Because I'm a glutton for punishment, the first roster review we handled was ... the tight end position. In that post, we learned that there is no hope and we're all doomed, so today we're going to move to a position that rarely ever inspires conflict or strong opinions one way or another: the quarterbacks.
Ah yes, a position that truly has been settled for some time, it feels like we never even discuss the guys throwing the football anymore. Ever since Joe Montana and Steve Young, the San Francisco 49ers haven't had a single bad experience with a quarterback and it remains the position we here on Niners Nation are totally, 100 percent united on. Happy times, friends.
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Sorry, I just flipped my desk and my office is filled with the acrid smoke from heaps of busted machinery. As I'm sure you're all aware, everything above was sarcasm, and not particularly clever sarcasm, but sarcasm nonetheless. I suppose I shouldn't be too cynical as I get started on this post -- despite the struggles that we're going to be discussing, the 49ers do seem to have "their guy," and "their guy" can be very successful though he is at a pivotal point in his development where it can still probably go either way.
I suppose it's fortunate that the 49ers recently brought in a big-name offensive coordinator to replace Greg Roman, the man many felt at the root of last season's issues on offense. Yes, after interviewing some stellar candidates they brought in the headliner: Geep Chryst.
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Ahem ... anyway ... let's get to this, shall we?
Colin Kaepernick - 16 games, 289 completions (478 attempts), 60.5 completion percentage, 3,369 yards, 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
I really like what Colin Kaepernick brings to the table. I think he has a bright future if his development goes the right way. I want to stress those two points before I move on to the following sentence, which is going to be rather critical. Kaepernick regressed in such a way down the stretch that I can't even blame Greg Roman's offense, because the things Kaepernick were doing absolutely flew in the face of proper quarterback mechanics.
Focusing solely on what happened when Kaepernick had the ball, had solid protection, and options either running or throwing the ball, Kaepernick played poorly. I'm not saying these circumstances were normal or even particularly regular, I'm just saying that when faced with them, Kaepernick made poor, poor decisions. People talk about him not getting a chance to run as much -- that's false. People saying the 49ers were using him wrong -- that's false.
He didn't look instinctual running the ball, and that's the thing that scared me the most. Watching the 49ers play the Seattle Seahawks, it was like night and day with Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. When Wilson knows he needs to run, he's just gone. He goes. Kaepernick was like that in 2013, but this past season, he hesitated almost every time. It was maddening.
But all of his issues are fixable. He relapsed mechanically, and while he was part of the problem, it's not exactly difficult to see why. The 49ers didn't necessarily create an offense for him to build confidence and thrive in, did they?
Earlier, I mentioned the times when Kaepernick was clean in the pocket, had receivers open and things of that nature. That certainly happened, and he certainly messed up in those situations, but it didn't happen nearly enough. San Francisco's offensive line was abysmal, with every single player under-performing outside of, in my opinion, Daniel Kilgore -- then he got injured.
He also didn't get much help from his receivers. Vernon Davis was unreliable at best and abysmal at worst, and one huge issue with the offensive gameplan was I thought it took ages for the receivers' routes to develop. They got open, but by the time they did Kaepernick was fleeing a bunch of fat guys after his fat guys couldn't get in the other fat guys' way. It was a bad scene.
At the end of the day, Kaepernick's stats aren't even that bad. His completion percentage is what has to come up, and outside of one or two really bad games his interceptions were not much of an issue throughout the season. He's got a good arm, we know he can be accurate and he knows how to run the ball. What the 49ers need out of him is better decision-making when faced with good opportunities. Ultimately, Kaepernick has a lot of potential going forward and I think there's reason to be optimistic. Yeah, I said it.
Blaine Gabbert - 1 game, 3 completions (7 attempts), 42.9 completion percentage, 38 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
I guess there's not much to say about Gabbert, huh? I think most people here were pretty disappointed that the 49ers brought in Gabbert -- I know I was. I think Colt McCoy is a much better backup and has shown a lot more -- I didn't even think he was that bad in Cleveland. Whatever the case, Gabbert kind of stunk up the place in the preseason and thankfully didn't get much time throwing the ball in the regular season.
That said, I don't think that trading for Gabbert was necessarily a bad move. His contract wasn't detrimental to the team, the free agent market was abysmal and the 49ers needed something that slightly resembled the husk of a veteran quarterback behind Kaepernick. I suppose Gabbert was as good a fit as any.
I really like Johnson's skillset, but having had such a small amount of playing time over the years, his value as a backup is still pretty unknown. Plays well in the preseason usually, but I can't say much more about him than I could a few years ago.
Obviously, the backup position needs to be addressed. Both Johnson and Gabbert are free agents and I'm not sure what the 49ers want out of the position going forward. There are certainly better quarterbacks set to hit the open market this offseason, but it's still a pretty terrible class overall. Mark Sanchez is the best available quarterback, you guys.
I imagine Gabbert is an option to come back, but I think Johnson might fit the bill of "Jim Harbaugh guy," which probably means he's out of here. The question here is do the 49ers go out and try to get someone who is like Kaepernick, or do they just get a guy they know can throw the football straight and keep things riding on their franchise guy? Whatever the case, here's some of the guys coming out this year:
Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles
Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Colt McCoy, Washington
Ryan Mallett, Houston Texans
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams
There are some guys who could be available via trade, but none of them are really options for the 49ers, especially as most of them carry bad contracts. As far as the NFL Draft is concerned, I haven't researched quarterbacks so much, but from what I understand it's a pretty poor class of quarterbacks as well. I'm not sure it's even worth looking into much, as I doubt the 49ers spend anything above a fifth-round pick on the position this year. They're due to draft one, but he'll be the third guy behind whoever they sign on the open market.
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