The San Francisco have a decision to make at quarterback, and former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had a few comments on it in his podcast interview with Tim Kawakami. He did not get into many specifics about the current situation, but he talked about some of the things he saw in evaluating Alex Smith back in 2011.
When Harbaugh joined the 49ers in 2011, the team had Alex Smith under contract, and a whole lot of questions. There was an expectation that Smith would depart in free agency once the lockout finished. 2010 had been a miserable year for the 49ers and Smith, and it seemed like the best thing was for the sides to go their separate ways.
Harbaugh arrived in January of 2011, and had plenty of film to watch. He talked to Kawakami about some of the things he saw that they could do more of with Smith. He talked about fitting him into the scheme and visualizing what would make him successful.
“It was a long process, many hours. This is the job I knew that nobody would be spending more time on it, or thinking about it more than I would. And also getting the input from the coaches, and people within the organization, and the staff. At the end of the time, you know that it’s your decision to make because you’re spending the most time on it, you’re thinking about it the most.
“And did just that. Spent a lot of time watching Alex, and came to the understanding and realization that he was really good. And he needed to be put in a better position. There was play action passing that was missing, and that he would be really good at, and getting out the pocket more than had been being done. Just fitting our scheme. I can just visualize where he would be very successful. But it was a long process to look at all options an do the diligence for what was best for the team.”
Alex Smith did not emerge as a franchise cornerstone, but he had more success under Harbaugh than he had any time prior. Amidst expectations Smith would depart, the lockout put both Smith and the 49ers in a position where it made sense for him to stick around.
New head coach Kyle Shanahan finds himself in a similar position. He does not have to deal with a potential lockout, but he is entering a situation where his one notable quarterback could depart in free agency. He has to evaluate him and the rest of the options and decide what will best suit the 49ers in 2017 and beyond. Maybe it means dealing for Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins as a long-term option. Maybe it means bringing Colin Kaepernick back as a bridge option. Maybe it means finding another veteran to serve in that bridge role. It is possible it could include a rookie starting from day one, but that seems unlikely.
The 49ers met with Kaepernick on Wednesday, and John Lynch described it as a positive discussion. He said all three men emerged feeling excited about where things stood. That being said, Shanahan still has plenty to assess before they decide what is next for the quarterback position.
Shanahan made an appearance on KNBR last week, and he talked about the meetings he has been having with John Lynch and the team’s scouts and personnel executives. He did not get into specifics about the QB position, but he offered this up:
“We discuss every position, but quarterback’s obviously the most important. We’re looking at every facet right now, and we’re looking at the guys we had on our roster last year, trying to get a very good feel for them. We’re also looking at options that’ll be out there in free agency. You look at free agency and then you look at options for trading. Everybody knows people that are talking about being available for trading, so we look at all those guys. Before you make any decisions on that also, especially when you have the second pick in the draft, you better know what quarterbacks are going to be available there. So we’re looking at those people also.
“It’s not like you can come in just one day, and look at all those scenarios. It takes me, in order to feel good about a quarterback, I need to spend a lot of time on it. And it’s not always the first time you watch ‘em. You might come back in the next day and watch the same stuff and feel a little bit different. So you gotta keep doing it over and over again, it’s too important of a decision just to make an impulsive move. When you make a decision on a quarterback, you don’t want that to be just a short term fix. You want to make a commitment to somebody, and in order to do that, you better make sure you’re on the same page with everyone else. You put the time in, you’ve talked to people who have been with these guys.
“And there’s a lot that goes into it. Coaching, free agency, the draft, our own players, the importance of the quarterback position. You talk about the hours of a coach and stuff, that’s why it all ends up adding up. There’s a lot of stuff to do in the day, and there’s a lot of stuff to take care of. Those aren’t things you can just knock out, it’s not just busy work you can knock out. You really have to be in the right frame of mind, you gotta watch it closely, you gotta have discussions. And then on top of it, we’re trying to put in a scheme, we’re teaching some of these new coaches some things that we’re doing.
“All these things add up. It’s tough being away from the family right now, but it’s probably a good thing they’re not gonna be out here for about two months, or whenever their spring break starts. Because, it’s a time I do need to spend up here, and play some catch up because we started about a month behind everybody else.”