Consider this a warning. A premature flare for a situation I hope never occurs. Right now, I'm going to let you in on my biggest fear for the San Francisco 49ers: They draft a quarterback in the first round next year.
How often will teams hit the panic button after a bad year and, with questions at quarterback, throw their first round pick at the biggest arm that comes their way?
As a 49ers fan, I have distinct memories of how that panned out. Not that I fault Alex Smith. He could not have come into a worse situation for a quarterback: Defensive head coach, thrown in to games too early, new OC every year, depleted talent on both sides of the ball, injuries.
As much fun as it is to rehash those same Alex Smith arguments, that is not what this article is about. This is an article about the future, by way of the past.
A while back, Bill Walsh drafted a guy out of Notre Dame in the third round to be his quarterback. The guy he had, Steve Deberg, was not actually that bad. He just was not the long-term solution. But Walsh did not try to speed up his future quarterback's development, but rather, he let him sit and develop.
Well, not completely. Walsh, to my understanding, played both QB's in 1979 and the first half of 1980, though it was primarily Deberg's job. Halfway through 1980, Walsh gave the job to the second year player for Notre Dame, and Joe Montana did not disappoint. In case you did not know, he won a few Super Bowls and is now considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
Joe's story is not all that unique to the 49ers. Steve Young spent his first few years in the city by the bay filling in for Joe when Joe was hurt. Jeff Garcia split time for the remainder of 1999 (his first year with the team) after Steve went down with his final concussion.
While this city has a strong history of quarterbacks, they are all products of the time and energy spent developing them. All three had big game experience where they led a team to victory in the final moments: Montana at Notre Dame, Young at BYU, and Garcia in the CFL's Grey Cup.
This preseason, die hard 49ers fans (aka, those of us eager enough to watch entire preseason football games) have been treated to a rare site that rekindles fond memories: a quarterback in Red and Gold who seems to be the complete package: Strong Arm, Mobility, Pocket Sense, and the Intangibles that define the position.
Unfortunately, he is nowhere near ready to start a regular season game. I am talking about Nate Davis.
Anyone who has read any of the numerous 49ers bloggers knows the quotes from Raye and Singletary stating, in essence, that Nate has played well, but with a limited playbook. He has looked great, but against second and third stringers.
And they are right.
However, those are hard facts to remember when watching a player shred the opposition like Thomas Clayton did the past two preseasons and Nate has done this preseason. He has something, and it is something I would like to see develop
So, Nate should not really be starting this year, unless both Hill and Smith are unable to, at which point the season might be sliding off the rails anyway. But that does not mean he should not be starting at some point, possibly/hopefully in the near future.
Which brings me (finally) back to my original fear. The scenario: This season goes horribly wrong, neither quarterback has what it takes to lead the team (I do have faith in Hill, but bear with me for the hypothetical) and the lack of pass rush continues to be the defense's Achilles' heel. The team wins maybe five or six games and is an afterthought, with everyone pointing to the quarterback situation as the main problem.
The team panics. With yet another top ten draft pick, everyone has the 49ers taking a quarterback, and the team follows like sheep to the slaughter. Suddenly, it is a new game of "How will this QB fare in relation to his draft stock?" Look at quarterbacks drafted highly in the past ten years. Look at the high number of busts and the effect they have had on the franchise they went to.
For now this is just a paranoid thought lingering in the back of my mind. A small little voice that keeps screaming about the pass rush or the lack of any passes beyond fifteen yards (from the starters, anyway). And that voice keeps repeating "Can't you see another busted top ten QB in your future?"
I just hope the 49ers will allow Nate to prove that voice wrong