The San Francisco 49ers have numerous position competitions going on heading into this weekend's game with the Minnesota Vikings, but one that flies a bit under the radar is that between Brian Jennings and Kevin McDermott. The longest tenured 49ers player and the rookie undrafted free agent are competing for the role of long snapper. Jim Harbaugh was asked about the competition today, and he described it as very, very even.
Eric Branch had a chance to chat with Jennings yesterday, and he got some great insight from a guy who played with Jerry Rice and Bryant Young. Give the interview a read, as Jennings went into some detail about his view of the long snapper job, as well as his relationship with McDermott. Earlier this month, Raiders punter Chris Kluwe discussed the nature of the relationship between two players competing for one job.
It's really fascinating. These are super competitive people, but there is the human aspect that needs to be considered. You can ignore the person and turn it into completely cut-throat competition, but can you live with yourself after that? Plenty can, but thankfully the Bay Area has two guys who can see above that. Jennings had this to say on that topic:
I look at it that, if I'm mean to him, it's not going to help me. So what's the alternative? We hang out every day. So there's no incentive for me to do anything that would be negative because I don't think it helps me. If anything, I'm pro-49ers. I want to be the 49ers long snapper. And if for some reason, I weren't the 49ers long snapper, I want their special teams to go well. So I wouldn't want do anything -whether I'm on this team or I'm not on this team - to wreck that.
The 49ers special teams had numerous question marks last season, and they brought in a lot of players as they try and clean that up. The 49ers can go with a veteran in Jennings who has been as good as they come during his tenure. Or, they could release him and stick McDermott who costs half ($405,000) of what Jennings does ($940,000).
I don't think the 49ers would go to McDermott to save money if he is not out-performing Jennings. However, if they are just about even, as Harbaugh is stating (take that how you want), do the 49ers make the move? Given that this is a team on the verge of getting to the mountain-top, do you really risk the question marks of a rookie? The long snapper role is easily forgotten...until he makes a mistake. It seems like you need to see McDermott clearly out-performing Jennings to make this kind of move.