Manning to 49ers? And other QB strategies


Manning to 49ers? And other QB strategies

Were the 49ers satisfied with the play of quarterback Alex Smith?Yes.Are they expecting the position to be better in 2012?Yes.So, how do the 49ers achieve improvement at the game's most important position?One strategy is to do nothing. Remember, Smith turns 28 in May. He is just now beginning to reach his athletic prime. Theoretically, he should continue to get better for several more seasons. The 49ers also selected a quarterback in last year's draft to groom for the future.
Another solution for the 49ers is to aggressively pursue another option."We said that we'd get the best quarterbacks in here and throw out the balls," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said recently. "That's a position that's earned. It's never an anointed position."So as the 49ers head into the offseason, there are four possible paths for them to take:Status quo
Harbaugh described Smith as "elite." If we take that comment at face value, there is no reason for the 49ers to make a change when the club already has an elite quarterback entering his second season in the same system.Smith, of course, is scheduled to be a free agent. In his first six NFL seasons with the 49ers he averaged 5.5 million in annual salary. In the recently completed season, he earned 6.25 million after maxing out his incentive package.He would figure to be in line for a pay bump after posting career-best numbers en route to the 49ers' 13-3 regular season and appearance in the NFC Championship Game.If the 49ers keep the same three quarterbacks on their roster, the position still should be better in 2012. With greater familiarity in the system, Smith would be expected to improve. Also, the 49ers traded up in the second round to draft Colin Kaepernick. He should be better-prepared to play with a full offseason of work with the coaches.Scott Tolzien, whom the 49ers claimed off waivers from the San Diego Chargers after the final cuts, is still around. The 49ers will get a full offseason to evaluate him in the team's offense.Big splash
The name this offseason is Peyton Manning.In the past, speculation centered around such quarterbacks as Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb and Vince Young.But the one veteran quarterback the 49ers went after last offseason was Matt Hasselbeck, and the 49ers thought they were going to get him. Hasselbeck, instead, decided to sign with the Tennessee Titans.Harbaugh has said repeatedly the 49ers will always look to upgrade every position. But, clearly, if the 49ers spend the kind of money it would take for Manning, they'd have to make sacrifices elsewhere on their roster.Manning turns 36 in March, and it seems unlikely he'll return to the Indianapolis Colts. He's been in one system his entire career. He missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing three neck surgeries in 19 months. In September, he underwent a spinal fusion to repair a damaged nerve in his neck that caused weakness in his throwing arm.A healthy Manning would be a significant upgrade, no doubt. But the 49ers would be taking a huge risk, financially, while also rolling the dice on Manning's physical condition.The hottest young free agent is likely to be Green Bay's Matt Flynn, who played well in his limited action as Aaron Rodgers' backup. But would the sizable financial commitment be too much of an investment on an unproven player?Veteran acquisition
Tampa Bay backup quarterback Josh Johnson, a pending unrestricted free agent, remains a legitimate possibility. Of course, Harbaugh coached Johnson at the University of San Diego, and he has referred to him as a "beloved son."The 49ers can add Johnson without taking on much of a financial risk. Then, Johnson would have a chance to compete for his role with the 49ers -- whether as a starter, a backup or the team's No. 3 quarterback.Pick to the mix
The 49ers own the No. 30 overall draft pick, and it seems highly unlikely the club would select a quarterback at that point.After all, the 49ers traded a second-round pick (No. 45), as well as picks in the fourth (No. 108) and fifth (No. 141) to move up last year to select Kaepernick with the 36th overall selection.Still, using a late-round pick on a quarterback can never be ruled out. The 49ers will undoubtedly bring four quarterbacks to camp. Any draft pick would be competing against Tolzien for a spot on the active roster or practice squad.

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

In Kyle Shanahan’s first breath after being introduced as 49ers head coach on Feb. 9, he mentioned Jim Harbaugh, along with Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci.

The head coach of Michigan was listening, and he appreciated the gesture.

“It was very flattering that he said nice things about us at his news conference, and I appreciated that,” Harbaugh said on "The TK Show," a podcast from Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group.

“Now, I don’t think I was there long enough to be compared with Bill Walsh or Coach Seifert, etc. But I think did – and correct me if I’m wrong – I think we did set a record for coaching there the longest under the present ownership, if I’m not wrong.”

That is correct.

Since John and Denise York took over control of the 49ers in 2000 from Denise’s brother, Eddie DeBartolo, the 49ers have employed eight head coaches. Mike Nolan was fired after seven games of his fourth season. The two coaches who followed Harbaugh -- Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly -- were fired after 5-11 and 2-14 seasons, respectively.

Harbaugh’s teams advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance. He and the 49ers “mutually parted ways,” the club announced, immediately after the team finished with an 8-8 record in 2014.

“I take pride in that,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal, for that.”

Shanahan mentioned Harbaugh during his opening remarks at the introductory press conference earlier this month:

“I’ve got to start out thanking Jed and the whole York family. Giving me this opportunity is, it’s a dream come true and it’s not just an opportunity to be a head coach, but to be a head coach at a place like this where you talk about Bill Walsh, you talk about George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Jim Harbaugh and you can go down the line with the coaches.”

Said Harbaugh, “Just appreciated it. Appreciated it, and not just for me personally, but appreciated that for all the wonderful players we had and the wonderful coaches and the effort that was put in. People poured their hearts and souls into those years. It’s just appreciated that Kyle would make that comment.”

Harbaugh said he has deep respect for Shanahan and new 49ers general manager John Lynch, whom Harbaugh asked to speak to his Stanford teams during his four-year tenure as head coach.

“Yeah, I would’ve loved to have worked for John Lynch,” Harbaugh said. “He reminds me a lot of the athletic director we have here Warde Manuel, who’s also a former player and a teammate of mine. Common sense guys who are team guys, just the way they go about their business always speaks volumes.

“I thought John took note when they were going through the process. e didn’t want his name mentioned and I think that’s . . . I don’t know if a lot of people noticed that, but I think that’s a profound thing. I think that speaks volumes for who he is as a person. He wants to do a good job and it’s for the right reasons. He’s a competitor at the highest level, so I have great respect for that.”

Kawakami also asked Harbaugh about whether he believes quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still capable of being an NFL starter.

“There’s no doubt he can be an NFL starting quarterback,” Harbaugh said.

“I’m sure Kyle, the coaching staff there and John will meet on it, they’ll think about it, they’ll watch, much like we did when we got in there in 2011. And they’ll make the best decision they can for the team and the organization and it’ll play out the way it’s going to play out.”

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

During the month the 49ers had no general manager or head coach, Tom Gamble was the next-highest-ranking football official and was charge of the personnel department on an interim basis.

But CEO Jed York made it clear from the beginning Gamble, whom Trent Baalke promoted to assistant general manager just prior to the start of training camp last summer, would not be considered for a promotion to general manager.

John Lynch, with no front-office experience, was hired over Arizona’s Terry McDonough and Minnesota’s George Paton. Before Lynch’s introductory press conference, he hired two top lieutenants in the personnel department to usurp Gamble on the organization's power structure.

On Wednesday, the 49ers announced what had become inevitable: Gamble was leaving the organization.

“I must thank Jed, the York family and the entire 49ers organization for the wonderful memories they provided me and my family, but it is time I move on,” Gamble said in a statement. “This past month, I have had the pleasure of working alongside John Lynch and the talented staff he has assembled. The team is in capable hands and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Lynch’s first move as general manager was to hire Adam Peters away from the Denver Broncos to serve as 49ers vice president of player personnel.

Lynch worked alongside Peters when Lynch took part in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, which included a trip to the NFL scouting combine, prior to the 2013 draft.

“That month, month-and-a-half, I actually sat next to Adam every day,” Lynch told “Those are long meetings. I’d listen to him and we’d talk in between about players. I just saw way back then, he’s a guy who’s highly respected in the league. I firmly believe in two, three years, he would’ve been a GM. He was on that track, at least.”

During Lynch’s introductory press conference a week later, he announced the hiring of Martin Mayhew as senior personnel executive. Lynch and Mayhew were teammates in the secondary for Lynch’s first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mayhew spent seven seasons as Detroit Lions general manager. Mayhew should be able to provide Lynch with valuable counsel as learns on the job after spending the past eight seasons as a TV analyst on FOX.

“Martin has sat in the seat as a general manager and his experience will play an integral role in helping us locate the type of football player we want representing this organization both on the field and in the community,” Lynch said.

Gamble recently completed his 29th NFL season and his 10th with the 49ers in two stints. After he was fired as Philadelphia Eagles vice president of personnel late in the 2014 season, and came back to the 49ers in the 2015 offseason.

While with the Eagles, Gamble was one of the few individuals in the front office who worked well with Chip Kelly. Gamble played an important role in speaking up for Kelly and bringing him to the 49ers last offseason.

Kelly and Baalke were fired after the 49ers' 2-14 season, and the 49ers promoted the ability to create a fresh start when a new coach and general manager. While the 49ers were expecting Gamble to remain with the organization through the draft, his spot with the organization was going to be tenuous with a new regime.

“He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him,” Lynch said in a statement. “After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities.”