At Quarterback 49ers Should Gamble in Free Agency

The conventional wisdom as to why the 49ers can’t seem to get above .500 when finishing a season is they have lacked a franchise quarterback and had an inexperienced head coach.  The latter was settled, so we hope, with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh.  The former is stalled with the NFL lockout.  The lockout won’t be resolved by April’s draft which means the 49ers will draft with David Carr as the only signed quarterback.  If you are like me the thought of selecting another quarterback in the first round and hoping he develops into a franchise QB makes me cringe. Good thing for the 49ers is they have the Panthers (#1), Bills (#3), Bengals (#4) and Cardinals (#5) all drafting before their seventh spot.  All four teams are in need of a quarterback and could select one with their picks.  This would be great if they did because the players drafted would most likely be Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Jake Locker or even Ryan Mallett.  This would make the decision of whether or not to select a quarterback easier for the 49ers because the rest of the pack are not sure fires.  So why waste the seventh pick on someone you might be able to get with the same quality in the second or later rounds.  Even if one of those quarterbacks are available I am for selecting either a defensive linemen or a cornerback.

So, what do the 49ers do at quarterback?  A quarterback will be selected in the draft by the 49ers but that will come in the later rounds.  A better choice for the 49ers is to gamble in free agency on obtaining one of the free agent quarterbacks that will be available.  I would love Kevin Kolb but that would involve a trade in which the 49ers would have to give up a lot and the longer the lockout lasts, the less likely the Eagles will want to trade Kolb.  The free agent quarterbacks available whenever it is the NFL lockout ends are not exactly the most exciting but in my opinion would be better than gambling on a rookie quarterback who could take years to develop and would mean holes at defensive line and in the secondary would remain unplugged.  Donovan McNabb or Vince Young could have huge upside as both will have a chip on their shoulder wanting to prove to the teams that discarded them they can still play at a high level.  Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck are also free agents.  Bulger is the biggest risk because he did not start last year with the Ravens and Hasselbeck is older and more injury prone but why not gamble on getting one of these quarterbacks as a one, two year fix?

Harbaugh has a great eye for talent which was seen in his recruiting at Stanford.  I bet Harbaugh is looking at second or third round quarterbacks to draft knowing he might be able to land one of the free agent quarterbacks to start while he develops a rookie quarterback.  Another possibility is trading for a current backup quarterback in the NFL.  The name that stands out the most is Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson who Harbaugh coached at the University of San Diego.  Johnson has great skills but not enough to be the 49ers starting quarterback next season.  But a trade for Johnson would not cost the 49ers much in draft picks but would still mean the 49ers would have to go after one of the free agent quarterbacks.  Johnson has two years of learning how to play quarterback in the NFL already under his belt and being familiar with Harbaugh could accelerate his development.

Any avenue the 49ers take is going to be gamble.  I still hear Alex Smith being talked about which would be the biggest gamble and should be a last resort if the 49ers can’t land McNabb, Young, Bulger or Hasselbeck.  With the NFL lockout free agency is the best way for the 49ers to get there next starting quarterback, if there is ever a free agency.

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  • Jack

    This is ridiculous. Even Alex Smith would be better then the motley crew you are suggesting (not to mention, he’d probably be much improved under a coach who knows what offense is and doesn’t have to “look at the tape” to what the heck is happening on the field). McNabb is old and washed up. Vince Young is a whiny headcase who isn’t even very good when he’s on his meds. Bulger is a moderately serviceable relief guy who isn’t much of an upgrade. Hasselbeck is old, washed up, and brittle. None of those choices are any better than Alex Smith.

    • Eric Melendez

      In an ideal world there would be no NFL lockout and the 49ers would trade for Kevin Kolb (49ers Should Trade for Kevin Kolb). But there is an NFL lockout and the 49ers either go with David Carr, a rookie quarterback, any of the quarterbacks listed in the post or Alex Smith. I agree with you what you said about McNabb, Young, Hasselbeck and Bulger but I would take any of them rather than the 49ers using their 7th pick on a rookie quarterback or going with Carr or Smith. I think Harbaugh might be able turn Smith around but why take the chance? After last season I am now in the Smith is a draft bust column. If a chance will be taken next year I would rather it be a proven NFL quarterback even if he old, washed up, a headcase or prone to injury. If Harbaugh with his great knowledge of offense could turn Smith around he very well could do the same with McNabb, Young, Hasselbeck or Bulger. Any four of those are a one year fix, not a long term fix.

  • GeoMak

    ” . . . and had an inexperienced head coach. The latter was settled, so we hope, with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh”

    Are you saying that Harbaugh is an experienced HC?

    Umm, he was in college. However, he had only two years as an NFL assistant as a QB coach with Oakland.

    He has little NFL experience, no coordinator or HC’ing experience at the NFL level and yes he was a HC in college.

    Outside of Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Ross, virtually every other former college HC failed (often miserably) as an NFL HC.

    If you are saying that Harbaugh difffers from Mikes Nolan & Singletary because he is an ‘experienced’ HC then you must (for the sake of reality & accuracy) cite the dismal record of college HC’s in the NFL.

    • Eric Melendez

      Yes, Harbaugh is an experienced head coach. While it was at the college level where he had a 29-6 record at University of San Diego (Division I-AA) winning two straight Pioneer League titles and turned Stanford around into a national powerhouse and finished with a 29-21 record that is 85 more games of head coaching experience than the two Mike’s who had zero. Yes, college coaches have had a hard time being successfully in the NFL but when you have a track record like Harbaugh and the fact that the Miami Dolphins were willing to interview him for their head coaching position even though they had Tony Sporano under contract shows how highly regarded he is in the eyes of NFL teams. Harbaugh is different than other failed college to NFL head coaches because he played 15 years at quarterback in the NFL at a high level and his two years as an assistant coach in the NFL with the Raiders saw Rich Gannon win the MVP, Harbaugh was the quarterbacks coach, and the Raiders went to the Super Bowl.

      The man knows how to coach whether at the college or NFL level, whether as a head coach or an assistant. I will take Harbaugh’s experience and bet he will be successful with the 49ers as his track record has proven wherever he goes.

      • GeoMak

        Yes, (AGAIN) he is experienced at the COLLEGE level, not at the NFL level.

        You write:

        “Yes, college coaches have had a hard time being successfully in the NFL but when you have a track record like Harbaugh and the fact that the Miami Dolphins were willing to interview him for their head coaching position even though they had Tony Sporano under contract shows how highly regarded he is in the eyes of NFL teams”

        Umm, don’t you think guys like Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino (among many others) had a ‘tack record’ like Harbaugh’s and were ‘highly regarded’ by NFL teams, like Jim Harbaugh?

        Answer: Yes! And they failed in spectactular fashion as NFL HC’s.

        And (again) if you knew the history of the NFL you would know that virtually ALL college HC’s turned NFL HC’s fail (see Holtz, Spurier, Petrino among many, many others).

        That’s all. I hope Jim does well in SF, but I’m just using things like HISTORY and FACTS and LOGIC to completely dismiss the authors assertions, which is this:

        Because Jim Harbaugh was a HC in college and Mikes Nolan and Singletary had never been HC’s at any level, then he has a better chance to succeed in the NFL than those guys.


        Umm, (AGAIN) look at some the BEST college HC’s (like Petrino and Spurrier) and watch how totally inept they were in the NFL and then you will understand.

        One (success in college as a HC) has NOTHING to do with (potential) success as a HC in the NFL.

        Get it? (If not, you should. It’s simple facts & history & logic)!

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