Breaking down the 49ers’ quarterback depth chart in recent years was an evaluative process laden with complete misery.
Here were the QBs of record for seven long seasons in San Francisco from 2004 through 2010:
Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, J.T. O’Sullivan, Troy Smith and a pre-2011 Alex Smith.
It was especially brutal for a proud 49er franchise that featured Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young for nearly two glorious decades. Even two productive Pro Bowl years by Jeff Garcia became a foreign concept.
Then came 2012 and the arrival of one Colin Kaepernick at midseason.
(We say this with all due respect to Alex Smith and his commendable 27-game stretch.)
Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 5-2 record, first-round bye, two playoff victories and nearly a Super Bowl title in just his second season.
He’s now ready to secure that Lombardi Trophy in 2013.
Let’s break down the 49ers’ quarterback personnel from top to bottom, starting with a certain 25-year-old phenom.
Note: All statistics are provided by Pro-football-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
How about we first acknowledge some rather sick statistics that encapsulated Kaepernick’s memorable first season as a starter (seven games).
Postseason QBR: 86.5 (No. 2)
Regular Season: 62.4%, 1,814 YDS, 8.32 AVG, 10 TD, 3 INT, 98.3 RAT; 63 ATT, 415 YDS, 6.6 AVG, 50 LNG, 5 TD
Regular Season Highlight (41-34 win at New England): 221 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT, 108.5 RAT
Postseason (three games): 61.3%, 798 YDS, 9.98 AVG, 4 TD, 2 INT, 100.9 RAT; 25 ATT, 264 YDS, 10.56 AVG, 3 TD
Postseason Highlight (45-31 win vs. Green Bay): 263 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT, 91.2 RAT; 16 ATT, 181 YDS, 11.31 AVG, 2 TD (see video highlights here)
He rushed for multiple 50-yard gains and orchestrated a fourth-quarter game-winning comeback against the Patriots on the road. He had two on the season.
The only real blemish on his heretofore limited resume is failing to deliver the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the Super Bowl.
But that’s absolutely a thing of the past.
He used that Super Bowl loss as a learning experience and converted it into motivation. His offseason training program started immediately following the game (via CSN Bay Area).
Kaepernick is poised for an incredible 2013 campaign. He’s had the luxury of another offseason of synthesizing the playbook, studying film and developing under a Jim Harbaugh-led coaching staff.
“You’re going to watch the film, and take what’s good and what’s bad and try to improve on it. Hopefully we’re in the same position next year and finish it the right way,” Kaepernick said (h/t CSN Bay Area).
The 6’5’’, 233-pound dual-threat quarterback will post gaudy stats over a full season. He’ll thrive in the pistol, read-option and power-run system used by the 49ers.
Even if his rushing totals diminish, Kaepernick will show off his big-armed accuracy to an even greater extent than last year. Watch out for improvement in decision-making and throwing in the intermediate range from the cerebral player as well.
Kaepernick has an unlimited ceiling. It will be on full display come September.
But if you can’t wait until then, check him out on Twitter @Kaepernick7. He’s fairly entertaining.
Depth Chart Position: Starter
Alex Smith would have been far and away the best backup in the NFL.
The 49ers traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round pick (No. 34 overall) in this year’s draft. San Francisco also netted a conditional third-round pick in 2014 that would become a second-rounder if the Chiefs finish 8-8 (h/t Rotoworld).
In need of a backup, the 49ers acquired veteran Colt McCoy from the Cleveland Browns. They also landed a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fifth-round and seventh-round selection (via John Breech of CBSSports.com).
General manager Trent Baalke executed a winning exchange for the Red and Gold.
For starters, San Francisco already had 15 picks in the draft. Departing with two was never a concern, especially with such few team needs.
More significant, though, was bringing in a viable quarterback behind Colin Kaepernick.
McCoy has compiled a 58.3 completion percentage with 4,388 yards, 21 touchdowns and 20 interceptions through 21 starts over three years. He saw action in just three games last season, attempting only 17 passes.
The former University of Texas All-American lacks arm strength and hasn’t shown the pinpoint accuracy that he displayed in college. He also has suffered through multiple injuries—concussions included (see video highlight here).
In a positive sense, McCoy does have six wins and double-digit touchdowns to his name at the NFL level. Those aren’t overly impressive numbers, but he played for a miserable Browns team to start his career.
The 6’2’’, 209-pounder brings good speed and mobility to the 49ers at the quarterback position. He ran a 4.79 coming out of Texas and totaled 363 rushing yards and one touchdown on 93 attempts for the Browns.
McCoy’s road to securing the primary backup job in San Francisco won’t be an easy one. He’ll certainly be in a fierce battle with the next man on this list.
Yet, his starting experience, football smarts and potential fit in the read-option will help propel him into that role.
Depth Chart Position: No. 2
Welcome to the great unknown.
Scott Tolzien has been with the 49ers since 2011. But he hasn’t thrown a single pass in a regular-season game.
The numbers he has accrued while sporting the Red and Gold aren’t anything to write home about, either.
Through four games in the 2012 preseason, Tolzien completed just 52.9 percent of his passes for 165 yards and two interceptions. None of his 18 completions went for a touchdown (via CBS Sports).
Poor numbers or not, the second-year man still believes in the importance of any sort of NFL experience.
The last preseason game before the regular season is big for us. [It’s] a chance to get a lot of playing time and really show [how] we've prepared. For me, that's more than trying to get [ahead of someone on the depth chart]. This is big for us (h/t CSN Bay Area).
As a two-year starter for Wisconsin, Tolzien led the Big Ten in passing yards per attempt and passer efficiency rating.
His best season came in 2010 when he completed a school-record 72.9 percent of his throws for 2,459 yards, 9.2 per attempt and 16 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
Tolzien has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at 6’3’’, 215 pounds. His leg up on Colt McCoy lies in having been immersed in Jim Harbaugh’s playbook for two years. He is resilient and highly intelligent.
Will Colt McCoy or Scott Tolzien earn the backup job?
To the point, Tolzien made the 49ers roster as a waiver pickup in 2011 after having spent all four preseason games with the San Diego Chargers. He clearly made an impression with Harbaugh and Co.—he’s lasted as the No. 3 quarterback for two seasons.
If his 63 percent completion rating, 302 yards and one touchdown from that preseason experience two years ago count for anything, Tolzien has a chance to earn the backup role with the 49ers.
He had better tap into that resilient nature if he’s to accomplish this feat.
Depth Chart Position: No. 3
If Scott Tolzien represents an unknown in terms of quarterbacking ability, B.J. Daniels faces questions related to his actual NFL position on the gridiron.
Daniels did operate behind center while playing for South Florida. The dual-threat quarterback compiled a noteworthy four-year stat sheet filled with 10,501 total yards (No. 3 in Big East history) and 77 combined touchdowns.
He threw for 8,433 yards and 52 touchdowns, while rushing for 2,068 and 25, respectively.
These numbers were a byproduct of an ultra-talented athlete who operated with speed, a rocket arm and uncanny moxie.
To Jim Harbaugh, the 5’11’’, 217-pound Daniels will fill the role of “Swiss Army knife” (via Eric Branch of SFChronicle.com). Branch similarly noted that the South Florida product took snaps at quarterback, running back and as a returner on punts and kickoffs during the 49ers rookie minicamp.
Daniels faces a monumental task of making the team as a running back or wide receiver, let alone the No. 3 QB. The 49ers are simply too deep offensively across the board and have no need for four quarterbacks.
He’ll likely find a roster spot if he excels on special teams during offseason camps and preseason action. It’s still a long shot, but the opportunity remains.
Let’s hope Daniels learns “how to tie [his] shoes and walk correctly” through the dictionary-like playbook before September comes around (via SFChronicle.com).
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