Grading the San Francisco 49ers' Quarterbacks
Fellow 49ers' fans,
Do you remember the days when the last thing any of us had to worry about was our quarterback?
When you stop and think about it, we were really quite lucky.
We went from Joe Montana, the best quarterback in the history of the NFL (my friends who are Dolphins' fans hate this, but how many rings does Dan Marino have again?), to Steve Young, who would have gone as one of the best QBs in the NFL history if it hadn't been for a stint in the USFL and a nightmare run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ever since then, it's been kind of rocky for Frisco fans, especially when it comes to signal callers.
Jeff Garcia came in and did a nice job for a while, but the front office, in its infinite wisdom, decided to let Garcia go.
We the fans have been suffering ever since.
Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, J.T. O'Sullivan.
Pardon me while I vomit...
OK, that's better, but not really.
With that out of the way, I figured I'd hand out grades to the SF QBs.
Just to be clear, in evaluating guys like Hill or Smith, who have been with the club for a while, this grade is based solely on their production in a 49ers uniform.
If it's a newcomer like Jamie Martin (is that really the best we can do?), the grade is more indicative of that person's career and potential impact on the team.
If you can stomach it, I think I can. Let's get into it.
Nate Davis: Incomplete
With the rookie from Ball State, it's really too early to tell what his impact will be.
Initially, I liked the pick, especially considering it came late in the fifth round.
Then I started hearing he has a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to learn by reading information.
Not exactly what you want to hear about your quarterback.
At one point, Davis was slated to be a first-day draft pick. Obviously, he toppled down the boards and fell to SF late in the draft.
I'm hopeful he will be on the roster (or at least the practice squad) when the season begins.
Jamie Martin: F
This falls more on the front office than anyone else.
I mean, did we learn nothing from the Trent Dilfer experience?
Martin is a guy who will turn 40 next February and hasn't thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2006.
A career backup, Martin's numbers are pretty pedestrian and illustrate the path taken by the 15-year veteran (3,814 yards, 20 TDs, 21 INTs).
I just don't understand why they would have brought him in. I don't expect to see his face very long.
Alex Smith: D+/C-
When you're drafted with the No. 1 overall pick, have four NFL seasons to your credit, and your best year was when you completed 58.1 percent of your passes and threw as many touchdowns (16) as interceptions, the only way to describe your career is disappointing.
Actually, I can think of a few more choice words, but I'm trying to keep it clean.
I give Smith credit for wanting to see things through in San Francisco. He was willing to take a pay cut to remain with the team, and that shows me a lot about his character.
And it's not exactly like he was put in an ideal situation. The poor kid was thrown right into the fire his rookie season, and his confidence suffered.
Add to that the fact he's never had the same offensive coordinator for more than one season, and I suppose he was doomed to fail from the start.
If Smith could redeem himself and show some of the potential that made him a No. 1 pick, it would be one of the all-time great feel-good stories in recent memory.
But I'm not holding my breath.
Damon Huard: C
Of all the quarterbacks on the roster, Damon Huard has the most experience by far (64 games, compared to 32 for Smith and 13 for Hill).
He missed the second half of the 2008 season with an injury to his right thumb. Before the injury, he had thrown for 477 yards with two touchdowns and four picks.
Huard was actually a backup on two of New England's Super Bowl teams, so he at least knows what a winning team looks like.
His most impressive campaign came in 2006, while a member of the Chiefs, when he took over for oft-injured Trent Green. In 10 games, he threw for 1,878 yards with 11 touchdowns and just one interception.
In the nine games in which Huard saw considerable playing time, the Chiefs went 5-4. When Green returned, he reassumed the starting role and KC went 4-3 down the stretch. That was the last time the Chiefs made the playoffs.
Since that year, Huard has split time with the likes of Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen. Even though he's 35, it's nice to have a quarterback on the roster who you know is capable of starting if need be.
Shaun Hill: C+
Hill's grade could have very well been incomplete also because his body of work is not very extensive.
But he has stepped up whenever the coach (whether it was Mike Nolan or Mike Singletary) calls his name.
Before 2007, Hill had only appeared in one regular season game with the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.
In 2007, Hill wasted away on the bench until the 13th game of the season. When Smith was shelved because of a "sore arm," Nolan actually gave the nod to Trent Dilfer before Hill.
Dilfer suffered a concussion against Minnesota, which finally opened the door for Hill. It was an impressive audition, albeit a short one. In three games, he completed 68.4 percent of his throws for 501 yards. He had five touchdowns to just one interception.
Still, that wasn't enough to thrust Hill into the starting role in 2008. J.T. O'Sullivan began the season as the starter, and after three consecutive and abysmal starts (1 TD, 5 INTs), Hill was called upon again.
And again, Hill thrived. In nine games, he threw for 2,046 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
But the most important number is seven, and that's the number of wins he has in 10 starts as the 49ers' quarterback.
I've made it clear all along that I believe Shaun Hill should be the starting quarterback when the season begins. (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/181902-shaun-hill-paid-his-dues-let-him-start).
But he also shouldn't get a free pass if he doesn't perform. There should be enough capable quarterbacks to fill in for Hill if he struggles.
One thing's for sure. By the end of the season, we will definitely know if the 49ers can be successful with the quarterbacks they have. If not, then the front office needs to look for the QB of the future.