The succession of 49ers Pro Bowl quarterbacks ended a decade-and-a-half ago with Jeff Garcia.
After Joe Montana came Steve Young. And when Young retired, Garcia stepped onto the field with the 49ers and earned three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. Garcia set the franchise record with 4,278 passing yards in 2000.
Since Garcia’s departure, no other 49ers quarterback has come within 900 yards of his mark.
“It is surprising with the way the game has opened up and you see the amount of yards quarterbacks are throwing for on a consistent basis,” Garcia said.
“It is surprising that they haven’t been able to develop a quarterback to become that face of the franchise.”
Garcia believes the 49ers’ passing game will be rejuvenated this season under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer. And Garcia will be a keen observer in his new role as analyst on NBC Sports Bay Area for “49ers Pregame Live” and “49ers Postgame Live.”
“Obviously, football is something that’s comfortable and familiar to me,” said Garcia, who has done some work in the past with the NFL Network. “I thought this was an opportunity to get back in front of the camera and share my knowledge, my enthusiasm and my personality.”
Garcia, 47, lives in San Diego and has four children – all the under the age of 10. After one season of coaching in the Canadian Football League, one season as an assistant with the St. Louis Rams and several years working as a private quarterbacks coach, Garcia said his focus is now on his family.
But the Gilroy native has continued to keep close tabs on his former team through the years. Two years after Garcia left the 49ers, the club selected Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft.
“They wanted a franchise quarterback in Alex Smith and it didn’t work out that way,” Garcia said. “When you go through inconsistencies of coaching staffs and offenses you’re trying to learn year-in and year-out, it doesn’t put you in a position to have great success.”
The 49ers thought they had a franchise quarterback with Colin Kaepernick, but his production leveled off after a strong start upon taking over for Smith in the middle of the 2012 season.
“When you look at Colin and break down his skillset, it’s not one of a natural passer,” Garcia said. “He struggles with accuracy. I think he struggles with processing his decision-making, going through the reads 1, 2 and 3.
“I don’t think they could truly build a pro-style offense around what he offered on the field.”
Garcia has deep appreciation for the system Mike Shanahan ran while head coach of the Denver Broncos. Garcia said he sees similarities in what first-year 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has done throughout his coaching career.
“When his dad was in Denver, there was a time I almost signed with Denver just because I wanted to play in that system,” Garcia said. “I like how they move the quarterbacks, and use different set-up points, how they set up opportunities in the passing game because of their great run game and the zone scheme they work with and the play-action and the movement. All those things part of my skillset would’ve been great in that system.”
Hoyer, 31, begins his ninth NFL season with his seventh different team. Garcia believes Hoyer, who enters the first regular-season opener of his career as a starting quarterback, has the ability to thrive in Shanahan’s offense.
“With Hoyer, I think you have a quarterback who understands the game very well,” Garcia said. “He’s been around. He’s mature. He’s been around Tom Brady. He knows how to prepare. He understands the ins and outs of how to prepare as a leader. And he had a stint in Cleveland with Kyle Shanahan.
“I think Brian has enough of the skillset and mentality to make good decisions and be a productive quarterback.”