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If it were just a matter of just choosing the quarterback with the best statistics during the exhibition season, things would be pretty simple. And Josh Johnson would have won a job with the 49ers in 2012 after outplaying Scott Tolzien.
Again, there are other factors at play that work against Johnson in his competition with Blaine Gabbert for the backup job.
But do the 49ers have other options? That’s the lead-off question in today’s 49ers Mailbag.
Do you believe that Harbaugh is sticking "in house" to find his backup QB? (Rick Feinberg)
I believe the 49ers have never really considered bringing in somebody else to join the competition. I also believe any quarterback whose team is willing to dump him this close to the season probably does not have a whole lot of short-term hope.
So go ahead and name all the names. The fact is there will be a tremendous drop-off from Colin Kaepernick to any other quarterback the 49ers can trot onto the field this season.
Gabbert remains the No. 2 quarterback unless Johnson proves he is so much better than Gabbert to warrant the team discarding Gabbert and eating his $2 million salary. The 49ers hope Harbaugh and the offensive staff can continue to work with Gabbert to build his confidence and get him to be a serviceable backup in case he is needed at some point in the season.
But if Gabbert continues to struggle, desperation might set in, too.
If the 49ers were to latch onto a quarterback after final cuts, they would be getting a guy who comes to the team without any knowledge of the system. Gabbert and Johnson have been around since Day 1 of the team’s offseason program.
So, at least, they have that going for them.
How will the Aldon Smith suspension/Navarro Bowman injury affect the defense to start the season? (CJ Walks Slow)
It’s possible the 49ers will use two players at those positions to help them compensate for the losses of those two integral defensive player. Just like a last season, Smith could be replaced by a combination of Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta. And Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland could team up to replace Bowman.
Perhaps the bigger question is how the losses of Smith and Bowman will impact the 49ers’ offense.
It might force the offense to open it up and not necessarily play the field-position/ball-control game. With better weapons on offense, the 49ers could put more on Kaepernick’s plate to make plays and score a lot of points.
Kaepernick broached this subject recently when I asked him about the team's goals this season and how he expects the offense to look different.
“In my mind, a more explosive offense,” Kaepernick said. “I think we can do a lot more things, put people in a lot of different positions and situations to make this offense have bigger plays and score more points and take some of the pressure off our defense to stop teams every time they have the ball.”