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Breaking down the 49ers biggest QB misstep in franchise history

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Also the best franchise QB, and the longest QB drought in team history

Atlanta Falcons vs San Francisco 49ers Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

NFL.com is doing a series where they go through each teams quarterback history to find out the teams best franchise quarterback, the biggest QB misstep, and the teams longest QB drought. The San Francisco 49ers have two of the most successful quarterbacks to play during their respective era. Joe Montana career record was 100-39, he appeared in seven Pro Bowls, with a 93.5 passer rating. Four Super Bowl rings and two MVP’s make it tough to pick against Montana. Montana is on Mount Rushmore not just for the 49ers, but for all teams.

Steve Young was one of the most enjoyable quarterbacks to watch. It still feels like Young doesn’t get enough love for his mobility. He was a heck of an athlete. His resume isn’t too shabby, either. A 91-33 career record, with seven Pro Bowls, a 101.4 passer rating, two MVPs, and a Super Bowl ring.

Biggest Misstep

Montana was the answer for the franchise quarterback. The writer feels like Alex Smith got a raw deal during his time in San Francisco. Here’s what he had to say:

Alex Smith got a raw deal in San Francisco. That’s right, I said it. As the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Smith was charged with providing consistency and stability under center for a franchise that regularly changed everything else around him. He had five different offensive coordinators in his first five seasons, with an ever-rotating cast of pass catchers. It’s impossible to build relationships with your teammates and establish timing on plays when both differ drastically from one year to the next. Smith finally received some continuity under Jim Harbaugh in 2011, and what did he do? He went 19-5-1 over two seasons, including 13-3 with a playoff win in 2011. Smith isn’t totally absolved of his poor performances early in his career, and he did suffer numerous injuries during his Niners tenure, including the one that opened the door for Colin Kaepernick to claim the QB1 job. But the franchise QB’s final seasons in San Francisco -- along with what he went on to do in Kansas City -- strongly suggest the organization let Smith down, not the other way around.

I appreciate the writer acknowledging that Smith played poorly and suffered injuries. However, he has some fair points as well. It’s never a good situation when you are cycling through that many coordinators. The 49ers tried to help Smith out via the draft. Vernon Davis was a mismatch. Perhaps surrounding him with offensive linemen in his career instead of more pass-catchers was the mistake. From 2005-2012, the Niners had 19 picks in the first three rounds. Six of those were on offensive linemen. Four of them were on pass-catchers.

QB Drought

The writer believes from 2013-present is the franchises longest QB drought. Here’s what he had to say:

The Harbaugh-49ers divorce after the 2014 season left many 49ers fans despondent, but no one was hurt more by the separation than Colin Kaepernick. Under Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, the polarizing QB’s play plummeted from the heights of the Harbaugh era, no matter what the stats suggest. That said, there’s enough film on the passer to prove that his dynamic, game-changing ability wasn’t a fluke. With different coaching and a commitment to his skill set, Kap’s name would be listed above -- in fact, he would have qualified, had he won just two more games. San Francisco paid current starter Jimmy Garoppolo like a top-10 player at the position, but with just eight starts under his belt, it’s too soon to pass judgment on his 49ers legacy.

I don’t think this adds more pressure on Jimmy G to succeed. You can tell he’s a gamer. Garoppolo cannot control what happened before him. It is on him to carry the team moving forward, though.