Jim Harbaugh has been making his way around the country doing his various satellite camps. Recently he also conducted a quarterback camp that connected various high school quarterbacks with NFL and college quarterbacks. MMQB reporter Albert Breer chatted with him during the camp, and asked him about his love of coaching up the young quarterbacks. Harbaugh invoked legendary 49ers head coach Bill Walsh in his response:
"Yea, I do. Before Bill Walsh passed away, I asked him, 'What do you look for in a quarterback? He said 'athletic instincts.' That's always stuck with me.”
"That he's the best athlete in his high school. A lot of these youngsters don't do multiple sports as much as they used to," Harbaugh added. "But it's a way to test their athletic instincts, in the name of Bill Walsh.”
It is not exactly a surprising revelation that Harbaugh looks for quarterbacks with athletic instincts. When he was coaching the University of San Diego, Harbaugh developed quarterback Josh Johnson. At Stanford, where he got a chance to talk to Bill Walsh in 2007 before the legendary coach passed away, Harbaugh had Andrew Luck who is more athletic than some might credit. And of course, with the 49ers he was behind the drafting of Colin Kaepernick, and was there when the team acquired Blaine Gabbert. Those four quarterbacks all have varying degrees of athleticism, but athletic instincts would seem to be a common trait.
Bill Walsh had his own extensive history evaluating quarterbacks with “athletic instincts.” Joe Montana and Steve Young top the list, but there was also Jeff Garcia. There have been plenty of stories as well about Bill Walsh liking Jake Plummer more than Jim Druckenmiller. Dwight Clark, who was in charge of football operations at the time, said Walsh actually did not specify one over the other. Clark said after the fact that Walsh had said Druckenmiller was the most talented quarterback in the draft, while Plummer fit the 49ers offense better. Make of that what you want.
And now, the 49ers enter the Chip Kelly era with Gabbert and Kaepernick competing for the starting role. They represent the most athletic pair of quarterbacks Kelly has had in the NFL. He had a 33-year old Michael Vick back in 2013, but injuries cut his time short with the Eagles. This does not mean they will excel in the Kelly offense, but they bring an improvement in a valuable element to what Kelly wants to do in 2016.