Moving parts aplenty in 49ers' QB drama

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Moving parts aplenty in 49ers' QB drama

Quarterback Alex Smith did not sign the 49ers' contract offer, which was presented to him weeks ago, because he sought more security from the organization whose coach called him "elite."
If Smith signed the three-year offer, the door would have been open for Colin Kaepernick to take over as the starter at any point without the 49ers taking much of a financial hit from Smith's deal.REPORT: Smith considers firing agent
It was clear that Smith and his agent, Tom Condon, figured their best option was to play the waiting game.Meanwhile, the 49ers began their pursuit of Peyton Manning while feeling secure that their offer to Smith reflected his true market value. After all, which team would be willing to pay Smith more than 8 million a season?Perhaps we'll soon find out.Smith took a red-eye flight from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., early Sunday morning to visit with the Miami Dolphins.RELATED: Alex Smith on visit to meet with Dolphins
The Dolphins visited Saturday with free-agent Matt Flynn, who spent four seasons as Aaron Rodgers' backup with the Green Bay Packers. Flynn worked closely with new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who served those seasons as Packers offensive coordinator.And, yes, this whole situation has taken an interesting twist.Davis Hsu, who writes a blog on the Seattle Seahawks, spotted Smith flying first class on his red-eye flight. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel met Smith at the airport early Sunday morning."This is the NFL," Smith told the paper. "I guess nothing surprises me anymore. I never thought a year ago (Peyton) Manning would be a free agent either. I'm never surprised by anything."There are a lot of moving parts right now in this whole 49ers quarterback drama . . . Peyton Manning: A breathless country awaits his decision. He has worked out for the 49ers, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans. Do the 49ers have a chance? The team kept its defense together. And they've added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to the receiving corps. The 49ers appear to be in the best spot among the Manning contenders to make a Super Bowl bid.Matt Flynn: He has shown to be a capable backup. But his sample size is small. In four seasons, he has two starts. Career stats: 82 of 132 (62.1 percent) for 1,015 yards with nine TDs and five interceptions. He visited the Seattle Seahawks and the Dolphins. The 49ers are not in the mix for Flynn, but his move has an impact on Smith.
Matt Hasselbeck: If Manning signs with the Titans, Hasselbeck will be cut free. The 49ers wanted -- and thought they were going to sign -- Hasselbeck last summer. They'd probably go after him again if he becomes available.Josh Johnson: The former Tampa Bay backup has not been nearly as impressive in his limited action as Flynn. He has a history with Jim Harbaugh (he was his quarterback at the University of San Diego). But it's clear now that a close relationship with Harbaugh means nothing. As should be the case with any coach, Harbaugh simply wants the best player he can get.Colin Kaepernick: The 49ers are infatuated with Kaepernick's physical tools. But is Kaepernick ready? It seems he knows only one speed on his passes, so he needs a lot of refinement to get ready for NFL game action. The 49ers traded up to take him with the 36th overall draft pick last year. Andy Dalton was chosen one spot ahead of him, and Dalton proved he was ready as a rookie with a solid season for the Cincinnati Bengals.Scott Tolzien: He spent his rookie season as the 49ers' third quarterback. He'll get a chance in training camp to earn his way back on the roster, but he is not considered starter material just yet.And, then, of course . . . Alex Smith: His trip to South Florida on Sunday to meet with the Dolphins is his first career free-agent visit. The Dolphins are also pursuing Flynn, though. The 49ers want Manning. But, of course, there is still a chance that Smith returns to the 49ers. Also, the Seahawks could get into the mix. The Seahawks brought in Flynn for a visit. Tarvaris Jackson ended last season as the Seahawks starter. Former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan is a personnel executive with the Seahawks.Ultimately, the market will decide where Smith ends up -- and whether he's a starter, backup or will merely find himself in another training camp competition.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”