The San Francisco 49ers will spend the next few months figuring out their quarterback position for this season, hopefully culminating in a guy who can start all 16 games. That’s not exactly an inspiring competition, but it could be a lot worse.
Earlier this week, NFL.com writer Dave Dameshek decided to take a look back at quarterback depth charts over the past 50 years. He took a look at the teams of the Super Bowl era, and came up with a ranking of the 15 best quarterback units. There have been a lot of great quarterbacks since the advent of the Super Bowl, but he looked at the teams that brought good to great quarterbacks in bunches.
The San Francisco 49ers have had two particularly notable quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young. And of course, they have had talented options in the form of Jeff Garcia, Alex Smith, and Colin Kaepernick. In looking over the Super Bowl era, Dameshek included two of the 49ers depth charts. Here are the depth charts with his comments on each of them:
1. 1989-1992: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Steve Bono
Obviously, this is the (red and) gold standard of quarterback groups -- and the '89 group featured the signal callers of perhaps the greatest single team in NFL history. Starter Montana put up the best passer rating the NFL had seen at the time, while backup Young threw for 1,000 yards and ran for 126 more, stoking the flames for what was then a nascent QB controversy. Even third-stringer Bono would go on to win an AFC Player of the Year award in '95.
15. 2011-2012: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzien
Laugh it up, but think back to that divisional-round game in Candlestick, where Kap spent the evening running away from a good Green Bay D over and over again. I remember feeling like I was watching a revolution -- and I understood why Jim Harbaugh was willing to yank the incumbent Smith, who'd gone 20-6-1 in a season-and-a-half when the QB switch was made. Also don't forget Kap got the Niners within one play of winning the Super Bowl (and one foot short with a throw that would've sent 'em back the next season). For his part, Smith has been to the postseason two of the last three years with Kansas City.
I don’t think anybody is going to disagree with the choice at No. 1. The Chargers at No. 2 with Brees, Rivers, and Flutie is really impressive, but with Montana and Young alone, it's hard to argue anybody else. Add in a serviceable quarterback in Bono, and that depth chart was ridiculous.
I’m sure the 49ers Smith/Kap inclusion will draw some mixed reviews. Kaepernick struggled big time in 2015, so it is easy to overlook how good he looked early on. That debate could go on for ages, but the 49ers had a solid 1-2, even if it was only for a short period of time. Smith has worked out plenty well for the Kansas City Chiefs. Kaepernick has big questions right now, but getting a chance to work with Chip Kelly is at least an interesting development in his career.
I’m a little surprised Dameshek did not include the 49ers 1994-1996 depth chart that included Steve Young, Elvis Grbac. Bill Musgrave and Jeff Brohm were among the third string quarterbacks with those teams, but Young and Grbac wasn’t too shabby. Grbac got his big break in 1997 when he joined the Chiefs. It amuses me that the Chiefs went from Montana to Bono to Grbac in short order. But Grbac was a decent enough quarterback in Kansas City. Nothing great, but decent enough.