years ago, off waivers.

So why the rapid-fire signings and cuttings?

At first I wondered if each guy was brought in to simulate something that the team might see in upcoming games. Skelton, for instance, is a tall QB who has a knack for throwing interceptions. Matt Schaub has fit that mold thus-far in 2013, so maybe Skelton was the defense's practice to pick off poorly-thrown passes. I'm only half-joking.

But thinking more and more about it, and seeing Greg Roman say this about the newly-acquired Bethel-Thompson (McBLT from here on) made me wonder:

We're going to have to see him out at practice

I know. It's just a little snippet, but it suggests that when the 49ers sign a guy, it doesn't always suggest that they know he's going to stick. They just need to see more, in a practice-setting, with pads on, against a defense, etc. You don't get that in a tryout scenario, so they give him a paycheck and he obliges.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see McBLT cut as early as next week, in fact. There is obviously a search going on, a quest to find the best three QBs for the 49ers' roster. Perhaps some of it is simply getting the right QB3, a guy who can develop, maybe compete for the backup job next off-season.

But then I wonder, too, if it's not to put constant pressure on Colt McCoy. None of us feel great about the idea of McCoy actually having to play in a game this year. In fact, the Jaguars might be the only team remaining that we're beating if McCoy had to play.

He simply doesn't have many, if any, of the same traits that Colin Kaepernick has. That matters, too, because the offense is tailored around the skills of the players. Receivers are used to Kap's velocity, placement, instincts, etc. McCoy isn't anything close to the same player, not to mention the drop-off in athleticism as a runner, should the team ever decide to get serious about the read option again.

Whatever the reason, the 49ers seem to be bringing guys in and signing them simply as extended tryouts. I wonder what the depth-chart will look like at the end of the season? What guys are out there who could be added at some point? It's something to keep an eye on.

(Yes, I know that talking about the third QB position seems pointless, but this is a team full of talent with Super Bowl aspirations. Face it: Everything they do is infinitely more interesting than it was 10 years ago.)

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