Marshall Faulk is back with his latest GMC question, and this time he has a specific one for our site and Mile High Report. This game marks the second matchup in three weeks that features the QB vs. QB narrative. Two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs, which meant the return of Alex Smith. That week, Marshall asked us which skill 49ers would take from Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick. This week, Marshall is asking us what would happen if we switched quarterbacks. Moving forward, would the 49ers remain a run-first team? Would the Broncos return to the Super Bowl?
Marshall says it's a crazy scenario, but obviously it was not entirely out of the realm of the possible. The 49ers worked out (or whatever Jim Harbaugh wants to call it) Peyton Manning back in 2012 when he was going through free agency. The previous year, the Broncos brought in Colin Kaepernick for a pre-draft visit. That April, the 49ers traded second round picks with the Broncos, and selected Colin Kaepernick.
But looking ahead from this point is an interesting consideration. You've got two quarterbacks that do a lot of different things. Kap has the much stronger arm, and of course better mobility. Or should I say, just general mobility. Manning can scramble from the pocket in an emergency, but he is not there to run. Manning will pick apart a defense both in his pre-snap work, and as he is progressing through his reads. Kap can fit throws into the tiniest of windows thanks to his arm strength, and forces defenses into uncomfortable situations because of his legs. Both quarterbacks have helped their teams advance deep into the playoffs, but they have done it in different ways.
Manning to the 49ers
If we saw the two teams swap quarterbacks, the big question for the 49ers is how much they would adjust their run game. There is this notion that switching to Manning would require wholesale changes, but I disagree. There would be adjustments, but Manning did plenty of good work while having a workhorse back in Edgerrin James. It would be kind of fitting that he has an extensive history with one great Miami running back, and would get a chance to work with another great Miami running back.
When I got this question, my first thought was actually to the 49ers pass protection. Their offensive line has generally been built more as a run blocking unit. They have had their primary success this season in run blocking, although this past week saw them do some good work in pass protection. Would they be sufficient to keep Manning upright? I think Manning's pre-snap work would be a huge boon with this group, but it is an interesting thought what the pass protection would look like for a quarterback who has an extensive history of neck injuries and is fairly immobile.
Kap to the Broncos
On the other side would be sending Kap to the Broncos. The Broncos do not have the same running game as the 49ers. They will be without Montee Ball this week, but even with him, it's not the same. There is always talk about how Kap benefits as well from having a strong defense. The Broncos defense crumbled against the Seahawks last year, but their additions have boosted that unit to No. 2 in Football Outsiders rankings, and No. 4 in Defensive EPA.
I think Kap has the tools to be a successful quarterback with a variety of teams, but it seems a little more difficult to predict specifically what he would do with a different coaching staff. The 49ers have guys that can develop quarterbacks, but then at times they seem to go a little more conservative. How would he work with Adam Gase and John Fox? I honestly don't know.