San Francisco 49ers: The Case For Bringing Back Jeff Garcia

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IFebruary 17, 2009

In the first offseason in a long time, the 49ers need to upgrade at quarterback. Bringing back their former Pro Bowl quarterback might not be such a bad idea.

After leaving the bay in 2003, Garcia wound up in less than fortunate situations. First, he landed in Cleveland and spent a year playing with a dysfunctional Browns team that finished the 2004 season with a dismal 4-12 record. The following year, Garcia ended up with an even more dysfunctional organization when he signed with Detroit. Garcia didn't fare much better with the Lions, playing in just six games while Detroit finished 5-11.

Garcia posted his worst quarterback ratings of his career in back-to-back seasons with Cleveland and Detroit (76.7 and 65.1 respectively), and many fans thought that the former 49er Pro Bowler was done. 

However, the following season Garcia made a wise decision when he took a back-up role with a winning football team in the Philadelphia Eagles. And luckily for Garcia, while with the Eagles in 2006, star quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered a season ending injury at midseason. Garcia then posted his second-best passer rating of his career (95.8) and put up 10 touchdowns against two interceptions while leading the Eagles to five straight wins to finish the season at 10-6 as NFC East Division Champions.

Garcia even went on to win a play-off game that year before the Eagles lost to New Orleans in the divisional round. After the season, the newly rejuvenated Garcia went to free-agency with the same bounce in his step that he had with San Francisco.

The way Garcia led the Eagles to a play-off win in 2006, once again earned the quarterback a starting job. Before the 2007 season, Garcia signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Over the past two seasons with Tampa Bay, Garcia led them to a play-off appearance, and the Bucs went 15-10 in his starts over that span. Over the past three seasons, including Garcia's run with the Eagles, the former Pro Bowler has thrown for 35 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions.

Although Garcia is nearing 40, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback can still be an effective starting quarterback in the NFL. San Francisco quarterbacks, on the other hand, have been nowhere near effective since they released their former starter.

In the five seasons without Garcia, some of the names of San Francisco's starters include Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Tim Rattay, Trent Dilfer, Chris Weinke, J. T. O'Sullivan, Alex Smith and incumbent starter Shaun Hill. Eight starters in five seasons? Not the sign of effective quarterbacking in San Francisco.

Notice I use the word "incumbent" when referring to 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill. Technically, neither head coach Mike Singletary nor newly hired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye have declared who their starting quarterback is for the upcoming season. But in reality, Hill is the only capable quarterback on their roster. 

With Martz gone, and barring injury to Hill, J. T. O'Sullivan is certainly not going to start for the 49ers and may not even be second-string, of course this is all assuming he is still even on the roster come next season.

What about the 49ers' former No. 1 overall selection Alex Smith?

The answer is no, Smith is currently not a capable NFL quarterback.

Now, to be fair, Smith has had a new offensive coordinator each year he's been in the league, and has been injured the majority of the last two seasons. That being the case, under the right circumstances, one could argue that if healthy, Smith could still blossom into an effective NFL quarterback.


However, the 49ers just simply cannot wait for him to finally develop. The reason this organization cannot wait around for Smith is because they have a play-off caliber team that is missing a play-off caliber quarterback.

With a team on the cusp of returning to the play-offs for the first time since 2002, they need some security at the quarterback position. Which is why they ought to bring back Jeff Garcia because Garcia is that play-off caliber quarterback that they need.

Odds are that the 49ers are not going to use their first round pick on a quarterback after what happened with Smith. Perhaps they may draft a quarterback in later rounds, but that being said, the quarterback they draft will most definitely not be ready to start in the NFL.

Well, with 49ers fans not wanting J. T. O'Sullivan anywhere near the field, and Alex Smith still not capable of leading the 49ers to the playoffs, that leaves Shaun Hill and possibly a rookie to round out the potential 49er quarterbacks next season.

It is drastically clear that if Hill doesn't pan out to be the quarterback 49er fans want him to be, or if he gets hurt, the 49ers play-off hopes go down the drain.

Neither Smith, O' Sullivan, nor a late-round draft-pick are going to lead the 49ers to the play-offs.

Knowing that, why not bring in Garcia to back-up Hill? Not only will Hill have a more-experienced quarterback to lean-on, but the 49ers will have a plan B in case Hill falters.

At this point, Hill is Singletary's boy, and neither Smith nor O'Sullivan are going to provide adequate competition in training camp. With that in mind, it is possible that Hill might end up coasting through the pre-season knowing he has the job secure.

However, bringing in Garcia would naturally bring in some competition for the starting job. Now Hill would still be the presumptive starter, but the addition of Garcia will help motivate Hill to prove why he should be the starter.

Garcia isn't likely to command too much money, and the former 49ers star may even take a discount to return to his native California and play for his former team.

To me, its a no-brainer. With newly hired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye in charge, the 49ers offense is going to be a run-first and run-often type of offense. That being the case, Raye is almost certainly going to make running-back Frank Gore the vocal point of the offense.

Therefore all Garcia would need to do is protect the ball,  make plays with his feet, and make the quick short accurate throws.

Hm. It just so happens that Garcia is an extremely mobile quarterback, has only thrown 12 picks over the last three seasons and has a career completion percentage of 61 percent.

It's simple, the acquisition of a veteran, play-off caliber quarterback is extremely important for the 49ers and all signs point to a perfect fit with Garcia.




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